Francesca Cumani believes Royal Ascot is a golden chance to attract a new audience to racing
- The five-day meeting will take place behind closed doors due to coronavirus
- Cumani believes it is a golden chance to attract a new audience to the sport
- She is the lead female presenter for the TV channel’s coverage of the meeting
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Francesca Cumani, the face of ITV’s racing coverage, believes this week’s Royal Ascot meeting is a golden chance to attract a new audience to the sport.
‘It’s a really good opportunity to show racing at its best while we have more eyeballs on us and when we are not competing against other sports,’ says Cumani, the lead female presenter for the TV channel’s coverage of the meeting.
‘For the industry, it’s important to have these races and a lot of them are breed shapers. We need to get the money circulating to help the owners pay their bills and we want to provide a bit of entertainment for everyone at home.’
Francesca Cumani (above) is the daughter of dual Derby-winning trainer Luca Cumani
The 37-year-old, who speaks four languages, is the daughter of dual Derby-winning trainer Luca Cumani and won races as an amateur jockey before stumbling into broadcasting.
‘I was desperate to ride a racehorse but my father wouldn’t let me,’ she says. ‘Eventually he gave in when I was 11. I learnt quickly why he was reluctant because I either fell off or got run away with!
‘When my dad won the Derby, I remember it being a big deal. Racing seemed such a cool and aspirational thing to be around. I wanted to join in and feel the buzz.
‘But dad knew how tough training was — and I liked my food too much to be a jockey!’
Cumani never aspired to work in TV, but was discovered by Channel 7 in Australia in 2007 when she was at the Melbourne Cup with her father, who was training the favourite, Purple Moon.
‘It all happened by accident,’ she recalls. ‘I was heavily involved in my father’s stable, travelling abroad with his horses and loving it. I was acting as assistant trainer and spokesperson for the stable.
‘There is huge interest in the foreign horses for the Melbourne Cup so I ended up doing all the interviews and photos when he finished second.’
Channel 7 offered her a position as a guest on their panel for the Melbourne Cup the following year and her career took off.
When ITV won terrestrial rights for racing in 2016, Cumani was appointed to lead the show alongside Ed Chamberlin.
‘Royal Ascot has always been my favourite meeting,’ she says. ‘I like that it draws interest from people not only from racing but from a fashion and social perspective. I am excited but it will feel strange this year. No Queen, no spectators, no owners, no bandstand.’
There will be no enforced dress code either but Royal Ascot are encouraging people to dress up at home and have fun while raising money for frontline charities.
Sarah Kate Byrne, Cumani’s stylist, says: ‘We might as well have a bit of fun in the circumstances.’
Cumani is more reticent: ‘I feel with the prevalence of social media, whatever you do someone is going to be unhappy.
‘If I don’t dress up, people will say we’re treating it like a Monday meeting at Windsor. And if I do dress up, people will say we’re in a global pandemic, get a grip.’
So she has cnosen to wear vintage, second-hand and sustainable outfits which will be auctioned off for charity.
ITV Racing will show six races from 1.30pm until 5pm each day from Tuesday to Saturday.