WHAT LIFE AS SON OF TRAINING LEGEND MEANT TO ANTHONY CUMMINGS
ON Friday morning Anthony Cummings, the son of arguably Australia's greatest horse trainer who passed away early last Sunday morning, took 30 minutes out from the hectic task of organising Monday's state funeral for his father, Bart.
PATRICK BARTLEY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that, at 59, Cummings has had to shoulder a lot. He and his three sisters have looked after their 85-year-old mother Valmae as well as being the very public face of a famous family this week.
They have had to contend with media hanging on every thread of news or an old story that may have been overlooked during the decades of one-liners J.B. Cummings was well known for.
As the Cummings have handled messages and notes from across the world, one suspects they have had precious little opportunity to grieve the loss of their 87-year-old father, who died of pneumonia.
However, Cummings found time to reflect on being the son of such a master horse trainer. "Sure, Dad was very much front and centre to so many Australians. Every once-a-year punter who had a wager on the Melbourne Cup would go straight to J.B. Cummings," he said. "And more than often they won.
"But Dad had a huge and diverse band of friends. He was the go-to man for the spring carnival. Australia's biggest party was the Melbourne Cup and Dad managed to be a very, very big part of that. But he would never be taken for a mug, while he didn't mind calling us mugs on occasions, that was Dad's way."
Cummings said his parents had to come to terms with the loss of his brother, John, who died in 2011 of pneumonia. "John died of the same illness as Dad and it was terribly hard on them but it's like so many hard things in life, you have to get over it," he said.
But Cummings maintains his father worked hard with his young family when they were in Adelaide. "Dad had a very good friend called Malcolm Wuttke. He had a property in the Adelaide hills and Dad would pack all of us up and take us up for a barbecue in a back paddock.
"But it galvanised us as a family. I know Dad wanted to have a look at the horses spelling at Malcolm's and Mum was pleased to get us out of the house and get a bit of fresh air, but we still managed to create a bit of havoc.
"But we had the family unit and so when people say racing might have been intrusive, he always put times aside for us."
But racing was in the blood, said Cummings, who arrived at his father's stables at 13, firstly helping with the wages and then getting involved with the horses, but it was that involvement that gave him the taste. "But Dad had that knack of being an excellent judge of character. Sure, instinctively he knew a lot about horses, but he knew a lot about humans.
"I don't know about Dad, but dealing with horses made me a better father and my kids made me a better horse trainer.
"Dad knew that he had to be hard at times but we were coming through puberty and it's a very tricky time to be a parent."
Cummings said the outpouring of emotion Australia-wide was understandable with the position his father had not only in the sporting world but in life in general. "Bob Hawke rang to tell me what a wonderful trainer Dad had been and that he was hoping to get to the state funeral on Monday, but that his health hadn't been that good.
"It's been a long week, a busy week, and actually we are still wading through so much of the correspondence and messages from across the globe. But Dad had a wonderful way with people. He'd never be taken as a mug but really didn't worry about things that he couldn't change.
"I think to an extent you have to be in the business to understand the disappointments that racing can deliver."
Cummings said he would speak on behalf of the family, as would Australian racing writer Tony Arrold and Wuttke, a lifelong friend of the Cummings family. "On Monday St Mary's Catholic Church in Sydney is expected to be packed with so many of those that followed Dad's career. Probably all sorts of generations that followed all those Melbourne Cup winners, I don't know.
"Dad was a practising Catholic, as his parents were before him. It was a very much important feature of their lives. It was fortunate the way things worked out last Sunday morning as my three sisters, Mum and everyone else were there when he passed away."
Much has gone on since last Sunday, but the Cummings family's Sunday afternoons running in and out of paddocks in the Adelaide hills and spooking the master trainer's young horses, may well have been the memories that have helped a grieving family get through a long week.
HAS JAMIE DART BEEN APPOINTED ACTING RQ INTEGRITY BOSS?
NEWS spread like wildfire late on Wednesday that staff at Racing Queensland had been called to a meeting and advised of a major change at the helm of the Integrity Department.
According to leaks from the meeting Jamie Dart, the one-time Chairman of Stewards for Greyhound Racing in Queensland, has been appointed Acting General Manager of Stewarding and Head of Integrity.
Our mail is that Interim CEO of RQ, Ian Hall, called the staff to a special meeting to tell them that Dart would be filling the position of the high profile police officer seconded to the Integrity job, Inspector Mark Ainsworth.
Hall reportedly explained that Inspector Ainsworth was required for an important police assignment and this had necessitated his departure from the role in which he had done such a great job and the naming of an acting replacement. He is said to have told the meeting that Dart was the preferred choice of Ainsworth who had a high opinion of Dart's stewarding and integrity skills.
The change at the top of Integrity has surprised many considering Dart was Chairman of Stewards at the Greyhounds at the time the 'live baiting scandal' erupted in Queensland along with the fact that the new Board is yet to be appointed; and no positions on the newly-structured Integrity Department have been announced.
As of last night there had still not been a Media Release from RQ or Interim CEO Hall explaining to the racing industry what he reportedly told the meeting of staff. This has miffed a lot of stakeholders who are hearing the news on the industry grapevine.
Perhaps that was because, according to our spies, the meeting did not end all that well for Mr Hall. We are told that when he asked if there were any questions a high profile steward took him to task about staff morale and the way things were happening under his watch at RQ.
