SYDNEY (AP) Bart Cummings, one of Australia’s most successful racehorse trainers who won the Melbourne Cup a record 12 times, has died at the age of 87.
Cummings’ grandson and training partner James said in a statement that Cummings died in his sleep early Sunday at the family homestead at Castlereagh, west of Sydney.
“His final moments were spent with his family and wife of 61 years, Valmae, with whom he celebrated their anniversary on Friday,” the family statement said. “A husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather; a master trainer and a larger-than-life figure.”
Cummings had been in poor health recently and rarely ventured from his farm in recent years. In November, he was hospitalized with a chest infection, and since then his health and energy levels had deteriorated.
He won his first Melbourne Cup with Light Fingers in 1965 and his last with Viewed in 2008. In 1965, 1966, 1974, 1975 and 1991, Cummings trained both the first- and second-place horses in Australia’s richest and most prestigious race.
He trained 266 Group One winners and had 758 stakes victories among nearly 7,000 winners. He also won numerous other top Australian races: seven Caulfield Cups, five Cox Plates and four Golden Slippers.
Cummings, born Nov. 14, 1927 in Adelaide, South Australia, began training in 1953 at his father’s stables. In 1973-74, he became the first trainer in a Commonwealth country to pass $1 million in prize money in a season.
He was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1982 for his services to the racing industry, and was later inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.
During the torch relay for the 2000 Sydney Games, Cummings carried the Olympic torch down the straight at Flemington race track in Melbourne.
“Farewell to a legend. … Rest in peace, Cups King,” Flemington said on its Twitter feed early Sunday.
Leading trainer Gai Waterhouse said “to all of us in the racing industry, Bart was a true icon. Everything that (he) envisaged was a success.”
On Sunday, a minute’s silence was held for Cummings at Wyong race track north of Sydney, where jockey Glyn Schofield, who won aboard Midas in the third race, said his victory was “all for Bart.”
Fomer jockey Darren Beadman, who started riding for Cummings in the early 1980s, said Cummings’ death marked a sad day in Australian racing history.
“He was a visionary. He was quite fun to be around – he had some great one-liners,” Beadman told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
“You can’t compare what he’s done with anyone else in Australian history. Winning 12 Melbourne Cups – that’s a feat in itself and I guess it’s a record that will never be broken.”