'If You Are Willing to Learn, it Keeps You Young': Valfredo Valiani on the Switch From Trainer to Agent

Valfredo Valiani | Emma Berry


Many eyes will be on the top-class racing in Ireland this weekend, but the relentless run of yearling sales continues, with Italy's major auction taking place on Saturday at San Siro racecourse in Milan.

Among those in action at the 117-lot sale will be Valfredo Valiani, whose globetrotting success as a trainer saw him conquer the Knavesmire not once but twice, first with Super Tassa (Ire) in the Yorkshire Oaks of 2001 and then four years later with Electrocutionist, winner of the Juddmonte International. An amateur rider from a young age, the Italian later spent some time working for his compatriot Luca Cumani in Newmarket, back in the days when a young Frankie Dettori had also not been in town for long. Since ceasing to train, Valiani has steered a new course as a bloodstock agent, and it is one for which he is eminently qualified.

“I'm in good touch with quite a few owners and breeders and consignors in England and Ireland, mostly,” says Valiani, who bought four yearlings at the Tattersalls Somerville Sale on Tuesday before retuning to Italy.

“It's only five years that I've been a bloodstock agent,” he continues, “But when you've been training for such a long time, you know what happens if a horse has a fault, if you can accept it or not, and you're more confident with the horses. 

“I still have to learn a lot because it's a new job and five years is a little time, but I try to keep learning all the time. I'm very friendly with quite a few big bloodstock agents, and every time I have a chance, I go to look at horses with them, especially at the breeze-ups, to try to keep learning. I'm not that young any more, I'm 63. But if you keep learning, if you are willing to learn, it keeps you young.”

It's hard not to think that the first ring through the lot in Milan on Saturday has been named in honour of the impending retirement of one of Italian racing's greatest sons. The colt in question is called Amazing Frankie (Ire), and the son of Cracksman (GB) is being presented by Allevamento di Zenzalino. His sire is one who has already provided some reflected glory for Valiani, who bought the Group 2 and Listed winner Aloa (GB), from Cracksman's first crop, at Tattersalls October Book 2.

He'll be back for the October Sale, of course, after a trip to Ireland for for forthcoming sales at Goffs and Tattersalls Ireland. It was at Fairyhouse that he unearthed the filly who would bring his name to wider prominence on the global racing scene. The aforementioned Super Tassa, a daughter of Lahib, was bought for just IR£1,800 at the September Yearling Sale and went on to record three back-type wins in Italy before her successful foray to York.

Valiani says, “I have always liked a lot to look at yearlings, and foals as well. And so every single sale, I look at as many as I can. Also, because usually I don't have that much money to spend and you have to consider a bit of everything, of course I love the horses with pedigrees, but if you don't have enough money, you have to consider the model and the way they walk. That is what I care more about.”

It is well known that the breeze-up consignors will search far and wide to find the right yearling for their specific job, and Valiani found a decent one at last year's SGA Sale for Tally-Ho Stud. The son of Oasis Dream (GB) out of the dual Listed winner Mujadil Lachy (GB) (Kyllachy {GB}) was bought for €75,000 in Milan and resold at the Goffs Breeze-up Sale in April for £220,000 to a noted judge in Richard Ryan.

“It's great to work with these people, they're really professional,” says Valiani who will be on the lookout for a similar prospect on Saturday. “Roger [O'Callaghan] told me, 'if you want to buy something, let me know.' It depends on what I find. If I find something that I think could be useful for them, I'll point it out.

“In Italy there is a bunch of 15 horses you could pick from on pedigrees and some of them could be right for abroad. In Italy, the market is very strong for the lower horses, and for the top horses, sometimes you get to buy something that you would definitely pay more if you were abroad in another sale.”

Like many people involved in an increasingly international business, Valiani naturally has some concerns regarding the racing industry in his home country, which is notably slow in paying out prize-money.

“Plenty of people still want to buy [horses], the passion is still here,” he says. “But nothing is working properly, I have to say. But when you have all these people willing to become racehorse owners, you have a chance to get out of the bad situation we are in now. So I'm hopeful, let's put it in this way.”

He adds, “We're in trouble with the [European] Pattern Committee. Hopefully they will let us keep the same position as we are now, but that is not for sure. It would be a real shame if Italy [lost its black-type races] because there are a lot of mare owners that buy nominations and a lot of people that buy yearlings at the sales, buy horses in training abroad. So it would be a shame for everybody. Of course, first of all, for Italy.”

Valiani continues, “And don't forget that we still produce a lot of very good jockeys. Five out of the best 20 jockeys in the world probably are Italians. We produce good trainers who go abroad and do well, so it's a big racing country.”

As well as Aloa, who was the top-rated juvenile filly in Italy last year, Valiani also had ties to the top-rated three-year-old filly, Romagna Mia (GB) (Mastercraftsman {Ire}), whom he had purchased at the Arqana Breeze-up Sale for £25,000 (the second year it was held in Doncaster). 

“She won a Group 2 race, the Premio Lydia Tesio, and then we sold her for €500,000 in Arqana in December. She's gone to America and she's been Grade I-placed for Team Valor,” he notes. 

The filly hails from the Blue Duster family with which Valiani's old boss Luca Cumani also enjoyed success as the trainer of the multiple Group 3 winner and Group 1 runner-up Fantasia (GB) (Sadler's Wells), and the agent is quick to credit Cumani, a noted breeder as well as former trainer, as a mentor.

He says, “Going back, a lot of what I've learned I have to thank Luca for, Luca and Sara, because Luca's been a great master for me.

“When I was his assistant trainer, he gave me quite a tough time at the beginning and I kept thinking 'one day I'll have to be back in England and win a race.' The first time was with Super Tassa, and I kept her with Luca for the last month, and I would fly up and back twice a week. We were together in York when she won the Yorkshire Oaks, and he was the one shouting more than anybody else. He was so happy for me.”

The SGA Yearling Sale starts at 1.30pm on Saturday and has been moved from its intended venue at the Maura racecourse to be held in front of the Palazzina del Peso at San Siro racecourse. All yearlings will be on view at the stables in Via Ippodromo 67. The public entrances are Piazzale dello Sport 6 (Leonardo`s horse) and Piazzale dello Sport 16 (fountain).


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