Bart Cummings dead: Why the Cups King was so much better than the rest

A legend on and off the track: Saintly and Frightening with Bart Cummings at Flemington the morning before the Melbourne Cup in 2003. Photo: Steve ChristoKing of the Cup’A legend in every sense of the word’Bart’s horses win after his deathCummings passes away at 87Gai Waterhouse and Tony Abbott lead tributes
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“There’s something radically wrong,” Percy Sykes opined to Bart Cummings, then very much a newcomer at Flemington, regarding Light Fingers in 1965.

Light Fingers had been a strong fancy for the Melbourne Cup, but pulled up sore after the Caulfield Stakes with a ricked muscle in her neck and shoulder. Even trotting she threw her neck around in pain, and she missed the Caulfield Cup. Cummings went into a renowned pose with hands behind his back and in deep concentration about the mare that was doing a figure eight in front of the pair on the morning before the first Tuesday in November.

Little did I realise at my first Melbourne Cup this was an initial portrayal of genius when it came to thoroughbreds, and something I would witness in following decades that made him great, particularly for Australia’s greatest race.

“You can’t run her,” Sykes told him, according to his biography “Bart – My Life”. But the Cummings prowess and instinct came into play. “Percy Sykes gave Light Fingers a cortisone injection in her sacroiliac, an admission that she was not fully fit but the Melbourne Cup is its own ultimate fitness test,” Cummings decreed, and felt she had the horsepower to match her heart.

Under extreme riding from Roy Higgins, Light Fingers overcame stablemate Ziema in a dynamic staying duel. Cummings became only the third trainer in Melbourne Cup history to prepare the quinella, and went on to achieve the feat five times.

The race that stops a nation emphasised his ability, notching 12 in all, and 10 placings from 89 starters. Prior to Light Fingers,  old-timers reckoned no other trainer would top the five achieved by Etienne de Mestre from what was regarded as a less demanding era.

As Cummings’ 266 group 1 successes confirms, he was a great trainer over any distance with any type of horse.

Galilee was probably his best, but then Saintly was outstanding, and mares like Leilani, Maybe Mahal and Light Fingers produced dazzling results for the master and his achievements have been rated with Donald Bradman. But adversity came into play, too, and he rolled with the punches with the same dry delivery as triumphs.

“Humour is his defence, the moat around his secret world, and he is good at it, quick, dry and disarming. No one in Australia plays the wag better,” Les Carlyon, the weight-for-age wordsmith, maintained.

Cummings was outed in 1961 for 12 months due to sudden improvement in his charge, Cilldara, who had won at Morphettville after finishing last at the provincial track, Gawler.

At the Cummings appeal, Tommy Smith and Sykes gave evidence that blinkers, a new invention to Australian racing at the time, were responsible for the reversal, definitely acceptable in later decades. Alas the plea fell on deaf ears.

In 1969 another disaster struck when Caulfield Cup winner Big Philou, prepared by Cummings, was nobbled before the Melbourne Cup, and following a positive due to a mistake by staff, Cummings on April 11, 1979, was given 14 days to dispose of all of his 120 horses and 48 hours to find trainers for his 16 horses racing the following weekend. He was allowed to return in July.

However the king hit came in the late 1980s with the Cups King syndicate supposedly in partnership with a major accounting firm. “In 1989 on the syndicate’s behalf I bought almost 90 yearlings for $22 million from sales in Sydney, New Zealand and the Gold Coast,” he explained. “Recession and rising interest rates really hit hard in 1989 and financially it couldn’t have been a much greater disaster for me. I was left holding unsold yearlings . . .”

Sixty-four yearlings went into a fire sale. “The takings were $9 million for a group of horses I’d paid twice as much for,” he stressed.

Still Cummings battled his way back, and Let’s Elope taking the 1991 Melbourne Cup helped. T. J. Smith, not one to praise rivals, once paid him the supreme compliment after winning a major race.

“Only a crumb off the great man’s plate,” he conceded, but wanted the Melbourne Cup changed to a shorter distance.

“You don’t change the posts because you can’t kick a goal,” Cummings, who mellowed with age, countered.

