The Surprising Way Melbourne Cup Carnival Presenter Francesca Cumani Got Famous

She's the face of Network 10's Melbourne Cup coverage. But it might surprise you how it all started for Francesca Cumani.

These days, it wouldn't be a Melbourne Cup without Cumani to guide us through the runners before the race. She's also now the face of racing in Britain thanks to her work with ITV.

But the English-born daughter of now-retired Italian trainer Luca Cumani was an amateur jockey with modelling ambitions before fate stepped in -- as she told 10 daily in a conversation with sports editor Ant Sharwood.

Ant: Hi Francesca. So this week on Sports Tonight, I spoke about how overseas horses have made the Melbourne Cup a better race. Do you agree?

Francesca: I do. Obviously I wasn't around in Australia in the '90s when according to what I've been told, the race was slightly losing popularity. Then when [Irish horse] Vintage Crop won in 1993, it massively turned the tide. It changed the way the race was viewed and everyone considered it to be an international race.

Ant: Ha! You said the word "Viewed". Excuse me for laughing but as you'd well know, your father's horse Bauer was beaten by Bart Cummings' horse Viewed in 2008 in the closest finish in Melbourne Cup history.

Don't let the angle fool you. Viewed, on the inside, won the race. Image: Getty.

READ MORE: By A Nostril: The Five Most Thrilling Melbourne Cup Finishes Of The Century

Francesca: Yes, it was a very "efficient" win.

Ant: Oh, you're good. You refer of course to the grey horse Efficient, which beat your dad's horse Purple Moon in 2007. Do those two close losses, two years in a row, still hurt -- especially Bauer as the margin was so close, there was literally a pixel in it?

Francesca: It gets less painful over time. In the moment it was pretty difficult to take. But we were so happy with Bauer. In England, he was just a handicapper, but he really flourished when he got out here. We won the Geelong Cup after he pulled a shoe off in the float and cut his leg. He was a tough little guy and we nearly caught Viewed. But that was Bart's 12th Cup. How could we have spoiled it?

Ant: That's very diplomatic of you. So tell me when you first came out here for the Cup?

Image: Getty

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Francesca: It was 2006 and I came out with my father's horses Glistening and Soulacroix. Glistening was trapped wide the whole way and finished 10th after I drew barrier 24.

Ant: Wow, you're like the opposite of Stevie Payne, who famously drew barrier one for Michelle Payne when she won on Prince of Penzance in 2015.

Francesca: I've never gone near a barrier draw again.

Ant: I bet. So tell us how you went from travelling assistant with the horses to presenter on the Melbourne Cup coverage?

Image: WireImage

Francesca: I owe everything to the horses that brought me out here and to an email that came out of the blue from a TV producer. It kind of progressed from there. I'm forever grateful to them. They took a raw horsey girl and gave her a different incarnation.

Ant: Well, we're glad they did. And I reckon Australian sports lovers would be too. Do you like commentating here? In England, the racing audience is the racing audience. But here, for a few weeks each year, it becomes pop culture.

Francesca: I love the thought of speaking to a whole nation. We have good day-to-day audiences in England, but nothing like Melbourne Cup day. And the job this year with Channel 10 is the same as always -- to tell the stories of the horses, especially the international runners, because people don't often know much about them.

The Channel 10 team for the 2019 Melbourne Cup Carnival.

Ant: On that note, you'd better give us your pick of the internationals this year.

Francesca: Oh, I'll probably give 10 different tips to 10 different people, but having been at [the International Horse Centre] at Werribee yesterday, I'm going to go with the Japanese horse Mer De Glace, who won the Caulfield Cup.

Ant: He was so impressive that day, but he's never come close to the Melbourne Cup distance. Do you think he can really get the trip?

Francesca: You never really know. If they run the race slowly and speed is important, then yes. But if they run hard the whole way and it rains and becomes a slog, then no. But a lot of it also depends on temperament, and Mer De Glace had his head down in his work and looked beautifully relaxed. They save a lot of energy with that style of racing.

Francesca with her brother Matt Cumani, who trains out of Ballarat. Image: Getty

Ant: Well we hope you manage to stay relaxed throughout the hectic carnival Francesca. In fact, we're sure you will. Good luck and thanks for chatting to 10 daily.

Francesca: Thanks Ant.

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Network 10 is the official broadcaster of the 2019 Melbourne Cup Carnival.