James Bartholomew ‘Bart’ Cummings was an Australian race horse trainer who became a legend in his time creating a record of winning the famous ‘Melbourne Cup’ twelve times. He was one of the finest trainers of race horses in the world and trained the horses which stood first and second respectively in the 1965, 1966, 1974, 1975 and 1991 ‘Melbourne Cup’ races. He became an icon in Australian and world horse racing industry by winning more than a thousand races. Among them were 266 wins in Group 1 races, more than 763 wins in stakes, and winning the ‘Melbourne Cup’ twelve times, the ‘Cox Plate’ five times, the ‘Golden Slipper Stakes’ four times, the ‘Newmarket Handicap’ eight times and the ‘VRC Oaks’ nine times. He was considered as an ‘Australian National Living Treasure’ as long as he was alive. He was nicknamed the ‘Cups King’ for winning so many cups in horse races. He had a remarkable knowledge about horses and could read the capabilities of the animals by running his fingers over their bodies. It looked as if he was a horse-whisperer talking to the horses through his hands. He became the first horse trainer to have trained horses that had won more than a million dollars in prize money.
Childhood & Early Life
Bart Cummings or J.B. Cummings was born on November 14 1927 in Adelaide in Southern Australia. His father was a reputed Irish horse trainer Jim Cummings who had trained the horse ‘Comic Court’ which had won the ‘Melbourne Cup’ in 1950. His mother was Annie Whelton Cummings.
He had an older brother named Pat and a sister named Teresa.
He did his initial schooling from the Senior School of the ‘Marist Brothers Sacred Heart College’ situated in the Adelaide suburb of Somerton Park, but left school when he was only 14.
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Bart Cummings started as a strapper for his father’s ‘Melbourne Cup’ winner ‘Comic Court’ in 1950 and received his training in all the intricacies of horse racing from him.
He received his trainer’s license in 1953 and set up his own stable at Glenelg in Southern Australia.
He bought his first yearling in 1958 and won the ‘South Austarlian Derby’ in same year.
In the 1958 ‘Melbourne Cup’ race his horse ‘Asian Court’ came twelfth.
His next entry ‘Trellios’ finished fifth in the 1959 ‘Melbourne Cup’.
In 1960 his runner called ‘Sometime’ could come in the sixth place only.
In 1965 he entered three runners in the race and the horse named ‘Light Fingers’ won the race while the second horse named ‘Ziema’ finished second and the third horse named ‘The Dip’ finished eighteenth.
During the 1965-1966 season he won the cups at the Caulfield, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Sandown and Queen’s races along with his first ‘Trainer’s Premiership’.
He opened a new stable at Flemington, Melbourne, called ‘Saintly Lodge’ in 1968 near the ‘Flemington Racecourse’.
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The same year he won the ‘Trainer’s Premiership’ races at both South Australia and Victoria. He repeated the feat in 1969 and 1970.
In 1969 his horse ‘Big Philou’ which had won the ‘Caulfield Cup’ earlier could not participate in the ‘Melbourne Cup’ as it was illicitly drugged with laxative though being the favorite.
In 1974 he became the first trainer to win one million dollars in prize money in only one season.
He moved to a new stable called ‘Leilani Lodge’ near the ‘Randwick Racecourse’ in Sydney in 1975.
During the late 1980s, he bought a large number of horses by spending millions of dollars.
He was badly affected by the recession that occurred in the early 1990s but did not give up his race horse training programs with the help of the ‘Reg Inglis’ organization which saved him from bankruptcy.
He topped all the three ‘Trainer’s Premiership’ for Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney in 1990 which is unprecedented.
In 2004 he became the first licensed person to receive a lifetime membership in the ‘Victoria Racing Cup’.
His horse ‘Viewed’ gave him his twelfth ‘Melbourne Cup’ victory in 2008 when it won the race by a photo-finish. It was the day when he celebrated his 50th anniversary of entering a runner for the race.
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Bart Cummings wrote a book titled ‘Bart: My Life’ based on his 60 years of race horse training experience.
Awards & Achievements
Bart Cummings was recognized for the contributions he made to the horse racing industry by being made a ‘Member of the Order of Australia’ in 1982.
He was inducted into the ‘Sport Australia Hall of Fame’ on December 11, 1991.
In 1997 he was inducted into the ‘National Trusts Australian Living Legends’.
He was presented with a ‘Centennial Medal’ in 2000 and was given the honor of carrying the Olympic Torch.
He was also inducted into the ‘Australian Racing Hall of Fame’ in 2001.
He was commemorated by the Australian postal services which took out a postage stamp carrying his image for a series named ‘Australian Legends’.
The racing fraternity ‘Racing NSW’ announced a medal called ‘The Bart Cummings Medal’ in May 2008 to be awarded to an outstanding and consistent jockey or trainer.
Personal Life & Legacy
He had married Valmae in 1954 and spent 61 years with her.
The couple had one son, Anthony, and daughters, Anne-Marie, Margaret and Shanon from the marriage.
Bart Cummings died in his sleep on August 30, 2015 in Prince’s farm, Castlereagh, NSW, two days after he celebrated his 61st marriage anniversary with his wife.
Bart Cumming suffered from asthma from a very young age and was allergic to horses and hay. Yet he rose to be a great race horse trainer of all times.