The remarkable thing about Ginistrelli is that when he came to Newmarket from his Italian homeland in 1887 this little man was not taken seriously within British racing circles and was even considered a figure of fun.
However, he had a vision of success and went on to confound his critics when in 1908, at age 70, his filly Signorinetta, ridden by Billy Bullock, won not only the Epsom Derby as a 100-1 outsider but two days later the Oaks as well. He received great acclaim from the racing world and was congratulated by King George V and Queen Mary.
When the wealthy Ginistrelli had first arrived in Newmarket he bought from Denis Jordan a villa in Fordham Road plus stables and two paddocks. He named the residence ‘Villa Signorina’ which later became known as Signorina Stud Cottage.
There he engaged in breeding and racing with moderate success, particularly with his mare Signorina. Ginistrelli decided to sire the mare with ‘a 9-guinea stallion’ of no particular merit named Chaleureux. on the unlikely reasoning that the two horses were ‘in love’.
The result was the foal Signorinetta. Ginistrelli married in 1910 at age 72 and built Oaks Lodge a year later, named after his classic win, while Villa Signorina was occupied by stable staff.
By 1919 he was no longer wealthy and had sold his precious mare Signorinetta to Lord Roseberry and the Stud Farm to John Bell. Ginistrelli moved back to Italy, where he died in 1920.
*The titles ‘Chevallier’ and ‘Cavaliere’ are French and Italian terms roughly equivalent to our ‘Squire’ meaning a gentleman of distinction. They are chivalric terms, understood to mean people who fight on horseback (knights), in other words, the upper classes/gentry, later used rather more as courtesy titles.