12-time Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Bart Cummings dies

AP Photo

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.”

Arabian Knight off Kentucky Derby trail; will return later

Matt Stone/Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Arabian Knight is off the Kentucky Derby trail.

Wagering has been suspended on the 3-year-old colt for the Derby’s future wager after owner Amr Zedan announced the decision. Arabian Knight was the second choice on the morning line behind favorite Forte for the May 6 race.

“Trainer Tim Yakteen wasn’t happy with his last work & we feel it’s in Arabian Knight’s best interest not to rush & allow him more time to develop,” Zedan tweeted. “We know he’s a superior talent & our plan is to point him toward a summer and fall campaign.”

Purchased for $2.3 million as a 2-year-old, Arabian Knight won his debut by 7 1/4 lengths at Keeneland last November. He made his 3-year-old debut in the Southwest at Oaklawn in January and won by 5 1/2 lengths.

Arabian Knight had his third workout at Santa Anita.

Tapit Trice wins Tampa Bay Derby, earns Kentucky Derby points

Getty Images

TAMPA, Fla. — Tapit Trice rallied from last to win the $360,000 Tampa Bay Derby by two lengths and earn qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.

Ridden by Luis Saez, Tapit Trice ran 1 1/16 miles 1:43.37. The 1-2 favorite in the field of 12 paid $3 to win. The 3-year-old colt earned 50 qualifying points, which places him in the 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher extended his record for most wins in the Grade 3 race to six. He already has the early Kentucky Derby favorite in Forte, who won the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream last weekend.

Classic Car Wash was second and Classic Legacy was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.

Tapit Trice was making his stakes debut after winning two of three starts.

“Once he got clear down the lane, he really extended himself,” Pletcher said. ”I loved the way he finished up. He relished the two turns, and the longer he goes, the better he’ll get.”