AFTER making pizzas back home in Italy, rising star Marco Ghiani wanted a slice of the action in Britain.
Fed up of cooking away in Sardinia, Ghiani took the plunge and moved to Newmarket as a wet behind the ears 16-year-old.
Now Ghiani is a new dad, tops the Champion Apprentice table and recently booted home his first Royal Ascot winner just two weeks before riding out his claim.
Life is good for the Sardinian with the biggest grin in the weighing room, and he’s now beginning to get used to dough of another kind.
The 22-year-old, who won the Hunt Cup on Godolphin’s Real World, said: “Royal Ascot was just unbelievable, I still can’t put it into words to be honest.
“Crossing the line I couldn’t believe it, let alone on an outsider too. It’s the dream for every jockey and I’m still pinching myself – it was easily one of the best days of my life.
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“Everyone had been saying you had to be on the stands side but I walked the course and thought I’d give it a go. It paid off and the horse was brilliant for me. It was a dream come true.”
So how do you go from rolling out fresh pizzas to becoming one of the racing’s young stars?
After realising he wouldn’t be able to make a career out of it at home in his town of Oristano, he saw fellow countrymen Luca Cumani, Marco Botti, Andrea Atzeni and of course Frankie Dettori demonstrating just what could be done.
Ghiani explained: “I actually don’t know what made me want to become a jockey but I’d always been riding from about five years old.
“I worked in a restaurant cooking pizzas in the kitchen and just thought, ‘no, I can’t do this anymore.’ And as I’d always ridden horses, I enjoyed that more.
“Where I lived in Sardinia there are lots of horses and when I was 15 I thought I’d give it a shot. Dario Vargiu, the Italian champion, spoke to me and said to go for it. But I realised there wasn’t much chance to make it in Italy.
“I moved to England at 16 and got a place at the British Racing School in Newmarket. Luca Cumani took me on and that was the best place to learn. I worked there until he retired and then went to Australia to work for his son.
“I then came back to England and Stuart Williams offered me a job as his apprentice. He’s been a big help and has always supported me so I have to thank him. He gave me rides when no one else would.
“I still speak to Luca almost every day. I wouldn’t say he gives me advice, mostly he calls me to give me a bollocking!”
But it’s not just the apprentice title Ghiani has to worry about now. His girlfriend Brooke gave birth to Louis in May and life hasn’t been the same since.
Thankfully Ghiani is riding enough winners to pay for the most expensive cost of all – nappies!
He said: “We had Louis a couple of months ago with my partner, it was a very proud moment. It makes you change how you think about things.
“At first I was a bit scared but it’s been the best, I love being a dad. It helps me focus on my career too and hopefully I can make him proud.
“When I have a winner now I cross the line and think ‘that will buy some more nappies! I can’t believe how expensive they are!”
Given the exploits of Dettori and Atzeni on these shores, the obvious comparisons are going to be made.
Can Ghiani reach those heights? Well the 22-year-old rightly wants to be judged by his actions in the saddle and nothing else.
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He said: “There is obviously Andrea and Frankie here. They’re both older than me so I wouldn’t say we’re friends but they help when they can. Obviously I see what they’ve done and it does make you think.
“I see Andrea sometimes when I ride at Roger Varian’s. People always ask about Frankie and whether I’m the next Frankie.
“But that’s not fair, no one will ever be Frankie. I just want to concentrate on my career and being my own jockey. But if I can achieve half of what Frankie has then I’d be happy.”
With Saffie Osborne breathing down his neck, Ghiani is hopeful he has enough momentum to become champion apprentice despite losing his claim at Yarmouth last week.
If he does lift the trophy at Ascot on Champions Day he’d join an illustrious list of winners in recent years.
Tom Marquand and Oisin Murphy have won the title, and further back the likes of Will Buick and Ryan Moore too.
Ghiani said: “This year things have been going brilliantly, I’m having lots of winners and getting on nicer horses. I’m getting more chances and hopefully now starting to make use of it.
“The more winners you have, the more people take notice of you and that’s how you build contacts. Like with Godolphin I won on four of the first five rides I had for them and that’s the only way to make people see you sometimes.
“I’m top of the champion apprentice table at the moment and that’s the goal this year to stay at the top.”
Ghiani knows how to cook up a storm in a kitchen, he’s quickly learning how to do it on the track too.
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