Bart Cummings, Colin Hayes, Tommy Smith: The end of a special era of trainers

Tommy Smith with champion racehorse Tulloch. Photo: Stuart MacGladrie Colin Hayes. Photo: Robert Banks

The Australian racing community woke up on Monday morning to the reality that the last of the nation’s three most revered horse trainers had passed away.

The death of Bart Cummings, 87, at his property in NSW on the weekend, brought to an end not only a breathtaking career but also an era in Australian racing.

Colin Hayes, Tommy Smith and Bart Cummings dominated the racing industry in Australia for half a century. They not only won thousands of races across the national calendar but in their own way reinvented horse training.

From Monday it’s the next generation: Anthony Cummings, Gai Waterhouse and David Hayes, the sons and daughter of the big three, who are left to take their trade to another level.

After speaking to them overnight it’s indeed a daunting task for this group.

While the senior Cummings managed 12 Melbourne Cups and hundreds of major races he proved that tapping into the New Zealand bloodlines of the 1960s and `70s was imperative in finding a stayer.

Cummings had bases at different times in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney and is arguably Australia’s greatest horse trainer.

​But he is in distinguished company with the likes of Smith; the master of the Sydney racing industry for decades, he established a stunning strike rate and proved to the world that having more than 100 horses in work at one time was manageable and more importantly, could be highly successful..

Having just the basics of an education, Smith had heads of government, High Court judges and wealthy businessmen vying to be part of his operation.

Smith, whose daughter Gai Waterhouse is now in the upper echelon of trainers, was a trainer who had success right across the eastern seaboard for many years.

And the other racing legend that has also died was Colin Hayes who successfully showed that you can train a huge number of racehorses away from the city track.

Some years ago the Queen was a guest at the vast Hayes property at Angston in South Australia. After viewing the comfort and space afforded every horse on the rolling paddocks of the Adelaide hills racing base, she turned and said, “Colin, it’s just wonderful how every horse in your care has a room with a view”.

Hayes, too, came from a working-class background to achieve what everyone said was impossible. Old-time horsemen declared he would be broke in months.

Hayes dominated South Australian racing for 30 years and also had a vice-like grip on premierships in Victoria. He managed to not only train a huge team at Lindsay Park but also run a highly successful breeding operation on the same property.

These three rewrote the training manual for those horsemen who came after them.

While Hayes and Cummings had a vehement dislike for each other, Hayes’ son David explained that it was an understandable disagreement.

“You’ve got to remember dad (Colin Hayes) and Bart were the very best of horsemen in a very tiny town of Adelaide so there was always going to be such bitterly strong rivalry.

“But the loss of Bart Cummings is very sad and now those three great pioneers are gone but fortunately their legacies have been instrumental in forging the future of training,” Hayes said.

And while it may seem far fetched to suggest the sons, daughters, grandsons and grandaughters of these three racing trailblazers can better their fathers’ or grandfathers’ deeds, remember a line all three used many times on the climb up the ladder to greatness.

Give Up never won a race.

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