Marco Ghiani | Under Starters Orders

Features | 13th October 2021

Find out about the 2021 Champion Apprentice's journey to success in the UK.

Name: Marco Ghiani

Born: 7th February 1999

Career highlight: Partnership with Real World which gave Ghiani his first Royal Ascot winner and first Group winner.

Interesting fact: Ghiani is from the same part of Italy as Frankie Dettori and Andrea Atzeni, Sardinia.

No wonder it’s hard to spot Marco Ghiani without a smile on his face. The 22‐year‐old jockey is well on the way to following in the illustrious footsteps of some of the world’s best riders.

He holds a unsaleable lead in the Apprentice Championships and he will be crowned Champion Apprentice at Ascot on QIPCO British Champions Day on Saturday, 16th October.

The prestigious title has been a stepping stone to racing success with recent winners Cieren Fallon, Tom Marquand and Oisin Murphy all now firmly established as top jockeys.

Profile of Marco Ghiani


Ghiani is from a non-racing family, his parents run a pizza restaurant in Sardinia. However, being from Sardinia, he grew up in an area with a big horse racing tradition. He started taking part in the Sartiglia carnival, a 500 year old equestrian festival celebrating the island’s history, at the age of just five.

Credit: Marco Ghiani Instagram
Ghiani (left) at Sartiglia in 2013. Credit: Macro Ghiani Instagram

At 15 years old, in one of the events during the Sartiglia carnival Ghiani fell off his horse but showed bravery and horsemanship in getting back up to regather the horse and continued in the parade.

Following the incidient, six-time Italian Champion Jockey Dario Vargiu texted Ghiani to say he could be a jockey if he wanted to be. The inspiration grew from there as Ghiani discovered a career in racing could be possible.

Ghiani decided at 16 to pursue his dream and moved to the British Racing School (BRS) at Newmarket.

Beginnings in Britain

Marco Ghiani developed his riding skills at the BRS and at former Italian trainer Luca Cumani’s yard. He was renowned for being very hard-working on both his fitness and riding techniques laying the foundations for future success.

Luca Cumani was very encouraging and supportive of Ghiani through the highs and lows of any young jockey’s career and helped him settle into the UK. Cumani then retired in December 2018 and Ghiani went straight to Stuart Williams‘ yard.

Michael Hills‘ who has also been instrumental in Ghiani’s development as his jockey coach for the last three years said, “Stuart Williams has been massive for Marco, he supported him from day one, he’s always given him strong rides, backed him up and given him good advice.”

Michael Hills on Marco’s ability and talent, said, “He’s naturally very good on a horse, he has very soft hands. He’s very strong, he’s like Popeye. He ticked a lot of boxes for a jockey. He worked hard, put it all together and now he’s reaping the rewards”.

Boxercise jockey fitness training. Credit: Marco Ghiani Instagram
Boxercise jockey fitness training. Credit: Marco Ghiani Instagram

Champion Apprentice season

It has been a dream season for Marco. He had high hopes of landing the Champion Apprentice title having won the all‐weather version during the winter but not even someone as optimistic as the Italian rider can have imagined to hit the heights he’s reach this summer.

Attached to Stuart Williams’s Newmarket stables, he has caught the eye of a number of top trainers. Simon and Ed Crisford, Roger Varian, Charlie Hills and Hugo Palmer have all supplied the young jockey with winners this season but it was his tie up with Saeed bin Suroor that has been the most fruitful.

The Godolphin trainer put him up on Real World in the Royal Hunt Cup. Despite being drawn on what appeared to be the unfavoured far side, Marco rode a sublime race as the pair stormed home by four‐and‐three‐quarter lengths.

It was Ghiani’s first Royal Ascot winner and more big‐race success was to follow as he struck up a great partnership with Real World. They teamed up to win the Listed Steventon Stakes at Newbury before Ghiani landed his first Group race when they saw off dual Group 1 winner Lord Glitters in York’s Strensall Stakes.

His Royal Hunt Cup win was one of 15 winners during June and he went a long way towards securing the apprentice title when adding a further 14 victories during July.

It seemed like his infectious grin was rarely out of the winners’ enclosure as his profile continued to rise throughout the summer months. He rode out his claim by making it 95 career winners when riding Surprise Picture to victory at Yarmouth on the first day of July.

Ghiani rides slightly more compact but he is strong in a finish and horses clearly run for him. It is always a worrying time for an apprentice when they lose their weight allowance but Ghiani has remained in demand and he looks sure to establish himself among the ranks of the fully‐fledged riders.