Cummings legacy lives on in Kennedy Oaks
When small Adelaide trainer Jim Cummings took out the 1928 VRC Oaks with Opera Queen, less than a year after his wife Annie gave birth to their third child James Bartholomeu, he was so unknown that The Argus - Australia's premier newspaper of the era - misspelled his name.
That was despite Cummings (who they referred to as J.M. Cumming) finishing second in the 1925 VRC Oaks with Ethelton three years earlier.
Little could the long-extinct The Argus know that, almost a century later, the Cummings name would be synonymous with the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
They could not have known that Cummings' young child would go on to be the man most associated with 'the race that stops a nation'™ and the festival that surrounds it, including nine Oaks victories.
They could not have expected that, in 2021 and 2022, two generations of Cummings would add their names to the honour roll of a race that dates back to 1861.
And yet that was the case when the Anthony Cummings-trained She's Extreme took out the Group 1 Kennedy Oaks (2500m) on Thursday, a year after his son James scored his first victory in the race with Willowy.
For a proud family man in Anthony Cummings, watching his Group 1-winning sons James and Edward continue to thrive gives him as much satisfaction as taking the spotlight himself as he did at Flemington on Thursday.
"Family means so much to me," an emotional Cummings said. "The old man (Bart Cummings) lit a flame that continues to burn and I'm rapt that it burns in the kids as well.
“I’m really lucky in that my kids are bright kids. They have a passion for this the same as I do but now the big thing is to keep up with them - they're setting a furious pace!
“Hopefully Ed wins it next year. Hopefully he’s got the right horse.
“There’s a lot to be said for dinnertime discussions. I learnt more at the dinner table and breakfast table at home when I was a kid when mum used to feed the stable.
“The discussions you’d have about horses - the problems, the solutions - all those things along the way. You learn so much. I'm still learning."
Ridden by Tommy Berry, She's Extreme added the Oaks to her Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m) victory earlier this year with a strong staying effort. She raced a length clear of the pace-setting Pavitra with two and a quarter lengths back to Queen Air in third.
“We had the right barrier to put her to sleep and that’s what I had to do today," Berry said. "It has been an unbelievable moment and a great training performance by Anthony. There’s just massive amount of people around her and I was lucky to be the one piloting her.
"I knew I just needed a split at any moment and she was going to take the race away. It was pretty special.
"I’m blowing more than her right now. Full credit to Anthony and his team. They’ve done an amazing job with her."
Berry has already stated his desire to partner She's Extreme in the Lexus Melbourne Cup next year, with Cummings suggesting she was good enough to perform at the highest level at 1200m or 3200m.
On a day when the fillies and mares were featured, there were plenty of emerging stars and one of the highlights came from Charm Stone in the $200,000 Group 3 Darley Ottawa Stakes (1000m) for two-year-old fillies. The Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr-trained filly, ridden by Damien Lane, made the most of race experience to come a length and three-quarters clear of impressive debutant Empress Of Wonder.
“She was super, a real quality filly who had trialled up well," Lane said. "She just got a little bit lost her first start up the straight here, but having that experience was a lot better today. It was a really good win."
Charm Stone was the first leg of a race-to-race double for prominent bloodstock agent Sheamus Mills.
His mare Roots, trained by Chris Waller and ridden by James McDonald, was successful in the $250,000 Inglis Bracelet (1600m), restricted to graduates of thoroughbred auction house Inglis.
“It was a well-deserved win, she didn’t get much luck last start but she’s racing consistently well," Waller said. “It was a nice ride from James, as we get used to seeing, and that was a big help as well.
“She showed us ability as a three-year-old, but we’re just taking our time now that she’s turned four. It’s been a good confidence-building exercise, this preparation.”
A competitive group of three-year-old sprinting fillies contested the $300,000 Group 3 10 News First Red Roses Stakes (1100m) with South Australia’s Aitch Two Oh causing an upset for trainers Richard and Chantelle Jolly. She managed to fend off a couple of other fillies at double figures, La Danseuse Rouge and Bay Thirteen, to take the prize.
"She was electric," said McDonald, who picked up the ride after original jockey Jake Toeroek was stuck in Adelaide due to flight delays, giving him a treble on the card. "She bounced really well, she was really tenacious and wanted to get on with the job. It was a really good win and she toughed it out really well."
A previous Oaks-winning horseman, Kris Lees, returned to Flemington for his first Kennedy Oaks Day victory in eight years. Lees, successful in the 2008 Oaks with Samantha Miss, took out the $175,000 Listed Off the Track Desirable Stakes (1400m) with Razeta racing clear under Hugh Bowman.
“He doesn’t bring them here to make up the numbers, he’s an excellent trainer, places them well and it’s a pleasure to ride for him.” - Hugh Bowman on Kris Lees
Ironically, Razeta is a half-sister to Lees' last Oaks Day winner, Onemorezeta.
"Thinking back to when Samantha Miss won the Oaks, it was my first Group 1 in Melbourne, so I’ve got a long association with the stable," Bowman said. “He doesn’t bring them here to make up the numbers, he’s an excellent trainer, places them well and it’s a pleasure to ride for him.”
Warrnambool trainer Matthew Williams landed the most lucrative success of his career when taking the $500,000 Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Final (1600m) with promising mare Toregene, ridden by comeback jockey Dean Yendall.
“She’s done a really good job and she’s still not the furnished product yet," Williams said. "You could see midrace she was still just wanting to get up on the bridle there a bit strong - I reckon Deano might have a broken tooth, he would have been gritting his teeth a little bit - but she’s definitely got good ability and is on the right path.”
Former Hong Kong galloper Joyful Fortune maintained his unbeaten record at Flemington by taking the $175,000 Listed G.H. Mumm Century Stakes (1000m), a race with a history of unveiling future Group 1 winners, under Josh Parr.
“He’s a very talented horse, obviously he’s had a fair time off with injury but we’ve managed him well, space his runs out a little bit and just find the right races," trainer Mark Newnham said.
“He looks like a straight track specialist so you ever know, he might find himself back here in a Lightning or something. All his wins have been down the straight so no need to stray too far.
“Being a straight-track specialist you look at any races down the Flemington straight and it certainly suits him.”
Other victors included Matron Bullwinkel, ridden by McDonald for Lexus Melbourne Cup-winning trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, and Carlisle for John Moloney and Blaike McDougall.
The Melbourne Cup Carnival comes to an incredible conclusion at Flemington on Saturday with TAB Champions Stakes Day, featuring 23 Group 1 winners across the card.