AUSTRALIAN racing legend Bart Cummings, the trainer of a record 12 Melbourne Cup winners, will be honoured with a state funeral.
Described as the “Don Bradman of racing” the 87year-old died surrounded by family at his homestead in Sydney’s northwest yesterday morning.
Flags at racecourses around the nation flew at half mast yesterday, a minute silence was observed at race meetings and jockeys rode with black armbands as the industry mourned the loss of a sporting icon.
Less than a day before he died, Sultry Feeling, trained by Cummings in partnership with his grandson James, won at Rosehill Gardens, while two more horses prepared by the king of turf won at Wyong yesterday (Midas and Muy Bien).
The owners of Midas and Muy Bien gave permission for their horses’ jockeys to wear the famous green and gold diagonal silks that have been synonymous with many of the champions he trained.
In a statement, James Cummings said: “Mr Cummings’s final moments were spent with his family and wife of 61 years, Valmae, with whom he celebrated their anniversary on Friday. A husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather; a master trainer and a larger than life figure. We will miss you.’’
NSW Premier Mike Baird and officials are finalising arrangements for the state funeral to provide a fitting farewell to the man described as a national treasure.
“We are liaising with the Cummings family and there are plans for a state funeral to honour an Australian legend,’’ Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said.
“Bart was always in a league of his own.
“His larger than life character and sharp wit will be sorely missed. Bart goes down as a legend in Australian sport, up there with the great Don Bradman.’’
Widely known as the “Cups King”, Cummings dominated Australian racing for more than 60 years.
Born into racing, he was strapper for 1950 Melbourne Cup winner Comic Court, trained by his father, Jim, be- fore taking out a trainer’s licence three years later.
Cummings wasn’t an overnight sensation.
It’s a little-known fact that he went nearly two years before training his first winner at Morphettville in February, 1955.
“I have never forgotten how hard that was, and what a test of my persistence,” Cummings once said of his early days as a trainer.
He won his first Melbourne Cup with Light Fingers in 1965, and went on to win 11 more – a feat which is unlikely to ever be matched. EDITORIAL P20