If this was the case – and we are reliably informed that it was – the steward supposedly involved was only conveying the feelings of the industry statewide. Confidence in the job that Mr Hall is doing and the direction that racing is heading in Queensland under the KPMG administration is spiralling toward rock bottom not to mention the anger that is growing over the costs being incurred.
Scuttlebutt continues about possible candidates for positions on the new Board. Names doing the rounds include former RQ Deputy Chairman during the Bob Bentley era in Tony Hanmer; popular and respected owner and former club director Wayne Purchase; and the no-nonsense treasurer of the Queensland Racehorse Owners’ Association, Kerrina King, who would fit the bill of female representation on the new Board with many in the industry believing that there are some prime lady candidates who could hardly do as bad a job as some of their male predecessors.
Those who have taken the time to read the Racing Reforms Discussion Paper are questioning not only how the industry was allowed to deteriorate to such a state financially but also how such a bad TAB deal was permitted to proceed and what can be done to reverse it.
They want the Racing Minister Bill Byrne to step in and provide some leadership at RQ that the industry can be more confident in. At present the situation continues to deteriorate with more questions being posed than answers provided.
MELBOURNE CUP ALREADY SHAPING AS A PROMOTER'S DREAM
THIS year's $6.2 million Melbourne Cup is already shaping as a promoter's dream with two brave 10-year-olds heading the entries for Australia's most important horse race with both managing to inject more emotion and intrigue than has been seen in years.
And, PATRICK BARTLEY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA, that Bart Cummings, the man who won 12 cups will be a part of the race in spirit. His veteran stayer Precedence, who will be making his fifth attempt to win the cup, is set to compete with J.B. Cummings permitted to stay in the training partnership with his grandson James.
Cummings passed away on Sunday aged 87, not only ending an unforgettable training career but also his partnership with James.
However that day, chief steward Terrey Bailey said he would allow Bart Cummings' name to remain on Precedence, a move rarely granted.
"And so it should be, he owned the race and if Precedence makes it, it would be fitting," Bailey said.
The other runner who will potentially race as a 10-year-old, Red Cadeaux, will be making his fifth trip to Australia from England after achieving a remarkable three seconds in four starts in the race that stops the nation.
"It's a wonderful blend to have the J.B. Cummings influence still very much amongst us, yet we have this brave stayer who's also on the cusp of writing more Melbourne Cup records coming back to try again," Racing Victoria's international talent scout Leigh Jordon said.
Jordon believes the 31 overseas entries are a vital sign that the racing world now recognises that to win a Melbourne Cup, a very special stayer is required.
While many countries have enjoyed Melbourne Cup success, England is the one nation yet to taste November success at Flemington.
"I don't think in all the years we've been bringing horses to Australia, have I ever seen a more impressive list of major race winners or place getters that have signalled their intent to come to Australia," Jordon said.
Jordon pointed out that not only would Red Cadeau attempt to take the Melbourne Cup home to Britain, his trainer, Ed Dunlop would bring the veteran's stablemate Trip To Paris on the plane as well. Trip To Paris is a winner of the Royal Ascot Gold Cup and is just one of a number of coups the VRC could achieve by Cup Day.
As well, Aiden O'Brien seems certain to return to Australia after a number of years and has entered four runners in the Cup, one four-year-old and three three-year-olds.
It's not the first time the master European trainer has brought a three-year-old to Australia, as in 2007 his young stayer Mahler finished a bold third in the Cup.
Smart stayer King Fisher was an entry when they closed on Monday as well his three-year-olds Order Of St George, Field Of Athenry and Bondi Beach. All three will start in the English St Ledger in mid-September and they are all under 8-1 to win the race.
This year the entries have polarised somewhat with a sizeable number of starters from England.
The world's greatest jumping trainer Willie Mullins has Goodwood Cup winner Big Orange and Quest For More booked to start in the Cup.
Again it is going to be difficult to force a start into the 24-strong field and weight, and plenty of it, will be the major dimension in making the field.
Japan, the home of some of the world's toughest stayers, will likely be represented by Fame Game, who finished a valiant second in Japan's equivalent of the Melbourne Cup, the Tenno Sho over 3200 metres in April this year.
Fame Game will be joined by Hokko Brave.
The all-conquering Godolphin Outfit already has two main players this spring in Contributer and Hartnell and they will be joined by five Melbourne Cup hopefuls, including high-class stayer Sky Hunter.
SAM KAVANAGH GUILTY OF 23 CHARGES - AWAITING THE PENALTY
EMBATTLED trainer Sam Kavanagh has been found guilty on all bar one of the 24 charges levelled against him in the long-running cobalt saga after Racing NSW stewards delivered their findings on Monday.
ADAM PENGILLY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that Kavanagh either pleaded guilty or was found guilty in 23 of the 24 charges during the marathon inquiry - which commenced in June - and was triggered after Midsummer Sun returned illegal levels of caffeine and cobalt in his system after his successful Gosford Cup defence.
The only charge he escaped was of administering or causing to administer caffeine to Midsummer Sun. Flemington Equine Clinic partner Dr Tom Brennan was found guilty on all 12 charges while practice manager Aaron Corby was found in the wrong in one of two charges.
Harness racing identities Mitchell Butterfield (five charges) and John Camilleri (six) as well as Kavanagh's stablehand Michael O'Loughlin (four) were also found guilty. Submissions on penalty will be considered by the stewards panel on September 10.
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