Dealing with him in the hectic Sydney afternoon circulation battles with The Sun and Daily Mirror when jockey engagements and the future campaigns were vital, Cummings would change his mind more than his shirt. Frustrating. “You should try working for him,” son, Anthony, quipped about a unique personality, the like we didn’t see before nor will ever see again.

Once in a departure lounge at Tokyo, returning from a Japan Cup, Leon Corstens, then Cummings’ foreman, remarked to me: “Anybody that thinks they know Bart Cummings doesn’t know him.”

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Tom Rogic scores stunning goal for Celtic ahead of Socceroos’ World Cup qualifiers

Canberra product Tom Rogic has continued his resurgence ahead of his Socceroos recall with a cracking individual goal for his Scottish club Celtic.
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The 22-year-old midfielder danced past a couple of defenders before finding the back of the net in Celtic’s 3-1 win against St Johnstone on Sunday morning (AEST).

Rogic’s impressive performance is another positive before he links with the Socceroos squad in Perth this week ahead of Australia’s World Cup qualifier against Bangladesh at nib Stadium on Thursday night.

The games against Bangladesh and the September 8 clash away to Tajikistan will be Rogic’s first involvement with the Socceroos since being forced out of camp before the 2014 World Cup through injury.

Rogic has made the most of his opportunities with Celtic this season after becoming a more regular part of the starting side since returning from injury.

“It was pleasing to get the goal and I’m happy,” Rogic told the club’s website.

“I feel comfortable playing anywhere in the middle of the park, but I’m just happy to be playing and being in the team and helping them win.

“It was special to score in front of my home fans and I’m sure I won’t forget it.” ICYMI | Earlier, @Socceroos starlet Tom Rogic was on the scoresheet again for @celticfc against St Johnstone. pic.twitter上海夜网m/eYe4VpYbDw— Outside90 (@Outside90) August 29, 2015

Rogic’s impact at Celtic since joining the club in January 2013 has been limited by ankle and groin injuries.

However, he has hit the ground running with a full pre-season under his belt and looms as a vital cog in the Socceroos’ quest to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

The Socceroos are looking at adding depth to their ranks in the midfield, with captain Mile Jedinak ruled out of the trip to Perth with a hamstring injury.

The attacking stocks have also taken a blow with the news Robbie Kruse and Tomi Juric will stay at their clubs to continue their recovery from recent injuries.

Rogic gives the Socceroos an X-factor in attack and will provide a valuable point of difference against Bangladesh and Tajikistan.

Both countries are expected to have a defensive focus to attempt to steal a point.

Rogic said it was important Celtic bounced back after their elimination from European Champions League qualifying earlier in the week.

“It was important to put that behind us and come out here at home and get a win and a good performance,” Rogic said. “We have to move on and just learn from it and get better.” A terrific goal from Rogic as he shows great strength and skills to evade a clutch of defenders before lashing in from an acute angle.— Celtic Football Club (@celticfc) August 29, 201560 Clever footwork from Rogic to fashion a yard of space on the edge of the box before sending a low effort wide of the post.— Celtic Football Club (@celticfc) August 29, 2015

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Rugby World Cup 2015: Adam Ashley-Cooper believes omens augur well for Wallabies

Wallabies eye off Wales in warm-up
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Wallabies back Adam Ashley-Cooper still likens it to a childhood dream but, in his case, it is one that comes true.

He is driving from the Central Coast to Norths club training on a Thursday night in late August, 2005, when his mobile rings. It is Wallabies coach Eddie Jones on the line.

Jones tells Ashley-Cooper he is needed in Perth as back-up to help the Wallabies prepare for their Tri Nations Test against South Africa at Subiaco Oval in two days’ time.

Ashley-Cooper, now 31 and a veteran of 108 Tests, recalls his reply to Jones: “I said I was on my way to training. He said, ‘You have to do a U-turn. Go and pack your stuff’.”

Ashley-Cooper makes that turn. But his mind is spinning, especially after calling his mum to tell her of his change of plans and asking her to pack his bags to save time and give some chance of him making the flight to Perth.

