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.”