There is, perhaps surprisingly, a reasonable Italian heritage in Newmarket, tracing back more than a century to the days when the eccentric Odoardo Ginistrelli crowned his three decades in the town by sending out his homebred Signorinetta to win both the Derby and Oaks in 1908. And now Signori Cumani and Dettori, the principal wavers of il tricolore in Suffolk, have been joined by a compatriot in the ranks of the professionals.
Step forward Marco Botti, first-season trainer. The young Milanese has been making a quiet, but undeniable, impression since he sent out his first runner back in February. On Saturday he will step up to the top table for the first time, having supplemented his unbeaten charge Sesmen to the Fillies' Mile at Ascot.
"She has done everything right so far," said Botti yesterday, "and she deserves the chance. It will be a step up in class, of course, and we can't expect it to be easy. But we are confident she'll run a good race."
The family name is yet to establish itself in these parts, but is legendary back home. Botti's father, Alduino, and uncle Guiseppi preside over a massive, dominant training operation based in Milan and Pisa, with umpteen championships. And the decision of this particular member of the next generation to start out in Britain raised a few eyebrows.
"All the family is involved in racing in Italy," he said. "There is not only my father and uncle, but my brothers and cousins. I always knew it would be difficult to set up on my own account in England, but I really didn't want to compete with my father at home. I could never do what he has done. He thought I would be better off in Italy because it is so competitive here. But I want to compete against the best, and here racing is among the best in the world."
Botti, 29, was attached to the family business (he rode more than 400 winners) before deciding to broaden his learning horizons. He became pupil-assistant to Cumani, in the days of Falbrav, filled the same role with Ed Dunlop and then joined Godolphin for a year, first in Britain and then as head lad in Dubai. It was a thorough grounding, in all aspects; without a word of English when he left Italy, he clearly has a bent for languages as well as training.
His fledgling operation out of Saffron House Stables, on Hamilton Road, required patience, for his first winner, Ceremonial Jade, did not come until late June. The total now stands at eight, plus eight seconds and five thirds, from 45 runs from 12 individuals, including Sesmen's Group Three Prestige Stakes at Goodwood last month and two Listed places from Highway To Glory, due to run at Ascot on Sunday. A move to bigger premises next season may be finalised this week.
The coming of Sesmen was a legacy from Botti's days at Bedford House. Falbrav's owners, the Scuderia Rencati partnership, promised to send the embryonic trainer a horse when he started up, and she is it. "I could not have done without the support from Italy," he said, "and it has given me a great start. But I'm looking for new owners, English owners."
The grey daughter of Inchinor, bred by the snooker star Peter Ebdon, was a 27,000-guinea yearling at the Newmarket sales and goes to Saturday's Group One fray three from three. "My father picked her out," said Botti, "and I have to admit I wasn't totally convinced the first time I saw her; I thought she had a rather narrow head. But then I saw the way she walked.
"She soon showed us she was going to be a decent filly. She was a bit too keen to start with but she has improved mentally as well as physically and she's now very professional and straightforward. She travelled very well just behind the pace at Goodwood and though she won only a neck she was still green, and better value than that. She's big and scopey and looks sure to strengthen again over the winter, and I hope she'll be a Guineas filly."
A big run from Sesmen, to be ridden by Oscar Urbina, in one of the key juvenile filly contests will go a long way to cementing the Botti credentials. "Having my own yard is all I ever wanted professionally," he said. "My father has always said I can go back to Italy any time, but I want to make a success of it here."
Firm threat to Sir Percy
Sir Percy, the Derby winner, will not run in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday week if the going at Longchamp is either firm or testing. A decision will not be made until next Wednesday or Thursday by his trainer, Marcus Tregoning.
The Mark Of Esteem colt would wait for the Champion Stakes at Newmarket on 14 October. "I shall be closely monitoring ground conditions as I don't want to bottom him," said Tregoning.
Nap: Classi Maureen
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