Marco Ghiani targets bigger and better things after being crowned Champion Apprentice
Marco Ghiani’s famous smile – dimples and all – lit up the winners’ enclosure more than 100 times last year.
It was a four-fold improvement on his previous season’s best, and it was capped in style with the likeable Italian being crowned Champion Apprentice by Lester Piggott on QIPCO British Champions’ Day at Ascot.
Aged just 23, the future is looking particularly rosy for a jockey that has been based in Newmarket since enrolling at the British Racing School six years ago.
“Last year was amazing, really special for me,” he said. “I did well on the All-Weather at the start of the year and then looked at things and thought maybe I could ride 50 winners.
“To ride 101 – more than double – that was just unthinkable. It was a very good performance and people are now seeing my name.”
The big breakthrough came when he partnered the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Real World to victory in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot.
And the pair went on to successfully renew their acquaintance with victories in the Listed bet365 Stakes at Newbury and the Group 3 Sky Bet And Symphony Group Strensall Stakes at York – the latter providing Ghiani with a first taste of Group success.
The son of Dark Angel has since been ridden to Group 2 glory by Frankie Dettori at Longchamp, with Dettori and Danny Tudhope also taking up the ride in the desert earlier this year.
Ghiani is hoping, though, that it is not the end of his relationship with a ‘special horse’.
“He gave me a lot of success in the big races. It was a pleasure to ride him and he’s definitely a special horse for me,” said Ghiani.
“He’s been ridden out in Dubai recently but I kind of see him as my horse in a way. Hopefully when he comes back to England I’ll ride him again.
“People say he looks like a Group 1 horse. It’s hard for me to comment because I’ve never had a Group 1 horse, but he feels very special.”
After such an impressive campaign, the comparisons with the aforementioned Dettori were always going to come. They do, after all, both have close ties with the Italian island of Sardinia, as well as having been taken under the wing of serial Classic-winning trainer Luca Cumani.
“Frankie has given me lots of advice in the past,” said Ghiani, who had shown little interest in racing until the age of 11 when he caught the eye of Italian Champion Jockey Dario Vargiu while competing in the Sartiglia – a traditional horse riding event held annually in his homeland.
“I can ask things when I feel I need that bit more advice. Frankie is the best.”
While Ghiani has a highly useful ally in Dettori, he is also indebted to the support and guidance that has been provided by Stuart Williams.
Ghiani arrived at Williams’ Diomed Stables yard on Hamilton Road in 2019 and the pair have gone on to form a handy partnership.
“Stuart has been amazing ever since I joined the yard,” said the jockey who at the time this supplement went to print had already racked up 24 winners in 2022.
“He can be hard at times but that is because he thinks so much of me.
“I’ve learned so much since I joined up with Stuart and I know there is plenty more to learn as well. It’s a really good yard to be a part of.”
As for the remainder of the campaign, Ghiani’s focus will be on bettering his 2021 haul of winners.
But it is not all about the numbers, the quality of those victories also carries plenty of importance as he aims to further establish himself in what is a highly competitive weighing room.
“I’ve had a Royal Ascot winner, I’ve had a Group winner and I’ve had my best ever season,” said Ghiani, who last year became a father to his son Louis.
“There’s a little bit of noise around my name and so I have to keep doing well. That means getting better numbers and hopefully having a few more Group winners.
“Any Group race would be nice to win. I know that will not be easy but these are the things I’m aiming at for this season.
“Hopefully I can catch the eye of some big trainers as well. I’m excited for the future and what is to come.”