Bart back on track after illness

There was a welcome sight at Canterbury on Wednesday as legendary trainer Bart Cummings returned to the races for the first time in more than three months.

Cummings hadn’t been seen on a Sydney racetrack since Golden Slipper day on April 3, but he didn’t waste time training a winner on his return.
The master selected Wednesday’s low-key meeting for his comeback after illness, confident progressive three-year-old Markab would mark the occasion with victory in the Winning Post Restaurant Handicap (1580m).

Markab didn’t let his trainer down, running on down the outside to win by half a length.

“It’s good to be back and I picked the right day to return,” Cummings said.

“I thought this horse was close to a good thing and it turned out to be alright.”

The 82-year-old also showed he had lost none of his sense of humour.

“I thought it would shorten on the tote when people saw me here and it actually drifted. Doesn’t say much for my judgment,” he said.

Cummings spent time in hospital during April and May recovering from pneumonia but said he was feeling good and was glad to be back at the track doing what he knew best.

“Ten kilos I lost,” he said.

“But I feel as good as gold and I had to pick the right day to return.”

The winner of 12 Melbourne Cups and 260 Group One races, Cummings has yet to return to early morning trackwork.

“It’s a bit too cold they (doctors) say, I have to wait until it warms up a bit,” he said.

Blake Shinn won the 2008 Melbourne Cup on the Cummings-trained Viewed and produced a top ride from barrier one on Markab, peeling the lightly-raced son of Galileo to the extreme outside prior to the home turn to let him work home strongly.

“It’s a pretty special win for his (Cummings) first day back,” Shinn said.

“It might give him a bit of a boost looking towards the spring.”

Cummings heads into the new racing season starting next month on the back of an outstanding season when he finished as the country’s leading Group One trainer with seven majors.

They included the Cox Plate with So You Think, Caulfield Cup with Viewed, VRC Oaks with Faint Perfume, Australian Guineas with Rock Classic and Queensland Derby with Dariana.

The likes of So You Think, Faint Perfume, Dariana and Rock Classic will spearhead Cummings’ spring team this year and are all progressing well.

So You Think, Faint Perfume and Dariana are in Melbourne already while Rock Classic is still in Sydney and trialled at Randwick on Monday.

However, Cummings said he was concerned that four of his horses had suffered leg injuries on the training track at Randwick in recent weeks which could prompt him to send Rock Classic to join the rest of his spring team in Melbourne earlier than first expected.