New South Wales Opposition Leader Luke Foley on Bart Cummings

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James Bartholomew Cummings AM,  died in the early hours of Sunday the 30th of August surrounded by family at his farm on the Nepean River at Castlereagh, New South Wales.

With his passing, a family has lost a husband, father and grandfather. The nation has lost a champion trainer, a dignified and decent man.

J. B Cummings was born in Glenelg in 1927. The son of Jim and Nancy Cummings had trouble adapting to his father’s business. For Jim Cummings was a horse trainer, and horsehair and straw inflamed young Bart’s asthma.

Bart was told by a Doctor to avoid stables. Thankfully, he ignored the physician’s advice and continued in the family business.

In 1950, Bart began his long association with the Melbourne Cup attending the event as a strapper for his father’s horse. Later that afternoon, he led the victorious Comic Court into the parade ring at Flemington.

Fifteen years later he had his own success when Light Fingers won the 1965 Melbourne Cup.

In a career spanning 62 years, Bart Cummings would go onto to win 11 more Melbourne Cups and 268 Group 1 races.

It is said that he could read the future prospects of horse based on its physical form; the intonations of its movements, the steadiness of its gait, the readiness of its eye.

A private man, living in a pubic age, Cummings’ success attracted admiration but it did not engender arrogance.

Cummings remained reserved, measured, laconic, until the end of his days.

He had a lifelong aversion to those with bad manners and loud voices.

He was as one confidant put it; ‘… a man who spent more time thinking than talking’.

But when Bart spoke it was for a purpose, quite often a humorous purpose.

When a health inspector told him that his stables had too many flies he replied;

‘How many flies am I allowed to have?’

And when Champion Jockey Darren Beadman told Cummings that he was going to give away racing because God had told him to, Bart said; ‘I think you should seek a second opinion.’

Cummings was religious but irreverent, he held the Catholicism of the old country close to his heart and the dry wit of an older Australia sprang from his lips. 

In an over-complicated world characterised by noise and furious rapidity Bart Cummings represented clarity, brevity, time.

Asked about his enduring success he remarked that;

‘Patience is the cheapest thing in racing and the least used’.

Like all in the racing game, Cummings had his share of adversity.

When a business venture threatened to send him bankrupt Cummings negotiated to pay back his debts to creditors from his future winnings.

We remember Cummings not only for the extent of his success but the strength of his character.

This year, for the first time in a long time, Cummings’ silhouette in the near dark of dawn will not be part of the images of the first Tuesday in November.

The Cup’s King is dead but his legacy will live on.

Bart Cummings forever changed the race that stops the nation

We thank Bart for his service to racing and for the example he set for humanity.

Our thoughts are with his wife of 61 years Valmae, and his children Margaret, Sharon, Anthony and Anne Marie.