When can we punt the Godolphin horses?

Tristan Rayner Editor

By Tristan Rayner, 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?

    Tristan Rayner
    Tristan Rayner

    Tristan is a writer, consultant, racing enthusiast and former Editor of The Roar who has turned the Melbourne Cup into a year-round study via racingtalk.com.au.

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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • May 24th 2017 @ 6:19pm
      Tarek said | May 24th 2017 @ 6:19pm | ! Report

      Yep I think there’s a lot of uncertainties here. James has the pedigree and will bring that young enthusiasm, but few would argue that he’s raw when it comes to managing the push and pull of a breeding operation and the hundreds of horses in work, out of work, spelling, yearlings… the staff are capable almost on auto-pilot, but getting big results requires that extra push

    • May 25th 2017 @ 3:08am
      Jeff dustby said | May 25th 2017 @ 3:08am | ! Report

      James Cummings another privileged child gifted by nepotism
      Second only to Emma freedman

      • Editor

        May 25th 2017 @ 6:44am
        Tristan Rayner said | May 25th 2017 @ 6:44am | ! Report

        While I’d guess having the last name Cummings would help, you don’t get the job without having worked hard and the runs on the board.

        Yes, it’s right to point out that experience counts but most people with a name have to prove themselves. Unless your last name is Trump? 😉

    • May 25th 2017 @ 9:47am
      no one in particular said | May 25th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      Has no where near the experience to take on a huge job. He has been handed well bred horses from large established owners (Gooree, Dato Chan) and his very little to show for it

    • May 25th 2017 @ 11:54am
      Razzar said | May 25th 2017 @ 11:54am | ! Report

      I will have the faith James will be good enough to take on this training task. And his runners, if theyre in the betting mix showing overs, i’ll be getting on. This kind of task can make a trainer zero in, and focus on the job at hand. And at his age, thats only a bonus.

      • May 25th 2017 @ 10:32pm
        Jeff dustby said | May 25th 2017 @ 10:32pm | ! Report

        Why do you have faith? You read the social pages ?

    • May 31st 2017 @ 5:05pm
      Steve Franklin said | May 31st 2017 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

      His grandfather would be turning over in his grave.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 2nd 2017 @ 7:08pm
      Nathan Blaylock said | June 2nd 2017 @ 7:08pm | ! Report

      “Bart would be turning in his grave” … What a load of rubbish. Horse training is a business with the objective of getting good horses. He’d be a fool to knock back the opportunity I’d say. Some spiteful comments here unsurprisingly but disregarding jealousy it’s hard to deny he’s a very promising trainer. Also he speaks outstandingly well which I always take as a good sign of intelligence.

      Some of the horses might be slow but I wouldn’t be blaming James Cummings if they are.

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