It’s all happening in Italy: Derby winner DQ, champ Vargiu has COVID-19 and there’s €1m+ in Milan

Horse Racing Italy Derby Italiano
Capannelle Classic: Tuscan Gaze (Carlo Fiocchi, right) gets his nose ahead of King’s Caper (Frankie Dettori). Photo:

By Nicholas Godfrey

Italy: Not for the first time, confusion reigns in Italian racing amid news that Derby winner Tuscan Gaze has been disqualified – leaving Frankie Dettori and Mark Johnston to claim the prize with King’s Caper.

However, connections of Tuscan Gaze have appealed against the decision, which reportedly comes as a result of what are described as “irregular entry procedures” by Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.

If the revised result is confirmed, Dettori would claim his native Derby for the third time after Mukhalif (1999) and Mastery (2009), both of whom were trained for Godolphin by Saeed Bin Suroor.

Sent off 7-2 favourite for trainer Luciano Bietolini, Tuscan Gaze got up close home under jockey Carlo Fiocchi to deny King’s Caper by a nose.

Formerly trained by John Gosden and owned by Lady Bamford, who whom he won at Newbury, the son of Galileo has finished last in two races in France since his success at the Capannelle.

Earlier this week, the Corriere della Sport confirmed that Tuscan Gaze’s owners, MAG Horse Racing SRL, have lodged an appeal to the governing body, Mipaaf.

According to the paper, which also bemoaned a lack of any official comment on the subject, the owners issued a statement suggesting the horse had been demoted because of a mistake involving the horse’s name, allegedly transcribed as ‘Tosca Gate’ instead of ‘Tuscan Gaze’.

MAG described this as a “trivial transcription error by the technical secretariat of HippoGroup Rome with a correction made by them after the deadline for registration provided for by the regulations”.

Although it is now only granted G2 status – Italy no longer has any G1 events – the Derby Italiano at Capannelle in Rome is Italy’s senior Classic. This year’s renewal, delayed until July 20 owing to coronavirus, carried total prize-money of €704,000 – more than the £500,000 Derby at Epsom two weeks earlier.

Seven-time champion jockey Dario Vargiu in quarantine

In other significant news from Italy, seven-time champion jockey Dario Vargiu has tested positive for COVID-19 and has entered quarantine.

Horse Racing Dario Vargiu jockey
Asymptomatic: Dario Vargiu misses showpiece card at San Siro owing to coronavirus quarantine. Photo:

As a result, he will miss Italy’s best card of the year on Sunday at San Siro in Milan featuring four G2 events including the Gran Premio Jockey Club and prize-money well in excess of €1m altogether.

Vargiu, 44, has ridden more than 3,000 domestic winners, which makes him number one among active jockeys in Italy. He has been involved in a fierce tussle for the truncated 2021 Italian jockeys’ title with Salvatore Basile, who led his rival by 80 winners to 78 at close of play on Friday.

Although Vargiu stopped riding at the beginning of the week with a fever, he is now asymptomatic but must complete the necessary quarantine period before he can ride again.

Among those engaged on an international card in Milan on Sunday are horses trained in France, Germany and Britain, for whom the flag is flown by the Ed Dunlop-trained Red Verdon (Olivier Peslier) and Marco Botti’s Kempton winner Rising Star.

• Visit Dario Vargiu’s website

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