“She thought I said I was going to church,” he says. “I said, ‘No … Perth’, and she said, ‘Why am I going to church in Perth?'”

Ashley-Cooper arrives at the airport shortly before his scheduled boarding time, makes the flight and settles in for the five-hour journey, unaware of what is to unfold two nights later.

Fast forward to game night … August 20, 2005.

The Wallabies have warmed up. Not selected and with no Wallabies uniform to wear, Ashley-Cooper is in civilian clothes, seated in the stands, tempted by the thought of a meat pie and a beer.

Suddenly a Wallabies official looks up and franticly calls him down to the Wallabies’ locker room.

He is told Elton Flatley is a late scratching due to blurred vision, that reserve back Clyde Rathbone is in the starting side and he is needed on the bench.

Ashley-Cooper is given a playing kit, including a jersey without a number and, within minutes, is on the field singing Advance Australia Fair with the Wallabies.

But wait, there is more … when Rathbone comes off injured near the end of the Test that Australia lose 22-19, Ashley-Cooper is on for his first Test cap as the 800th Wallaby.

Ashley-Cooper, who on Saturday flew out with the Wallabies for his third World Cup via the US where Australia will play the US Eagles in Chicago on Saturday, is still amazed by his unorthodox Test debut.

“It’s like that fairytale every kid dreams of,” he says. “Every kid has had that dream of being at a stadium, or watching the Wallabies and, for some reason, the coach picks them from out in the crowd and asks them to train or play with the Wallabies.”

Little wonder Ashley-Cooper also entertains the idea of a fairytale end to his Test career, saying that, as it “started with a fairytale … it’s going to end with a fairytale”.

It remains to be seen if Ashley-Cooper’s adieu to Test rugby will be the World Cup, after which he will join French club Bordeaux.

Under Australian Rugby Union law, because he has more than 60 Test caps, he will still be eligible to play for Australia.

But as for the World Cup, Ashley-Cooper says it is “my last hurrah”.

So when will that “last hurrah” be heard at the World Cup in England?

With a broad grin, Ashley-Cooper replies: “If you look at the [Wallabies’] history and how we are tracking – or how I am tracking – it was a quarter final in ’07 and a semi-final in 2011.

“It’s going to be a final in 2015. I’m all about the omens …”

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China, domestic GDP and RBA rates decision provide plenty of drivers

In Australia this week, the economic diary is replete, starting with the last of the components of second-quarter GDP growth, which the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases on Wednesday.Australian markets are set for relative calm after the upheaval of the past two weeks, with a steady flow of high-level economic data, including June-quarter gross domestic product, providing the focus for local investors.
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Current futures pricing points to a positive opening for the local equity market, although analysts have urged caution as they look to Chinese stock trading and further signs that the economic slowdown there is sharper than forecast.

The market volatility of the past two weeks was driven by heavy falls on the Chinese bourses, and broader concerns about the world’s second-biggest economy.

Further monetary easing by the People’s Bank of China amid the tumult underlined Beijing’s determination to guide the economy’s transition from export-led to consumer-driven growth, although market gyrations are proving harder to control.

Doubts about China have also forced several further downgrades of the global economic outlook.

Moody’s Investors Service on Friday cut its 2016 growth forecast for the G20 economies to 2.8 per cent from 3.1 per cent less than two weeks ago. China’s growth is forecast at 6.3 per cent in 2016, down from 6.5 per cent previously.

US investment bank Citi also trimmed its projections for world growth, from 3.3 per cent to to 3.1 per cent. Chinese data suggest sharper slowdown

Recent Chinese data, including credit expansion and fixed-asset investment, suggest a sharper slowdown this quarter than Moody’s previously judged, while Citi said its deteriorating outlook reflected “significant” downgrades for China, the eurozone, Japan and other major economies.

The news flow from China is light this week, with a series of purchasing managers indices (PMI) the main data to look to for any signs of faltering demand.

“[It’s] a relatively quiet week by volume of releases from China, but expect strong focus on the official PMIs for August on Tuesday for further confirmation of any further decline in manufacturing,” National Australia Bank wrote at the weekend.

