In memory of Bart. The horse we’ll all be cheering at Flemington.

October 31, 2015

So here we are. Our favourite time of the year. But the star of the show is missing.

Cup week without Bart. It’s like Christmas without Santa. Sure, we’ll open the presents. But it’s not as much fun.

Those words of wisdom in the days prior. A subtle tip, for those truly listening.

What would he add to the groaning mantlepiece? A feature mile? Another Derby? Dare we dream .. another Cup?

Those more interested in hats than horses would throw a dollar or two on. The rest of us would have a safety bet. Just in case.

And now .. he’s gone. But not forgotten. There will be tributes every day. Words from the heart. We’ll think about bushy eyebrows and thoroughbreds trained to the minute.

So what would the Great Man be thinking, sipping tea at the Head Table upstairs?

I reckon he would be telling us to get on with it. He always believed that the horses were the stars. He’d be happy with the quality on show today.

Surely he’d be impressed with the raw power of Exosphere. There’d be a nod towards Mick Price, as he chases the Derby with Tarzino. But that wonderful gaze, honed over the decades, would be saved for one horse.

Check the form guide for the Group 3 Lexus, and you’ll find the famous Cummings name. Not son Anthony. Grandson James.

He’s training Ruling Dynasty. The way Bart taught him. It’s a big chance, with Tommy Berry up.

A win this afternoon, means an automatic place in the Melbourne Cup. Yep, our most famous name, could be running on Tuesday.

It’s fairytale stuff. And there’s a twist, that only racing could throw up.

It could be the other famous name, that spoils the script. Gai has Excess Knowledge humming. Those using head over heart won’t hear of him being beaten. So here we go again. Cummings V Waterhouse.

The beauty of all this? Bart would be smiling. He loved the twists and turns leading into the Cup. And if young James is successful, the roar might be bigger than we hear for the Derby.

Hold on to your hats folks. That Cummings name might be heading to Cup Day again. Maybe things haven’t changed too much after all.

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The girls ready to shine as Randwick hosts a magical Derby Day.

April 8, 2011

There’s something special about the Autumn carnival arriving at Randwick.

The big money might be at Rosehill. But not the tradition.

Races that date back more than a century. Won by the very best. Horses, trainers and jockeys.

The Doncaster is my favourite. There’s something about a capacity field over that Randwick mile. The greats digging deep as they top the rise. Gunsynd. Super Impose back to back. Sunline. But that’s next week.

Tomorrow, be ready for a feast at headquarters. And believe it or not, it’s more than just the Black Caviar spectacular.

As well as celebrating the Sydney debut of the world’s best horse (she’ll make it 12 from 12 .. simply amazing), fans will focus on the 150th AJC Derby. It was first run in 1861. The same year as the inaugural Melbourne Cup. At the time the American Civil war was raging. England’s cricket team toured here for the first time. Dame Nellie Melba was born. And the original pilot for Hey Hey It’s Saturday was recorded.

Keen on winning a race with a 3-year-old? This is it. It’s worth plenty, but there are those who would run for the trophy alone. A few handy types have saluted over the years.

Phar Lap won in 1929. It was Jim Pike’s first victory on Big Red. There’d be plenty more.

Fast forward to ’57. Tommy Smith had a fair opinion of a horse called Tulloch. Rightly so. He won the Derby by 6 lengths, breaking Phar Lap’s track record.

What about these names through the seventies and eighties? Dulcify. Kingston Town. Strawberry Road. Bonecrusher. And then the mighty Octagonal in 1996.

Famous tales too. Old timers still speak of 1961, when Mel Schumacher was outed, after pulling the leg of a rival jockey. They happened to be hurtling down that famous straight at the time. He won the Derby but lost the protest, and ended up as one of racing’s most famous trivia questions.

There’ll be no leg pulling tomorrow. Not on track anyway. Fair to say this field is without a Phar Lap or Tulloch. But it’s still a talented bunch, ready to carve out their own bit of history.

The raging favourite Jimmy Choux blew them away last start in the Rosehill Guineas. The Kiwi has the inside gate tomorrow. That might not suit him, but connections still seem supremely confident.

I must admit I have a niggling doubt about the heavyweight jockey. He won like Pike two weeks ago. But I rarely put my hard earned on ex-jump jockeys from New Zealand, over an arduous 2400 metres.

There’s only one filly in the field, and I give her a huge chance. Trainer Danny O’Brien had no hesitation taking on the males with Shamrocker last start, and she’ll be even better tomorrow. The distance is no concern, and Glen Boss is up top. She’ll do me.

The smokie could be one trained by the bloke who’s seen more Derbys than just about anyone. I Think I Do will love the big Randwick straight after rattling home last start. Bart might need to clear some space on that groaning mantlepiece.

No matter what the result is tomorrow, the day will carry a tinge of sadness. Twelve months ago, Stathi Katsidis was celebrating more Group One success. He won the Derby on Gold Coast stayer Shoot Out. Greatness beckoned. A few months later he was dead.

There are many in the industry still scarred by the tragedy. Memories will come flooding back tomorrow. A day with so much history, that would be so much better if he was still around to be part of it.