The racing man who's had more said and written about him than most of us together, was finally laid to rest at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney yesterday. Unsurprisingly, the occasion was attended by leading racing identities, politicians, friends and family, filling St Mary's for the service led by Anthony Fisher, the Archbishop of Sydney. Bart Cummings' son Anthony, a Group 1 winning trainer in his own right, delivered the eulogy.
Addressing the congregation, Anthony, the only one of Bart's five children to follow him into a training career, recalled his father's forthright views and determination to succeed. "In the main his views were borne of experience and were valued by many," he said. "In Adelaide, I watched as a kid, always in awe of my father as people came to him for advice.
"They didn't always get, didn't like, what they were told, but what they got was what they asked for: his view, unequivocal, unabashed, uncensored. My father refused to accept that something he thought should be, or should happen, didn't. Find a way, step back, look, see what you're looking at, consider, but most importantly, never give up."
Cummings also told of his annual trips to New Zealand with his father, to seek out promising horses to bring back to Australia. "The place I really got to know him was in New Zealand where we would go each year to look at yearlings. He would talk about his own father and his relationship with him. It was a whole lot of fun, going from farm to farm, talking to stud masters and breeders and looking at their farms," he said. "By the time he was looking at the horses at the sales a week or so later, he understood where they came from, and how he could turn them into a racehorse."
Cummings said his father had had his ups and downs along the way, including the health issues that plagued him in the final year of his life. "But as we'd seen all the way through, there hadn't been a bridle made to hold him back," he said.
He said his father's dream had always been to have his own property and Princes Farm on the Nepean River in NSW became that place. "It was a touch of Ireland, a touch of New Zealand, a lot of Bart. He and mum lived there over the last few years and mum supported him as she had done all of her life - 61 years a couple of days before he passed," he said. "He had a fantastic record with horses off the farm. Three of my Group One winners were raised there."
He spoke of his father's brushes with royalty, world leaders and the common man over his decades on the track. "He treated all equally and gave them time. In the end, dad was more than a horseman - he was an icon, a legend, all of that, built from flames and hardship to go with success."
"Bob Hawke described him as a great and good Australian. Enough said."
Extract from Australia & New Zealand Bloodstock News
Bart Cummings Funeral / HEC News (p)