When can we punt the Godolphin horses?

Tristan Rayner Editor

By , Tristan Rayner is a Roar Editor

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    James Cummings poses with the trophy after winning the Victorian Derby. (AAP Image/Mal Fairclough)

    James Cummings, a blue blood of Australian racing, will don the royal blue of Godolphin and head up the global operation here.

    Following the departure of John O’Shea, many names were thrown around to take over the significant and demanding role. Most considered Cummings, as a prospect, unlikely.

    The 30-year-old would give up his operation and Leilani Lodge, where he first learnt the trade and later co-trained with grandfather, Bart.

    He’d cut the Gooree Racing connection, where his wife is racing manager. His operation would triple in size overnight.

    Godolphin would be taking a chance on relative inexperience, with Cummings having only been a metropolitan trainer since 2013 and a Group 1 winner in his own right in 2016.

    And further calls were made to split the operation to reduce the almost untenable workload that caused O’Shea to need a break and spend time with his family.

    But none of that has stopped the coming together of one of Australia’s most famous racing families, and Godolphin’s might.

    Bart might not have ever been interested and might not have approved – sadly, we’ll never know – but James is his own man.

    “It is truly an honour to be asked to join the Godolphin team as the head trainer in Australia and I am very grateful to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed for the opportunity,” Cummings said in a statement published by Godolphin.

    Referring to Leilani Lodge and his existing operation, Cummings told News Corp that it’s possible his family will pick up the work.

    “[The horses] will be taken over by a variety of different trainers, there is a good ground swell of support from quite a few of them to go to Anthony and Edward, my father and brother,” Cummings said.

    Interim trainer Darren Beadman will go back to assistant trainer with the operation, and no doubt will provide significant support, along with all staff.

    The question for the majority though: should we avoid betting Godolphin horses for now? In the game of punting, where no one needs any more complexities, Cummings’ takeover of the operation from July 8 throws a spanner in the form.

    O’Shea famously brought over his methods and his horses struggled in the initial stretch of his career. As the regiments were followed, win and place strikerates improved, and O’Shea’s final season was statistically his best, even if falling short of universal top marks from critics.

    Glen Boss and John O'Shea

    Jockey Glen Boss (left) talks to trainer John O’Shea. (AAP Image/Sergio Dionisio)

    How will Cummings operate? Will he throw everything out and start afresh with his methods that were handed down from Bart?

    Father Anthony Cummings more or less answered to that, in comments to Fairfax.

    “The family all train the Cummings way, it’s just a matter of adapting those ways to the modern times,” said Anthony.

    It’s going to be hard to know how the Sheikh’s fleet will adapt, and if the operation can get success across the hugely important two-year-old and three-yard-old Group 1s that currently serve breeders as valuable shortcuts to stud.

    The next question will be the other Group 1s that matter – Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup, and the string of rich and traditional Sydney Group 1s, including the Golden Slipper, Queen Elizabeth, Golden Rose, and so on.

    No doubt managing director of Australian operations Henry Plumptre will give him some time to shine, and the wider Godolphin operation offers significant resources.

    From July 8, Cummings will take the reins, but it’ll be some time before we can judge performances from proven horses like Hartnell and the new crop of two and three-year-olds.

    Punting the royal blue will be a fascinating proposition in the near-term – will the plunges on their good horses continue, or will punters wait and see?