Today we’ll be dusting off our fascinators and tuning in for the world’s favourite horse race, but there will be an element of sadness to the celebrations as we remember he who is not with us today.
Bart Cummings was the racing industry’s most celebrated and successful horse trainer, amassing almost 7000 wins from humble beginnings back in 1953.
But for most Australians it is his dominance of the Melbourne Cup they will remember him for.
From his inaugural Cup run back in 1958, to his first win in a 1-2 finish with Light Fingers and Ziema, in 1965 (which he backed up with Galilee in 1966 and Red Handed in 1967), through to his final cup victory with Viewed in 2008, Cummings, the ‘Cups King’ won ‘the race that stops a nation’ a staggering 12 times.
Despite being (somewhat ironically) allergic to horses and hay, for Cummings, born 1927, training was the family business. Father Jim was an accomplished trainer who himself won the 1950 Melbourne Cup with Comic Court.
Cummings’ honour list reads pretty long, too. In 1991 he was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame and was also the inaugural inductee into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1982 for his services to the racing industry and in 2007 has his image emblazoned on an Australia Post stamp as part of its Australian Legends series.
Privately, he was also a stayer, with wife of 61 years Valmae by his side until the very end. For the father, grandfather and great-grandfather, with eyebrows to rival former Prime Minister John Howard’s, the track will always be Cummings’ spiritual home.
Yesterday, Cummings’ family took pride of place in the annual Cup parade witnessed by thousands in Melbourne yesterday, with Cummings’ 12 cup trophies carried aloft.
Blake Shinn, the jockey that rode Viewed in 2008, told Sky News “I feel it’s a little bit of a sombre feeling in my heart with him not here, and I suppose a lot of people would be feeling like that.”
“While the race lives on, Bart will still be here with us,” he added.
Will you be celebrating the Melbourne Cup today? Will you raise a glass for Bart Cummings?