“The services PMI has also shown greater resilience to date, so any decline would be significant,” he said.

In the US, meanwhile, employment and manufacturing data should confirm the health of the country’s economic recovery as Wall Street traders return to work from the northern hemisphere’s summer break. The mood on the US economy at the weekend’s Jackson Hole, Wyoming, economic symposium has been upbeat, although the US Federal Reserve and other policymakers say they are closely watching events in China.

In Australia, the economic diary is replete, starting with the last of the components of second-quarter GDP growth, which the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases on Wednesday.

These so-called “partials” include company operating profits and inventories on Monday and net exports on Tuesday. The Reserve Bank of Australia board also meets on Tuesday, but no one expects it to change the cash rate from the current 2 per cent. Wide spectrum of forecasts

Exports, meanwhile, are expected to have put a 0.3 percentage point drag on GDP, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists, while profits are seen down 1.8 per cent quarter-on-quarter. Inventories are forecast to have grown 0.2 per cent in the quarter.

All this, added to recent national accounts data, should leave GDP growth at 0.4 per cent for the quarter, which translates to 2.2 per cent for the year, according to the Bloomberg survey. This compares with 0.9 per cent and 2.3 per cent in the first quarter.

However, the spectrum of forecasts is wide, ranging from almost no quarterly growth to 0.6 per cent or more.

UBS economist George Tharenou is among the bears, predicting a quarter-on-quarter increase of 0.2 per cent.

“First-quarter real GDP surprised on the upside, but was boosted by a partly weather-related surge in exports and a large contribution from inventories, amid flat domestic demand,” he said.

“Looking ahead, second-quarter data suggest some payback, as exports retraced, inventories should drag and capex remains recessionary.”

Capital Economics’ Paul Dales is more optimistic, seeing a 0.7 per cent rise, “which would be a further sign that Australia is coping well with the end of its mining boom and the collapse in commodity prices”.

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Kununurra Cup signals the height of outback fashion – and end of the dry season

Fashions on the Field winners strut their stuff on raceday at Kununurra, in East Kimberley, Western Australia. Photo: James BrickwoodCup Day marks the end of the race season – and the dry season – in Kununurra, north east Western Australia.
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In 35 degree heat and with the humidity closing in, over 1000 members of East Kimberley’s regional community came together on Saturday for the annual horse races, culminating in the Kununurra Cup, held at the track and in the shade of the Sleeping Buddha mountain.

Elise Petty, 42, an organiser of Fashions on the Field at the race meet, was charged with judging the day’s best dressed racegoers.

The owner of boutique Bangle Business, she said the day was a high moment in the area’s social and fashion calendar – and that the remoteness of the town, 3500km from Perth and 850km from Darwin, did nothing to deter women and men from pulling out the fashion stops.

“This is the biggest day for us. People go all out for this – and they shop local because if they don’t the shops close and the community loses out.”

Caity Craig, 27, co-organiser of the competition and wearing the symbolic race flower, the everlasting, said competition was close.

“Out of all the small towns I’ve lived in outback Australia, Kununurra is probably the most fashionable,” she said. “We buy it all locally, we don’t have to fly to Darwin or Perth or Sydney to find an outfit.”

An early wet season rainfall on Friday came as unwelcome news to farmers, but for some, the wet season can’t come too soon.

“It’s the end of the dry season, we’re longing for the wet,” said Anika Salerno, 29, a former model whose Italian family roots have long influenced business in East Kimberley. “It’s a bit of relief, everyone’s hanging out.”

For a town that is shaped by fast-paced change, not least Ord River’s stage two expansion project, increasing the area’s vast agricultural irrigation footprint and new alcohol restrictions that aim to target the community’s social inequality, the tradition of Cup day endures.

As the sun set over the nearby Ord River after the final race, two up coins reached into the night sky and towards the year’s rain clouds.

