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Horse Racing: ANNUAL REPORT 2006 ITALY; INTERNATIONAL ZONE Godolphin nabbed year's top performer, says Robert Carter.

Byline: Robert Carter

RAMONTI was the nearest thing to a star performer during a quiet season. He landed his Group 1 in the Premio Vittorio di Capua in October and also scored twice in Group 2 company, in the Emilio Turati and Ribot.

The 2005 Premio Parioli winner disappointed in his only foreign foray, finishing down the field in the Prix Jacques le Marois. Connections blamed his Deauville failure on his not having as much use made of him as usual. But this confirmed front-runner showed his true merit with his close third in the Hong Kong Mile, a performance which persuaded Godolphin to buy him.

It was particularly heartening for Italian racing that he is by a home-based stallion, Martino Alonso. Oddly enough that son of Marju was bred by Godolphin.

Ramonti was the star of the Dioscuri stable operated by the Botti brothers, who wrested the European record for number of winners in a season away from Jean-Claude Rouget. Even Alduino and Giuseppe Botti may struggle to surpass their new mark of 318.

British interest has decreased in recent years. British runners scored five wins from 40 tries compared to 13 from 71 in 2003, while earnings in Italy topped pounds 2.5m in 1997. Last year they reached only pounds 876,644 at prevailing exchange rates.

The Germans were as busy as ever, while the French showed more interest in the big races than for many years.

Gentlewave, Shamdala and Laverock were all Group 1 winners, while Breath Of Love and Ricine, who were divided by a head, finished six and a half lengths clear of the rest in the Group 3 Premio Chiusura.

Floriot, who beat Confidential Lady and the French-trained Musical Way in the Premio Lydia Tesio, was the most important German winner.

The finish of the year was provided by Kirklees and Strobilus in the Gran Criterium. They may both have been owned by Sheikh Mohammed but no quarter was asked or given as the lead changed four times, before Kirklees put his head in front again on the line.

Salvatore Limata, who races as the Razza dell'Olmo with Riccardo Menichetti as his private trainer, became the first owner to top E2m in a season.

Limata, a Roman businessman, has sponsored parliamentary candidates from the Partito dello Rifondazione Comunista.

Dario Vargiu, whose previous best was 136 in 2000, hit a new high of 183 to take take the jockeys' title away from the 2005 champion Fabio Branca. Vargiu is now in Japan, together with Mirco Monteriso.

The championship is an exhausting business best left to the young. Few battle as hard as Branca did to retain the title. Umberto Rispoli, who is apprenticed to the Bottis, and Pierantonio Convertino, a young rider whose previous best was 60 in 2005, look likely challengers this year.

Prize-money for big races this year is likely to be cut by ten per cent, and the owners' premiums for racing Italianbreds are expected to be halved.

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Dario Vargiu: champion jockey with personal best of 183 wins
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 9, 2007
Words:509
Previous Article:Horse Racing: Activity lands gamble on return from another lengthy absence; WOLVERHAMPTON.
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