Australia mourns death of Cups King Cummings

Cummings won the Melbourne Cup a record 12 times, six more than the next best trainers.
Cummings won the Melbourne Cup a record 12 times, six more than the next best trainers. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY • Bart Cummings, the legendary Australian horse racing trainer who won 12 Melbourne Cups, died in his sleep yesterday. He was 87.

Cummings, known in Australian thoroughbred racing as the "Cups King", spent his final days with his family and wife of 61 years Valmae at his north-western Sydney home.

He was born in 1927 in Glenelg in South Australia, and worked as a strapper at his father's stable despite being allergic to horses and hay.

He began training horses when he was 26 and won the first of his Melbourne Cups with mare Light Fingers in 1965.

He then became part of Melbourne Cup folklore when he went on to train 11 more winners of "the race that stops a nation".

The next most successful trainers Etienne de Mestre and Lee Freedman chalked up just five winners.

His last victory was in 2008 with Viewed in a thrilling photo finish.

"Someone told me I do make a habit of winning this race and I said it was a good habit to get into," he quipped after the race.

Cummings trained winners in 268 Group 1 races, including seven Caulfield Cups, five Cox Plates, four Golden Slipper Stakes, 13 Australian Cups, 32 Derbies and 24 Oaks.

He was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1982 for services to racing and inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2001.

Tributes poured in for Cummings, with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott saying in a statement: "Few people have dominated a sport like Bart Cummings did.

"He will be remembered as a truly great trainer, the winner of literally thousands of races.

"Race day will not be the same without him."

Martin Pakula, racing minister for the state of Victoria, where the Melbourne Cup is held every year, compared Cummings' impact on Australian sport to the late cricket great Don Bradman.

"Bart Cummings stands alongside Don Bradman as the greatest name in Australian sport," he said.

"Bart won everything there was to win in racing, he fought back from adversity, and with his dry wit and his quiet way, he told racing's story."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2015, with the headline 'Australia mourns death of Cups King Cummings'. Print Edition | Subscribe