Tag Archive for: Marco Ghiani

Ghiani handed hefty ban for breaking whip rules

Marco Ghiani has been given a 34-day suspension following a referral from the Whip Review Committee.

Ghiani, who was crowned Britain’s champion apprentice in 2021, is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines having been found in breach of the whip rules for the fifth time in the last six months.

Nine days of his ban have been deferred for six months and he has also been instructed to complete a two-day training course.

Ghiani has enjoyed plenty of big-race success during his relatively short career so far, scoring aboard Saeed bin Suroor’s Real World in the Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot and in Group-race company in 2021.

Having subsequently served a six-month suspension after testing positive for cocaine, the Sardinian native enjoyed two Group Three wins on foreign soil last year, with Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Mill Stream in France and in the Italian St Leger aboard the Mick Appleby-trained Roberto Escobarr.

Apprentice rider Tommie Jakes has also been suspended for 24 days, with eight days deferred for six months. He too will have to complete a two-day training course before his return to the saddle.

Ghiani gunning for Sprint Cup glory on Mill Stream

Marco Ghiani is confident Mill Stream is capable of providing him with a breakthrough Group One winner in Saturday’s Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock.

The former champion apprentice has built up a good rapport with Jane Chapple-Hyam’s three-year-old, who has won his last two races at Deauville in impressive style.

While Ghiani has ridden at the highest level before, this weekend undoubtedly provides him with his best chance yet of claiming Group One glory.

“I’m looking forward to this weekend. I’ve ridden in the King’s Stand Stakes and the Coronation Stakes so riding in a Group One is not new, but Mill Stream is around third-favourite, whereas the others were outsiders so it makes things a bit spicier,” he said.

“It is quite a big challenge, but I’m ready to take it. It would be like winning at the Olympic games if I won my first Group One on Saturday.”

Mill Stream’s Deauville victories came at Listed and Group Three level and there is no doubt he will face a much sterner test on Merseyside.

“I thought he could win at Listed and Group race level, but I didn’t expect him to bolt up twice. I thought he would have to work a bit harder than that,” Ghiani continued.

“I think for a sprinter it is harder to get them to race the right way around. Sometimes they are keen, and they don’t finish off their races.

“At home he was a bit keen, but now he is settling down and he seems more relaxed. He is in good order, and he has been much more settled in his last two races in France as he wasn’t over racing in the early stages of those race, which has been key to his last two results.”

Mill Stream has won back-to-back Deauville contests
Mill Stream has won back-to-back Deauville contests (Tim Goode/PA)

Standing in his way is the not insignificant threat of fellow three-year-old Shaquille, already a dual Group One winner having landed the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and the July Cup at Newmarket.

Ghiani added: “Shaquille is always slow out of the gates, but he finds another gear late at the end. My lad jumps out fast and then he finds another gear at the end so it will be very interesting to see what will happen.

“Obviously Shaquille is a Group One winner, and my horse isn’t yet. If they both find their turn of foot, and my lad is a good way in front, and he stays there, it will be interesting to see what Shaquille can do.

“Shaquille is favourite, but my lad has a good chance. He seems in good order and Jane’s horses are running well. I just have a vision in my head and hopefully that can come to life.”

Kielan Woods handed lengthy whip ban by BHA disciplinary panel

Kielan Woods will be sidelined for 33 days after being given a hefty suspension totalling 42 days for contravening the whip rules five times in a six-month period.

Woods was one of four jockeys to appear before the British Horseracing Authority’s disciplinary panel on Thursday under the totting-up procedure, with his 42-day ban – of which nine days are suspended for six months – the heaviest penalty incurred.

Jonjo O’Neill junior was given a 21-day ban, with seven days suspended, for his third offence in six months.

Paula Muir was given 35 days, with nine suspended, for her third contravention of the rules, while Marco Ghiani was banned for 25 days, with eight suspended for the same number of misuse charges.

Marco Ghiani broke the whip rules three times in six months
Marco Ghiani broke the whip rules three times in six months (John Walton/PA)

The BHA implemented new whip rules in February over jumps and at the start of the current Flat turf season, cutting the number of strikes allowed to a maximum of seven and six times respectively whilst toughening up the penalty structure.

Initial proposals also included limiting use of the whip to the backhand position only, but after strong opposition from riders, that decision was reversed.

The BHA and the Professional Jockeys Association plan to evaluate the impact of the revised rules in due course, but racing’s regulators feel riders have generally adjusted well to the guidelines.

