In the run-up to the Dubai Australian Cup, racing expert Francesca Cumani reveals her expectations for this year’s event and reflects on where newer meetings such as the Dubai World Cup sit on the international calendar
Francesca Cumani, daughter of world-renowned Italian thoroughbred horse trainer Luca Cumani, grew up immersed in the equestrian world. So it’s little wonder that she has managed to carve an impressive equestrian career both as an amateur jockey and a respected TV presenter, providing racing coverage for networks all over the world.
Working in Australia ahead of the Dubai Australian Cup (10 March), when she will also appear on air as part of Australia’s Seven Network's coverage of the event, has proved an ideal chance for Cumani to expand her already significant knowledge of the sport. “I’m working with trainer Peter Moody [famous for training the unbeaten mare, Black Caviar] and the stable – taking the opportunity to learn more about Australian racing and the way Australian trainers prepare their horses.”
Moody has involved her in his race preparations for Manighar, a horse entered in the Dubai Australian Cup, and Cumani has high hopes for a strong performance. “I’ve been riding him in trackwork and he’s been going really well. He won his first race this preparation and we are hoping he will have a successful campaign.”
But Cumani also has her sights on another international race that she is closely involved with this season: a carnival of racing in Dubai culminating in the world's richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup (31 March). “The carnival is growing all the time and most of the major stables around the world are looking at sending horses to Dubai each March.”
Continually growing, part of DWC’s success can no doubt be attributed to the UAE’s central location, but investment in first-class facilities has also played an important role in securing the event’s position on the international racing calendar.
“Dubai is so central to the entire world of racing. This means that horses from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia can all get to the UAE relatively easily,” Cumani explains. “Meydan is a world-class facility and they have done a great job with the turf track given it’s in the middle of the desert.”
While the horse racing and fashion highlight of the year might still be Royal Ascot in the UK, Cumani can understand why the unique nature of Dubai World Cup has started to attract the attention of the world’s glitterati. “The fact that the race is held at night creates a special atmosphere under the lights, and there are many other events and attractions complementing the racing during World Cup week.”
This year's potential World Cup field looks like having a truly international flavour – Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien may send So You Think, Smart Falcon is a potential runner from Japan, while Game On Dude and Animal Kingdom would be two potential US-trained challengers, but with the field still wide-open, Cumani isn’t willing to offer any tips. “I’d much prefer to wait until I see the final field before saying who will have the best opportunity of being crowned the world’s best.”