In the world of thoroughbred horse training time plays an important role. Many would think that less time is the vital factor as the fastest horse wins the race, but trainers such as Ballarat based Matt Cumani think that outside of race day taking more time is better.
Paradoxically the nervous, flighty and fragile thoroughbred performs better and lasts longer when its training regime is more in the European style than the hustle and bustle of an Australian training centre.
Cumani’s trackwork riders typically ride fewer horses a day than other stables which have their riders working five or six horses in the same time.
“I ask my riders to walk their horse to the start of its gallop and then walk back to the stable afterwards”, Cumani explained.
“I find that it helps the horse to relax and because the rider is on the horse longer they can really get to know each other”, he said.
This very European style of training is appreciated by one of Cumani’s biggest supporters, OTI Racing principal Terry Henderson.
“Matt Cumani has the ideal credentials as a quality trainer of middle distance and staying horses in Australia. That was his prime appeal for OTI when we selected him to train horses on our behalf early in 2016”, Henderson said.
Before starting out as a trainer in Australia in 2016, Cumani had worked as an assistant trainer for Todd Pletcher in the USA, his father Luca a leading trainer in England and for Chris Waller in Sydney giving him a uniquely international perspective on horse training techniques.
“Since Matt started training in Australia we’ve noticed that his style of training is a unique blend of European and Australian styles. The combination of Matt’s personality, horsemanship skills and dedication provides him with an ideal foundation to be successful in the Australian marketplace.”
A feature of European style training is “riding out” where horses can work off the track in a more natural setting. The Ballarat training centre offers wide open spaces of this type as well as an all weather uphill straight track and the traditional grass racing surface.
This variety of working environments is far more interesting for both horse and rider and goes a long way to avoiding the stress experienced by many horses trained in the city.
One of the immediate benefits of Cumani’s training style is the much lower incidence of veterinary bills compared to other stables.
Cumani attributes this to two key factors:
“I think the horses are happier and less stressed here plus the uphill training track means that they can gallop in a straight line which reduces a lot of the wear and tear on a horse’s legs compared to going round a bend.”
One of the key developmental factors in a racehorse is the increase in bone volume and density required particularly in the front legs to cope with the stress of galloping at high speed with a rider. Handled badly this process leads to a condition known as shinsoreness where the bone is remodeling so rapidly that the horse experiences severe pain while in work.
“I’ve found that by carefully monitoring the speed and distance of their work that I can avoid shinsoreness by extending the horse’s initial preparation by four weeks”, Cumani noted.
Observing that “none of my two year olds have gone shinsore this season”, Cumani went on to say that “the horses enjoy their work more because they are not hurting and ultimately this has to increase the length of their racing career.”
For owners such as Henderson the value of Cumani’s training philosophy is the enhanced durability of his equine investments.
“Matt’s maturity beyond his years has already shown us that he is capable of managing a horse’s career to maximize that horse’s racing potential”, he said.
While it may take more time for Cumani’s training methods to produce results, his refreshingly different approach is clearly suited to those owners who aspire to winning Australia’s most prestigious staying races.
Time will tell.
Hearts Racing Admin