By Jon Lees
Australia: Matt Cumani will have another chance to complete some unfinished family business in the Melbourne Cup after being given charge of French stayer San Huberto for his Spring Carnival campaign.
Son of Newmarket trainer Luca Cumani, he shared in his father’s torment when Bauer missed out by a nose in the 2008 Cup at Flemington won by Viewed, one of the few major international prizes to elude the pioneering campaigner.
With Cumani snr retired, Matt Cumani has taken up the baton on Australian soil, where he has established a successful stable in Ballarat, Victoria, soon to welcome the G2 winner San Huberto, who is being transferred by OTI Racing from French trainer Fabrice Chappet.
“He is a lovely-looking horse from what I’ve seen in the videos, a really athletic type,” said Cumani. “I think he can be very successful here. He is going to have to step up from what he’s done so far, even though he has shown a lot of promise.
“He is exactly the horse I’d like to have down here. It would be good to get to know his current trainer – I’ll be training him in conjunction with him and getting to understand the horse between now and when he gets down here.”
San Huberto won the G2 Prix Vicomtesse Vigier in June, beating top stayer Call The Wind, but the tables were comprehensively turned in their rematch in last month’s Prix Kergorlay, a performance blamed on testing ground conditions at Deauville.
San Huberto is one of 16 OTI Racing-owned entries in the Stella Artois Caulfied Cup and one of 18 in the Lexus Melbourne Cup. Also included is Grey Lion, who finished 14th in 2016 as Matt Cumani’s first Melbourne Cup runner.
“The Melbourne Cup is a race we all want to win, whether you are Australian, English or anyone else,” said the trainer. “It’s a serious challenge but it’s a lot of fun trying to get there.
“My first runner was an OTI horse and this is an OTI horse. I thank them hugely for the opportunity because these horses are hard to come by and OTI do a great job in sourcing them nice and early. Hopefully this might be the one.”
Cumani travelled for only one of his father’s Melbourne Cup challenges, being regularly overlooked for the trip by TV presenter sister Francesca.
“The first time I was down here on a busman’s holiday with Ed Walker,” he recalled. “After that I was either working in America or the UK. I never really got the actual trip – Cesca always got that! – but I was certainly watching them from afar.”
Cumani has trained 182 winners since he set up in Australia in 2015-16 and has sent out 50 or more winners in each of the last three seasons. In April he celebrated his richest win when Khoekhoe landed the A$855,000 (£435,000) The Showdown at Caulfield, in a season in which he also won the Pakenham Cup with Etah James.
“We had our best-ever year last year, with 64 winners, the best number of Metro winners and best prize-money,” he said. “Each year we have done better and better. We are raising the benchmark and have to keep bettering that each year.
“I am very happy with how the stable has gone these last 12 months. We have started off well in August with five winners in the month and we have a couple of big runners this weekend.
“Creedence is potentially Melbourne Cup-bound but we have a bit of a journey between now and then, but he is a very promising Helmet gelding.
“We also have a young three-year-old colt Hit The Shot, who won on debut three weeks ago and he runs in a handicap at Moonee Valley. He is potentially a Derby horse if he can take the next step and the one after that.”