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HUNTER WOMEN’S RUGBY: Merewether book finals spot

WOMEN’S RUGBY: Merewether book finals spot Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil
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Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter Women’s Rugby Union: Merewether Carlton book grand final spot after defeating Newcastle University 22-10. Picture: Marina Neil

TweetFacebookPHOTOS: Merewether Carlton defeats Newcastle Universityby two points, setting up a grand final clashagainst the Wanderers next weekend.

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Reporting season wrap: Short term panic sends share prices haywire

Some of the biggest names in business came out to plea to their investors to look beyond their short-term views. Big Australian companies’ share prices have been hammered.
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Richard Goyder, Wesfarmers managing director has lashed investors for short-term thinking. Photo: Philip Gostelow

Ansell chief executive Magnus Nicolin said investors failed to understand foreign exchange rates. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Seek’s Andrew Bassat pleaded with investors to look beyond the short term. Photo: Josh Robenstone

Illustration: Simon Bosch.

A miserable week in global markets has darkened an already gloomy year on the ASX. It’s certainly enough to have retail investors in tears but even Rupert Murdoch seems worried.

After the US sharemarket fell 2 per cent, joining in the fearful sentiment on China that’s gripping the market, the media mogul pondered on social media whether a global fall in asset prices was a “timely correction or sign of major global crisis the near future?”

It is a question many are asking. It is a global sell off, driven by easily-panicked investors, but it has come at a particularly unfortunate time for Australian companies as their profit reports roll into the market.

The fortunes of companies this reporting season have rested on the fine print: the two or three lines of the outlook for next year. Those few words have sent some share prices plunging.

Things came to a head this week when some of the biggest names in business came out to plea to their investors to look beyond their short-term views.

Even seasoned long-term investors have felt the jitters from an increasingly panicked marketplace.

SEEK founder Andrew Bassat urged investors to look beyond “short term profit” and trust the company on its vision. The comments came after the company’s share price slid 10 per cent despite SEEK posting a 20 per cent boost in its revenue.

“We’re trying to be explicit about who we are. Fair to say that some shareholders are going to hate that because they care more about next week’s profit than anything else” Mr Bassat​ told Fairfax Media.

Arnold Bloch Leibler partner Jonathan Wenig​ said the market has become a “fickle partner” and chief executives are on notice.

“Manage well, execute on your strategy, and achieve and you can still find the market reaction is underwhelming,” he said.

The key word was expectation, Mr Wenig​ said.

“What matters is not how well, or how poorly you’ve done, but how that compares to what was expected,” he said. All prices dropping not just shares. Timely correction or sign of major global crisis in near future?— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) August 20, 2015If new recession biggest nations have few tools left to fight it. mountains of cash everywhere, but nobody investing.— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) August 20, 2015

There have been plenty of examples that highlight that theme this year as investors played whack-a-mole with companies which on paper appear to be operating perfectly well in the difficult economic conditions.

Ansell was one of the early victims of the short-term shareholder reaction. Shareholders of the rubber glove and condom maker sent the company’s stock price down 15 per cent despite delivering a 20 per cent surge in underlying net profit to a record $US245 million ($333 million). Sound familiar?

In the company’s outlook it said currency exchange rates, assumed to remain the same as in the fourth quarter of 2015, would hit the company revenue by $55 million.

Chief executive Magnus Nicolin​ placed the blame squarely on the shareholder for the share price plunge: he said investors and analysts “hadn’t fully understood or seen the effects of foreign exchange”.

Even the market darlings were savaged. Domino’s Pizza Enterprises reported a staggering 40 per cent jump in net profit. Cue the party. It also promised 20 per cent growth in the 2016 financial year, which looked good, but below analysts’ expectation of 25 per cent.

There was also cynicism about the company making good on its “15-20 minute delivery or free” promise.

Whack. Down 7 per cent went Domino’s.

Even the big caps were slugged. Blood products maker CSL’s share price broke through the $100 mark for the second time in its history. Its net profit after tax rose 7.8 per cent to a whopping $US1.38 billion ($1.9 billion) .

But then its stock fell 6 per cent.