A spokesperson said: “The BHA is constantly monitoring the data around breaches of the new whip rules and engaging in regular constructive dialogue with the PJA and senior jockeys under both codes. This ongoing dialogue has led to a number of adjustments which have already been introduced to the rules and penalty structure.

“The BHA and PJA have also agreed that, at around the six-month stage following implementation, we would review what has worked well, what is still creating challenges and what further adjustments could be made to the framework.

“Jockeys on the whole have shown that they are able to adapt to the new thresholds and deserve great credit for this. This is best exemplified by the very small number of offences incurred throughout the sport’s main festival events, when jockeys are riding under the most intense of competition.

“While some riders will inevitably take more time to adapt to the new rules, the penalties for multiple referrals are designed to act as a significant deterrent towards jockeys committing multiple offences. They are also an incentive for riders to change their style.

“The core objectives of the new rules include bringing about an overall improvement in riding standards and ensuring races are run fairly and within the rules.”

Geegeez Jockeys Looking Forward to the 2022 Flat Season

It was a perfect day for it. Under a warm bright sky lightly doodled with cloud, a fair smattering of racing's hardcore convened on Newmarket's Rowley Mile to greet the awakening flat season. The mood was relaxed, sleepy perhaps, as the overture to the 2022 Classic campaign played out across the Suffolk sward.

I was among the gathering, there - like most - to welcome back a dear old friend. And, more specifically, to catch up with two dear young friends, David Probert and Marco Ghiani. Between them, in their geegeez-liveried breeches they've amassed 826 wins, and counting, in Britain: David with 679 since May 2016 and Marco with 147 since July 2020.

As well as being sponsored by this website, they have another thing in common: both have been crowned Champion Apprentice. David's title was in 2008, jointly with William Buick, with whom he looks set to contest the jockeys' championship this year; Marco's was last year, and followed on from his All Weather Champion Apprentice title, the first rider, we think, to win both awards.

Remarkably, that's not the last of the silverware these two have aggregated, as David holds a 20 winner edge over his nearest rival in the All Weather Jockeys' Championship, which draws to a close this Good Friday at Newcastle. His lead is unassailable and the championship is due reward for one of the hardest-working and most professional pilots in the peloton. Given that this is a cohort defined by its consistent endeavour and professionalism, to stand apart is a difficult task indeed.

The switch to agent Neil Allan has been a major catalyst in David's ascendant profile over the past five years when, in 2016 after his lowest annual total since 2008 (60 winners), he has since come home in front 94, 102, 112, 98 (Covid), and last year a whopping 170 times. With 55 on the board already in 2022, David is poised to challenge his own high score once more.

Asked if such a hectic riding schedule has allowed time to reflect and enjoy, he conceded, "it's been a bit manic, but with only riding one meeting a day you get a little time to yourself. It has sunk in a little bit, and I'm delighted with the achievement. I've usually been thereabouts through the winter, finishing second a couple of times, and I was lucky enough to get a good lead early on, which I've been able to maintain. I don't have to share this one either!"

With fourteen years having passed since his Apprentice title, Probert's latest accolade is testament to that aforementioned graft mentality and to the support of Allan and a growing rolodex of trainers large and small. For a quietly spoken man based away from the racing heartlands of Newmarket and Middleham, it's a brilliant achievement.

Although it feels almost churlish to move on to the turf flat season without due reflection on the fruits of the winter passed, such is the hemispheric nature of the sport. I ask about aspirations for the turf and the response is immediate and unequivocal. "I want to ride better horses. I've got a few chances this year with the likes of Sandrine [as short as 14/1 for the 1000 Guineas], who looks really well and has filled out since last year. She did a good piece of work over a mile the other day so we're very hopeful she'll stay the Guineas trip. She's going to go straight there. And there's a few nice three-year-olds coming through, too."

As we were speaking, the current champion jockey, Oisin Murphy, was part of a convoy including Dominic Ffrench Davis and Gay Kelleway en route to Poland on a mercy mission. His absence from defending his title has been well publicised but the implications in terms of riding plans at Andrew Balding's Kingsclere stables, provider of a sizeable chunk of the champ's total in recent seasons, less so. "Being a part of that yard has always been good and given me plenty of winners. I think this year I'll ride the majority, with some of the nicer horses shared out between myself, Rob [Hornby] and Jason [Watson]. Obviously, things change so we'll just have to play it by ear."

And what about the Flat Jockeys' Championship? "It's a dream. To do that, it's all about doubles and trebles and getting a good book of rides. As long as I can ride some good ones along the way I'll be happy." As short as 8/1 to win the title, it could be more realistic than the average dream.

