Legendary racehorse trainer Bart Cummings has died at the age of 87 surrounded by family at his homestead in north western Sydney.
His grandson and training partner James said in a statement Cummings died in his sleep early Sunday morning.
“James Bartholomew Cummings, OAM, passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of this morning, Sunday the 30th of August 2015, in his homestead at Princes Farm, Castlereagh,” James Cummings said.
“His final moments were spent with his family and wife of 61 years, Valmae, with whom he celebrated their anniversary on Friday.
“For Bart, aged 87, this was a fitting end. A husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather; a master trainer and a larger than life figure.
“We will miss you.”
Cummings had been in ill health for some time and rarely ventured from his farm in recent years.
He won the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s richest horse race, 12 times with 11 horses.
He also won five Cox Plates, seven Caulfield Cups and was a four-time winner of the Golden Slipper.
ABC Grandstand’s racing expert Gerard Whateley said it felt like Australian sport had lost its “grandfather figure”.
“He was a lovely man,” he said.
“He had a sharp wit. He was quick with a one-liner.
“He was kind as long as you didn’t get in the way of his business. And he was quite clearly a genius in the field that he undertook.”
Born and raised in Adelaide, he had his first taste of victory at 23 years of age as a strapper for 1950 Melbourne Cup winner Comic Court, trained by his father.
“I jumped out of the stands, I was terribly excited I can tell you that,” he said of that first win.
“I’m just thankful my father talked me into being a horse trainer.”
Three years later Cummings was granted a trainers licence and in 1965 won his first Melbourne cup with Light Fingers.
He won his first Group 1 with Stormy Passage in the SAJC Derby in 1958 and has won nearly 7,000 races including 760 stakes races since.
In 1974, Cummings became the first trainer in the British Commonwealth to train the earners of more than $1 million in prize money.
He was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1982 for his services to the racing industry, and in 1991 was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, and the Racing Hall of Fame in 2001.
Cummings was awarded the Centennial medal in 2000 and carried the Olympic torch down the Flemington Straight.
– with ABC, AAP