How about fellow biotech Cochlear? The hearing implants maker profit surged 56 per cent to $145.8 million, but its outlook, while positive, did not satisfy expectations. It was summarily punished with a 15 per cent share dive.

Financial services giant AMP missed analysts expectations, but delivered a 12 per cent lift in its underlying profit to $570 million. Whack.

“There are investors who are looking for different cash flow signatures,” a sanguine AMP chief executive Craig Meller said afterwards.

“Our mindset as a company is how do we make sure that we deliver for the short term, and we deliver for the long term.”

Stellar results were no panacea. Qantas on Thursday announced a stunning $975 million profit, a stark turnaround from its previous year’s multi-billion dollar loss. But its shares sank 6 per cent on a lack of guidance for next year.

Credit Suisse Private Banking chief investment strategist David McDonald said while tough conditions were well-signposted, weaker outlooks across all industries was the concern.

“That has definitely been the surprise so far in reporting season, outlooks have disappointed, particularly the spread of sectors where we’ve seen downgrades,” he said.

“It seems to have been across industrials and healthcare, quite a few sectors where the outlooks have been less than rosy.”

Mr Wenig​ said while conventional wisdom suggested companies should worry more about their strategies and long-term performance, their share price movements were an immediate indicator of their performance.

“Human nature is such that where incentives are linked to share price, attention will inevitably be drawn away from the strategic horizon, and towards the Bloomberg ticker along the bottom of the computer screen,” he noted.

Alphinity Investment Management principal Johan Carlberg said some of that short-termism may be reflective of the changing composition of the sharemarket.

He said the market was experiencing a higher mix of short-term investors and hedge funds compared with the more traditional, longer-focused institutional investor set.

He added of the companies that did get a whack, their share prices usually settled in a few days.

Peak Asset Management executive director Niv Dagan said the word “challenging” was a constant in company forecasts this year.

“Companies are very nervous about the next 12 months, the majority of chief executives are saying the outlook is going to remain difficult,” he said.

“The most alarming thing is some of the companies are not even providing an outlook statement,” Mr Dagan​ said.

“When investors don’t get an outlook statement there’s uncertainty, and when there’s uncertainty, there’s further downside.”

Downer EDI was one company which said its operating environment would remain “difficult” while posting a lower 2016 guidance of $190 million net profit before tax. Cue an 11 per cent share price slump.

That mining services companies are under pressure comes as no surprise to Mr Dagan​, but share registration and administration company Computershare’s result was more alarming.

The company’s share price fell 9 per cent to a two-year low after the company not only missed profit guidance this year, but earnings for the next financial year were forecast to fall 7.5 per cent.

Mr Carlberg​ agreed the statements had on average been disappointing, chalking it up to a combination of macro and company specific concerns.

“Tailwinds from economic growth are fairly subdued at the moment, it doesn’t really matter which region you’re in, be it domestic or overseas,” he said.

He also noted any benefits from a weaker Australian dollar, be it companies earning in US dollars and export-driven companies had largely been priced into company share prices.

But he said a weaker euro was also hurting companies, a factor many investors had ignored.

“With the euro weakening so much against the US dollar the translation of those earnings back into US dollars has been quite interesting,” he said.

CSL was one example where this was hurting their bottom lines, also Ansell, which said its revenue was partially brought down by weakness in the euro and the Canadian dollar.

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OBITUARY: Dr Colin Keay

Retired professor of physics Colin Keay combined an inquiring mind with a vast amount of energy. Picture: Stefan MooreOBITUARY
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Dr Colin Keay, 1930 – 2015

WHEN former University of Newcastle physics professor Dr Colin Keay died peacefully last week, he was holding his daughter Andra’s hand and listening to Vivaldi and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital in Brisbane.

His wife Myra, and myself, Sue, were also there.

Dad had been on palliative care and had been calm and comfortable.

His last few days were spent with family around him, listening to his favourite composers, and blissfully free of most of the Parkinson’s tremors.

Colin was born on February 2, 1930, in Timaru, in the South Island of New Zealand, the elder of two sons to William and Ruby Keay. His brother Alister was born three years later.