Away from the All Weather Championships, I was keen to ask David about a few other issues. Firstly, how the new surface at Southwell is riding. "It's getting better all the time", he relates. "At the beginning, I think they maybe didn't have the right equipment for the new tapeta 10 surface and were relying on the old fibresand harrows. It wasn't binding as well as they'd hoped to begin with, so it was riding very 'dead' and tacky compared to Wolverhampton where they have a more established tapeta surface. But now it seems to be riding really well."

Also, how is the weighing room since Covid? "It's changed. We had individual booths during Covid and now the tracks are redeveloping the facilities to be mindful of safeguarding requirements for younger jockeys, and also to provide better changing rooms for the women riders. I think Covid has actually forced these changes through a little bit where these things might not have got done for a few more years, so that's been really positive."

*

As we are chatting, a familiar grin emerges from the weighing room. It is the perma-smiling Marco Ghiani in customary happy mode. He exchanges a greeting with David and then sits down to share a few thoughts on his own story so far.

Since joining Stuart Williams as an apprentice in 2019, Marco has finished in front 171 times from 1096 rides at time of writing, a fantastic career win rate of 15.6%. After a winless 2018, albeit from only 11 rides, 2019 saw the Sardinian score 22 times from 131 rides, starting with his first mount of the year, Lunar Deity, at 33/1. 2020 was blighted for everyone by Covid, and apprentice jockeys found opportunities severely restricted. But, thereafter, it's been a relentless tale of success for Marco, capped by that memorable Apprentice Championship double. Now he's riding off level weights with the big boys and relishing the prospect.

This time last year, Marco was about to be crowned Champion All Weather Apprentice. Recalling that period, he says, "It was really good but also very scary, because I only won by four and I was always looking over my shoulder. At that time, I was given 21 days off and Laura [Pearson] took three weeks off, and we still managed to be first and second. If she didn't take the time off maybe she would have been closer still. It felt amazing. I couldn't ride a winner the year before but after Christmas it started really picking up."

As already touched upon, being a jockey offers little time for celebration with the turf season following hard on the heels of its all-weather twin. And, after a quiet enough start, Marco was at it again, racking up 51 winners, 16 clear of the next best. The undisputed highlight was, of course, Real World's incredible near five length win in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot.

"I didn't expect it", remarks Ghiani, mirroring the view of most punters given the 18/1 at which he was returned. "He was very well handicapped, because I was carrying only eight stone six. He'd been running in Meydan but not showing that much. I rode him the day before in his work, and he was so laid back; and after, he was blowing that hard, I thought he'd probably need the race. But he showed a really good attitude, and obviously progressed all season. He's the best horse I've sat on, so far."

A certain other Italian, now in the veteran stage of his career but riding as well as ever, took over aboard Real World for a Group 2 triumph at Longchamp before a second G2 score, this time in Meydan under Danny Tudhope. Then followed a couple of relatively lacklustre efforts on the dirt in the Saudi Cup and Dubai World Cup. Marco remains hopeful of getting back on top when Real World reverts to British turf action, but he acknowledges that may not now be so easy.

Ascot was Marco's happy place last term and, a couple of months later, he was back there on British Champions' Day to receive his Champion Apprentice title; and this time - with Covid's spectre diminishing - his family were there to witness it.

Also in 2021, Marco's son, Louis, was born, his dad just 22 at the time. "I think it really helped me, to concentrate more on the job rather than going out or doing other things. And he's made me very happy", says the clearly content young father. Asked about plans for a brother or sister for Louis, the smile broadens still further in spite of a firm rebuttal, for the time being at least.

Now sights are fixed firmly forward: he'll be riding freelance this year, but with a retained jockey position for prominent owner Ahmad al Shaikh, whose Khalifa Sat was second in the 2020 Derby. Ghiani is excited about the ride on Hoo Ya Mal in the Craven as the starting point of that new relationship.

Elsewhere, he has been riding out for George Scott, William Knight, Marco Botti, Ed Dunlop, Owen Burrows, Roger Varian and Charlie Hills, as well as old boss and mentor, Stuart Williams. So, he's keeping busy in good company and hoping the opportunities will follow as the season progresses. "This season is about getting more experience, and more contacts, and hopefully winning some more big races."

Both Marco and David are striding boldly into the new season with every chance of it being a memorable one. All of us at geegeez.co.uk wish them the very best of luck.