Bart Cummings: The man who made Saintly into a legend
|Bart Cummings: The man who made Saintly into a legend - 20th Dec 2016|
Bart Cummings: The man who made Saintly into a legend |
Thousands of racehorses came and went from master trainer Bart Cummings' bases in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney dating back to the 1950s. As the remarkable horse trainer's success spread across Australia, so did the number of horses filling stables at his multi-state operation.
However, many believe the influx made the horse and trainer relationship more difficult.
Not so for one horse that walked into Cummings' stable in the early 1990s. To the staff he may have been just another hopeful that their boss was going to train, but Cummings knew that, with lots of work, patience, grooming and an ounce of luck, the horse he named Saintly would reward his business handsomely.
Late last Thursday night Saintly, 24, died of old age. Those who worked for Cummings in Saintly's time and saw the horseman sculpt a once-raw two-year-old into a powerful, robust and brilliant racehorse still marvel at the trainer's skill and dedication.
"From the time he came into the stable dad fiddled and fiddled with the horse's gear, and he then tweaked this and tweaked that, then he found that the saddle was moving sharply, affecting Saintly's galloping action, so he got on top of that problem and it seemed every change brought more success," said Anthony Cummings, son of the master trainer.
"He knew the (horse's) family back to front. He trained his father, mother and grandmother, so he really knew what made him tick. But Saintly was the kindest of animals you will ever meet. He would come up and nuzzle into you for a cuddle when you opened his box of a morning."
Cummings snr had special plans for Saintly, who gave him another Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate in 1996 and duelled successfully with another great horse of the time, Octagonal.
In the early '90s Cummings took another fine racehorse, Shaftesbury Avenue, to Japan.
While that horse finished an unlucky third, he planted a seed in Cummings' mind that the Japan Cup was an achievable goal
"I could see dad had this race turning over in his mind and, when Saintly clicked into being a very, very special horse, I knew Tokyo was going to be his destination. You know it was the running story of the horse's era that Saintly may have been the horse from God, but firstly it was the horse that Bart made," Cummings jnr said.
Cummings made no secret to those close to the stable that Saintly was as close to unbeatable as you could get.
A stunning gallop at Flemington prior to the horse flying out to Japan had the most experienced of track watchers scratching their heads at the remarkable time the horse posted.
While Saintly reclined in the luxury, no-expense-spared stables in Japan, millions of dollars were being sent in bank drafts to Tokyo.
As one Sydney stockbroker explained on Sunday: "We were suddenly coming out of a recession and the market was all of a sudden moving in a positive way, so some of the younger operators saw that Saintly and the Japan Cup would be a successful mix.
"I think we ended up sending about $740,000 over to have on the horse. It was sound judgment and shrewd betting if we got 4-1 in Tokyo as he was going to be $1.20 here in Australia.
"Our intelligence coming directly from the camp was that any price was a luxury price because he just wins."
Naohiro Goda, an international race expert in Japan, said he remembered Saintly's appearance in Japan well.
"We had so many visitors from Australia who were so bullish about Saintly winning. In fact, they wouldn't hear of him being beaten," he said.
"We had had high-profile horses from Australia and New Zealand in the past with Naturalism and Bonecrusher, but Saintly was a horse all on his own. Well-performed and with Bart Cummings, which makes a very strong combination.".
Cummings was sipping on a nightcap on the eve of the Japan Cup when he received a phone call from the head of veterinary services reporting that Saintly had come down with a temperature, which could have been attributed to a dose of travel sickness, and would have to be scratched.
The entire Cummings entourage was devastated. As silence fell over the room and thoughts of what could have been tormented the Australian contingent, Cummings broke the silence with: "That's racing. Now let's get the horse home for the Australian Cup early next year."
And, after all, who would know better than Cummings, the man who took Saintly from just another skinny yearling to arguably one of his best and most-remembered racehorses.
Article courtesy of Fairfax Digital and The Age