Dad was dux of Papanui High School in 1947 and a founding member of the Canterbury Astronomical Society.

He received his BSc and MSc from the University of New Zealand (Canterbury) and joined Cliff Ellyett’s Radar Meteor Astronomy group.

His mettle was sorely tested as a young child, spending time in an orphanage and boarding away from home due to his mother’s poor health and then fighting off tuberculosis during his undergraduate studies. He spent almost two years in Cashmere sanatorium and endured two major operations in 1956-57 to remove part of both lungs. The scars on his back looked like a singlet, but it was hard to notice any reduction in his lung capacity for the energy and drive he brought to his life and work.

Dad married Mum in 1958 in Christchurch. He was awarded his PhD in physics in meteor astronomy at the University of Canterbury in 1964 and was also awarded the Mechaelis Gold Medal in astronomy from the University of Otago. He also received an MA in astronomy from University of Toronto in 1965 and, near the end of his career, was distinguished with a DSc from University of Canterbury in 1997.

Mum and Dad moved to Australia in 1965 for Colin to take up a senior lecturer position in physics at the University of Newcastle where he worked until his ‘‘retirement’’ in 1993. Both Mum and Dad kept so busy in retirement that some of us wondered how they ever found time to work.

There were a number of firsts in Dad’s long career. He created a new branch of science called geophysical electrophonics – ‘‘theproduction of audible noises of various kinds through direct conversion by transduction of very low-frequency electromagnetic energy generated by a number of geophysical phenomena’’.

Within 24hours of the launching of the first satellite (the Russian Sputnik in 1957), Dad was the first to calculate that it would be visible over New Zealand. This led to Dad and Dick Anderson publishing the first two papers on observing a satellite.

He also published the first papers on high resolution infrared maps of Jupiter and was president of Commission 22 of the International Astronomical Union and inaugural chairman of its working group on the prevention of interplanetary pollution (space junk). In 1997, Minor Planet 5007 was named after Dad in recognition of his services to astronomy.

As a pioneering science communicator, as well as numerous public talks, Dad wrote monthly newspaper columns, first for the Christchurch Press and then for The Newcastle Morning Herald, which regularly published his Sky and Space notes for more than 30years.

As a press correspondent, he covered some of the launches of NASA’s space missions.

Away from science, Dad was active in the community, being the founding president of the Hunter Skeptics (1987), president of the Newcastle Cycleways Movement (always lobbying for more bikeways), founding president of the Newcastle Astronomical Society (1993), and a member of University of Newcastle council representing staff, among many other notable activities.

Colin Keay, DSc FRASNZ FAAAS FInstP FASA, was husband to Myra, brother to Alister, father to Andra, Lindsay and Sue, father-in-law to Michael and Mark, grandfather to Ilyan, Rob, Miranda, Zoe, Sarah and Sammy. He will be greatly missed but what an amazing 85years it was.

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China ready to launch military power from artificial islands in South China Sea

China has won the first round of its contest for control in the South China Sea by completing construction of an archipelago of artificial islands, say senior Australian sources.
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And there is little that will stop China from winning the next round, too, as an indecisive US Administration and allies including Australia struggle to follow through on earlier promises to challenge unlawful Chinese claims with “freedom of navigation” exercises, the sources say.

By 2017, military analysts expect China will have equipped its new sand islands with ports, barracks, battlements, artillery, air strips and long-range radar systems that will enable it to project military and paramilitary power into the furthest and most hotly-contested reaches of the South China Sea.

Those facilities would give China the ability to obstruct other claimant countries and potentially disrupt sea lanes that carry more than three-fifths of Australia’s merchandise trade, according to military analysts.

“This is a huge strategic victory for China,” said one official source.

“They’ve won Round 1,” said another. “It’s hard to see how they will be stopped from winning the next round too.”

In May, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter demanded a “lasting halt to land reclamation” and commissioned plans to conduct “fly throughs” and “sail throughs” within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands.

The tough US commitments were strongly supported by Defence Minister Kevin Andrews and accompanied by high-profile US surveillance flights, including one involving a CNN camera crew and another carrying the Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift.

