The King and I:
BART Cummings didn’t like emails. The fax machine is how training staff and the office secretary would communicate the morning’s Randwick trackwork times.
On a foggy Thursday morning in the autumn of 2011, the legendary trainer was lying in a Sydney hospital bed, recovering from a respiratory ailment.
At his bedside was a fruit bowl, the fax machine and a red ball-point pen.
“Red, it was always red,’’ grandson James Cummings told the Sunday Mail.
Before landing the prestigious role as head trainer for Godolphin’s “Blue Army” last year, James began his tutelage as foreman for his legendary grandfather at just 21.
“On this one morning, Bart wanted particular work done with a horse, who we were aiming for a Group 1 race on the Saturday,’’ James said.
“But it was such a foggy morning that Thursday that anyone at Randwick – and I mean Gai (Waterhouse), John O’Shea, all the trainers – they couldn’t clock the complete sectional times of the horses.
“Therefore, our horse only had the final 200m clocked and written down.
“I had made sure the horse did the work, but the fax that the office secretary sent through to Bart didn’t tell the full story.
“So I spoke to Bart midmorning on Thursday and then again in the afternoon and he was just furious with me – but he wouldn’t say exactly what he was angry about.
“So I said, ‘I’ll come and see you in the morning, Bart.’
“I went to the hospital and I see a fax printout lying on the desk next to his bed and beneath the empty track work times is his underline in the red biro.
“He absolutely gave it to me – but I stuck up for myself, adamant the horse did the work he wanted him to do.
“At that point, I’m a 21-yearold learning to appreciate what pressure really is, yet, I’ll never forget the lesson.
“I’ll never forget the work he wanted me to give the horse.
“And I’ll never forget what people outside the family thought about what lengths Bart would go to for a horse.
“Still, right up until the end, plenty thought he was mad.’’
James’ wife, Monica, may have been one of them.
“When I took over as Bart’s head foreman, we had a twoyear-old colt in training,’’ James said.
“The horse got a temperature and he (Cummings) deadset blamed me for the horse getting the temperature.
“So here I was, going back to the stables at six o’clock at night, and then I’d take Monica to dinner – we were just dating at the time – and then, after dinner, I was going back and checking the temperature again.
“And Monica would say, ‘My god, no-one else would be doing this’.”
“I said, ‘Well, that’s the expectation’, that every little thing that went wrong, my head would be on the chopping block because that was the way Bart wanted it.
“He made me feel the blame for anything that went wrong in the stable.
“If a horse was first up at Canterbury in a maiden and it had knocked up with 50m to go, he’d turn to me and say, ‘You’re not swimming this horse enough.’
“And that sort of pressure at that young age really helped ac-
CHAMPION BLOODLINE: Godolphin trainer James Cummings at his Flemington stables; below, with grandfather Bart in 2013; and, below right, Bart with jockey Blake Shinn after Viewed won the 2008 Melbourne Cup.Main picture: MICHAEL KLEIN