The ‘Cups King’ Bart Cummings has officially welcomed his grandson James Cummings on board as his training partner this week and already the duo are eyeing a big spring assault including the Cox Plate 2013 where Norzita looks their best chance.
Cummings, 85, is one of the most prolific and legendary characters making up the Australian racing story having won an incredible 266 Group 1 races including his dozen Melbourne Cup trophies.
But with ailing health a growing concern for the maestro horseman he’s taken the initiative of bringing James to the front row, J.B. & J.A. Cummings the new title to appear in the racebooks.
It is a bestowed privilege James is over the moon about and one that has made many of his peers very jealous of.
“Gerald Ryan pulled me aside at the races a couple of weeks ago and congratulated me on doing something he’s wanted to do since he was a young man; train alongside Bart Cummings,” James told RSN’s Racing Ahead.
“Just to be able to talk to him about the horses and routines and where we’re heading and what we’re doing is a very, very privileged position that I find myself in and Bart has agreed to.
“I’m really honoured and very excited about the future and working with Bart.”
While the promotion of James from assistant to co-trainer is an exciting one it won’t affect their spring lead-up with the 25-year-old saying “it’ll be business as usual”.
“The systems all remain the same,” he said.
“There’s a few administration things that take up a little bit more of your attention but I suppose that’s just part of being a trainer.
“There’s a more to think about overall.”
One thing at the front of their minds is the preparation of Norzita who is heading towards the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 25.
The Thorn Park mare is no stranger to the limelight having won the Group 1 Flight Stakes (1600m) as a three-year-old back in October last year.
She also made an impact during the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival earlier this year with three big Group 1 runs to see out her season.
Her first was a devastatingly close third to Appearance, beaten just a long neck, for a blanket finish in the Coolmore Classic in March.
From there she went on to defeat Longport, second also in the Flight Stakes, in the Vinery Stud Stakes in her first look at the 2000m before her third to Sacred Falls in the mud at Randwick in the iconic Doncaster Mile when dropping back in distance.
This time in she’ll be 2000-metre bound again for the Cox Plate, a race she’s currently rated a $31 chance to win.
Official Cox Plate 2013 nominations will be taken on Tuesday next week.
Norzita is set to trial at Randwick on Friday morning as she progresses towards three Group 1 targets culminating with the Cox Plate.
“She’s a bit stronger than she was last preparation, which is natural,” James said.
“We feel as though she’ll be really improved by the trial tomorrow and we’ll play it by ear and see how she comes through and see how she performs, but we’ll probably aim up at the George Main in Sydney at her third run in.
“Then she’ll be programmed to run in the Caulfield Stakes and the Cox Plate following that.”
The $350,000 Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) runs at Randwick on September 21 while the $400,000 Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) is scheduled for October 12.
Team Cummings will also obviously play a role in the ‘race that stops a nation’ again on the first Tuesday of November at Flemington.
Bart will be vying for his baker’s dozen, and James his first, in the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) with the duo looking at a quartet of nominees led by stable stalwart Precedence – ninth last year.
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