Fairfax understands that those flights took place outside the 12 nautical mile zone, contrary to some media reports at the time.

And military, defence and other official sources have told Fairfax that the promised “fly-throughs” and “sail-throughs” have not yet taken place, adding that the two surveillance flights took place at a distance greater than was widely reported at the time.

While the US and its allies have struggled to follow talk with action, fleets of Chinese dredges have completed reclamation work including the foundations for a second 3000-metre airstrip in the area, on Subi Reef, which will be capable of landing the largest aircraft in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

The reclamation work has largely been completed in time for President Xi Jinping to make a smooth state visit to Washington in about a fortnight’s time, with the number of Chinese dredges in use in the Spratly archipelago falling by about 90 per cent in recent weeks, according to sources with access to satellite imagery.

Meanwhile, US and Australian defence planners have run into problems as they struggle with old maps and time-series aerial photographs to work out which of the Chinese structures should be the target of freedom of navigation exercises.

Compounding the confusion, strategists have realised that Western vessels and aircraft may have for decades endorsed Chinese claims that have no basis in international law, out of “politeness”, thus raising the risks involved with a sharp shift in behaviour now.

“Working out which claims we recognise and how that should be communicated is not easy,” said a source.

In any case, strategists concede that freedom of navigation exercises will not necessarily hinder the militarisation of China’s new sand islands.

Some strategists believe China will have a largely unfettered run until at least 2017, when the land-locked Chinese client state of Laos cedes the chairmanship of ASEAN and a new US administration settles into place.

Other Australian and US officials, however, say that China has won at the tactical level but lost the bigger strategic game, as nations throughout the region respond by building closer security ties with each other and the US.

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Bart Cummings, the Cups King sits alongside the sporting greats

Bart Cummings – it was at the track where he was most at home. Photo: Steve Christo vjc981029.001.001.jpg Pic Vince Caligiuri. Age Bart Cummings on the track with his Derby runner “Runaway”. Photo: Vince Caligiuri
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Joe Agresta might not be most famous or influential figure to pay tribute to Bart Cummings following his death at 87, but he probably knew him the best.

Cummings’ trackwork rider for more than 30 years at Flemington summed up a legend simply.

“He made me the man I am and I owe a lot to him,” Agresta said. “He knew a bit about everything and if he wasn’t a horse trainer he could have been anything.

“He could have been prime minister or a developer, he was just so smart. He had an insight and foresight on a lot of things.”

Cummings died surrounded by his family at his western Sydney property Princes Farm on Sunday morning. The man known just as Bart or the Cups king or for his remarkable record of winning 12 Melbourne Cup sits alongside the sporting greats in Australia.

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott recognised Cummings in a statement.

“Australia has lost a sporting giant and a racing legend,” the statement read. “Few people have dominated a sport like Bart Cummings did. He will be remembered as a truly great trainer, the winner of literally thousands of races.

“Race day will not be the same without him. On behalf of all Australians, we extend our sincerest sympathies to Bart’s wife of 61 years, Valmae, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten took to Twitter to offering some kind words, a “legend of the turf has left us”.

It was at the track where Cummings was most at home. He finished his life with 266 group 1 wins and another two top level victories in partnership with grandson James, left him only behind his great rival Tommy Smith.

Smith’s daughter Gai Waterhouse, a fellow hall of fame trainer, said his legacy will live on.

“He is an all-time great Australian trainer. An icon of our country and his 12 Melbourne Cup wins is amazing,” Waterhouse said. “He is going to be sadly missed by his family and friends and my thoughts are with his family.”

She had earlier tweeted. “A great sadness clouds over the Industry with the news of Bart Cummings’ passing,” Waterhouse tweeted on Sunday morning. “The Cups King’s legacy remembered – past, present & future.”

Racing Australia chairman John Messara believes there will never be another man to take racing to the general community.

“The name JB Cummings is forever etched in racing history. Bart will always be spoken of with wonderment at his achievements” Mr Messara said.

“Bart had a unique impact on the general public with his laconic wit and big race victories. He brought racing to the wider community.”

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