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

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