Sunshine State lit up for legendary trainer
BART Cummings may not have had the same appetite for Queensland riches as counterpart Tommy Smith, but when he did send horses to the Sunshine State, he rarely failed.
Officially, Cummings can lay claim to 15 Group 1 wins in Queensland, dating back to Fulmen’s win in the 1967 Brisbane Cup and rounded out with Dariana’s 2010 Derby romp.
Cummings campaigned his 12th and final Melbourne Cup winner Viewed in Queensland in 2008 when he won the Brisbane Cup by seven lengths.
His final feature win in Queensland came with Precedence in the 2013 Premier’s Cup.
He didn’t win his first Stradbroke until 1988, but made the race his own over the next decade, with Campaign King’s win (still the last horse to do the 10,000-Stradbroke double) followed by Robian Steel a year later, then Never Undercharge and Dane Ripper.
Chris Munce guided Dane Ripper home at juicy odds that day – in stark contrast to the monster plunge executed on Never Undercharge – and has fond memories of Cummings’ trips to Brisbane.
“I didn’t ride a lot for him, but one of my biggest thrills was winning a couple of Queensland Guineas for him on Solar Circle and Coolong Road not long after I came out of my apprenticeship,” Munce said.
“He was very particular about the way he did things and in trackwork you had to make sure you were going at the exact pace he wanted.
“He was always looking for subtle changes in his horses and he had this knack of get- ting them to switch on for the biggest races. His horses always looked fantastic.”
Cummings had a profound influence on the career of Kiwi trainer John Wheeler, one of the most popular winter carnival figures of the past 25 years.
“I went to him right around the time of the Big Philou case (in 1969) and was there for about 18 months,” Wheeler said.
“I just observed everything he did and each day I would go home and write down the work he gave his horses. He’s the best I ever worked for.
“He had a great sense of humour and he kept that all the way through.
“I remember one year I was put up for Personality of the Year in Victoria and I was up against Bart, Lee Freedman and Greg Hall and I got up on stage and said ‘if this was in New Zealand I’d have some hope, but I’m a 100-1 and drifting here’.
“Bart won, of course, and I bumped into him in the bathroom and congratulated him on the win and he said ‘yes, I told them you were a great help to me’.
“That sense of humour was always there.”