Legendary racehorse trainer Bart Cummings has died at the age of 87 surrounded by family at his homestead in north western Sydney.
His grandson and training partner James said in a statement the 87-year-old died in his sleep in the early hours of Sunday morning.
“James Bartholomew Cummings, OAM, passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of this morning, Sunday the 30th of August 2015, in his homestead at Princes Farm, Castlereagh,” James Cummings said.
“His final moments were spent with his family and wife of 61 years, Valmae, with whom he celebrated their anniversary on Friday.
“For Bart, aged 87, this was a fitting end. A husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather; a master trainer and a larger than life figure.
“We will miss you.”
Cummings had been in ill health for some time and rarely ventured from his farm in recent years.
In 2008, Bart Cummings was officially named a Legend in the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.
A racehorse trainer by heritage and desire, Cummnings trained 268 Group One winners – 266 on his own and the final two in partnership with his grandson James.
He was revered by his peers and rivals for his host of major race wins but to the once-a-year punter Cummings was known simply as the Cups King for his unrivalled efforts to win 12 Melbourne Cups.
The record is one that is destined to stand forever with Lee Freedman the closest on five.
On the first Tuesday in November, Australia literally stops for a horse race that carries a rich prize and and an even richer tradition.
Bart Cummings Dead at 87
Cummings’ first taste of Melbourne Cup success came in 1950 when Comic Court, trained by his father Jim, won the famous trophy.
Fifteen years later, he would stand on the podium in his own right as the trainer of the winner, Light Fingers.
Two more Cups followed in 1966 and 1967 with Galilee and Red Handed.
It would be another seven years before he won the race again with a horse called Think Big owned by Dato Tan Chin Nam, a Malaysian businessman who would become his biggest supporter and lifelong friend.
Think Big did not win another race until the following year when again he won the Cup.
Cummings’ Cups continued with Gold And Black (1977), Hyperno (1979), Kinsgton Rule (1990) and Let’s Elope in 1991.
And in 1996, along came the “Horse From Heaven” – Saintly.
With Darren Beadman sporting Dato Tan’s now recognisable black and white checks, Saintly gave Cummings his 10th Cup and one he maybe valued above others.
Cummings, who owned Saintly in partnership with his old friend, had bred Saintly who was by Sky Chase, a horse he had also trained.
“I never thought I’d rate one of my gallopers up with Galilee but Saintly was right there alongside him,” Cummings said in his memoir.
“I’d trained him, I’d owned him, I’d bred him.
“I’d raced his father and bred his mother and grandmother.
There’s not much more you can do.
“The only thing I hadn’t done was ride him.”
Cummings was not finished with the Cup just yet. In 1999 Rogan Josh brought up No.11.
Nine years later, the black and white checks were there again – just.
Viewed held off European horse Bauer by a nose in what was then the closest finish anyone could remember.
When he was retired, Viewed spent his final days at Dato Tan’s appropriately named Think Big Stud in the NSW Southern Highlands until his death in 2010.
At 23, Saintly still lives at Cummings’ Princes Farm on the north-western outskirts of Sydney where his trainer died in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Bart Cummings Melbourne Cup Winners
1965: Light Fingers, 1966: Galilee, 1967: Red Handed, 1974: Think Big, 1975: Think Big, 1977: Gold And Black, 1979: Hyperno, 1990: Kingston Rule, 1991: Let’s Elope, 1996: Saintly, 1999: Rogan Josh, 2008: Viewed.
THE LIFE OF BART CUMMINGS
NAME: James Bartholomew Cummings
Born: Nov 14, 1927 in Adelaide
Began training in July 1953
AWARDS: AO 1982, Member Sport Australia Hall of Fame 1991, Sportsman of the year ABC 1975,
Bart was an inaugural inductee to the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2001 along with his arch-rivals Colin Hayes and TJ Smith. In 2008 Cummings joined Phar Lap as a Hall of Fame Legend
Group One winners: 266
Stakes victories 758
MELBOURNE CUP WINS
1965 – Light Fingers
1966 – Galilee
1967 – Red Handed
1974 – Think Big.
1975 – Think Big
1977 – Gold And Black
1979 – Hyperno
1990 – Kingston Rule
1991 – Let’s Elope
1996 – Saintly
1999 – Rogan Josh
2008 – Viewed
HIS NOTED ACHIEVEMENTS INCLUDE:
* The first trainer in the Commonwealth to pass $1 million prize money in a season (1973-74).
*When he won the 1989-90 Sydney premiership he became the first trainer to have won premierships in three states – NSW, Victoria and South Australia.