Bart Cummings dead: Gai Waterhouse, Tony Abbott lead tributes for ‘Cup King’


Bart Cummings RecordBart Cummings a legend of his time

Bart Cummings has been remembered as the “king of the Melbourne cup” and a “legend of the track” by Australia’s politicians.


Tributes are pouring in for the record-breaking race horse trainer who passed away in his sleep in the early hours of Sunday at the age of 87.

“A great sadness clouds over the Industry with the news of Bart Cummings’ passing,” horse trainer Gai Waterhouse tweeted. 

A great sadness clouds over the Industry with the news of Bart Cummings’ passing.The Cups King’s legacy remembered – past, present & future.

— Gai Waterhouse (@GaiWaterhouse1) August 30, 2015

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Cummings was a “legend of the track and giant of the sport”.

“Australia has lost a sporting giant and a racing legend,” Mr Abbott said 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. On behalf of all Australians, we extend our sincerest sympathies to Bart’s wife of 61 years, Valmae, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

So sad to learn of the death of Bart Cummings, legend of the track and giant of the sport

— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) August 29, 2015

Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten said on twitter, a “legend of the turf has left us”.

A legend of the turf has left us. Rest in peace Bart Cummings. Our heartfelt sympathies to Bart’s family and friends.

— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) August 29, 2015

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Cummings was the “king of the Melbourne cup”.

“Every Victorian, indeed every Australian, would be saddened today to hear about the passing of Bart Cummings – a giant, an icon, of racing,” he said.

“I’d be very surprised if the racing community, the VRC and others, don’t see fit to give someone who was the king of the Melbourne cup, as he’s sometimes known, a proper send off.

“Melbourne cup day would be the perfect time to do that.”

Bart Cummings an icon ‘like Bradman’

Victorian racing minister Martin Pakula said Cummings’ feat of training 12 Melbourne Cup-winning horses would never be forgotten and, most likely never surpassed.

“Bart Cummings stands alongside Don Bradman as the greatest name in Australian sport,” Mr Pakula 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.”

NSW Racing Minister Troy Grant said Cummings also had success over the border, winning four Golden Slippers in NSW amongst his 250 Group One winners.

“He was one of Australia’s favourite racing sons and sporting greats, and the entire industry and race going public will mourn the loss of this great man,” Mr Grant said.

Bart Cummings – the Cups King

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.

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.