Cummings races towards magic ton as stars return
GODOLPHIN'S James Cummings is poised to become only the sixth trainer to prepare 100 Sydney winners in a season.
Cummings moved to 96 wins with a double at the Warwick Farm midweek from Special Snap and Watchdog, taking his stable's season earnings over $30 million.
With four Sydney meetings remaining before the end of the 2018/19 season, Cummings has a very real opportunity to create racing history.
He can edge closer to the magical milestone at Royal Randwick on Saturday with this three runners, Singing Sand (Book Spring Hospitality Handicap), Gongs (PFD Food Services Handicap) and Taniko (ATC Member Tours Handicap).
The only other trainers to break the 100-win barrier in a Sydney season are all members of Australian racing's elite Hall of Fame.
Tommy Smith managed the feat 20 times during his record run of 33 consecutive Sydney trainers' premierships. Chris Waller is about to claim his ninth successive Sydney premiership, passing 100 wins each season.
Gai Waterhouse (eight) and John Hawkes (seven) regularly notched a century of wins in a season when they dominated Sydney racing from 1994 to 2009.
Brian Mayfield-Smith is the only other trainer to achieve the feat, with 108 wins in 1987-88.
Cummings's stellar season isn't enough to claim a premiership title - Waller is a runaway leader with 168 wins - but the trainer is more than satisfied with his stable results, which has included eight Group 1 wins.
"The season as a whole has exceeded expectations,'' Cummings said. "It's a really good reflection on how we have got the whole operation humming.
"What has gained us enough recognition to have made it all the way to Newmarket in England is the performance of our two-year-olds. They have won over $7.5 million prizemoney, which has got to be a world record.''
Cummings prepared the Golden Slipper quinella with Kiamichi and Microphone, ATC Sires Produce Stakes winner and third placegetter with Microphone gaining revenge over Kiamichi, Magic Millions 2yo Classic with Exhilarates and a number of other juvenile stakes wins.
Special Snap's maiden win at the midweeks was the trainer's 20th individual two-year-old winner of 35 races.
"A strong two-year-old crop can only mean good things for our three-year-old season next season and into the future,'' Cummings said.
"But we had good results with our older horses, too, like Alizee, Trekking, Osborne Bulls and Hartnell, plus the imports, yet again, have underlined the success of the whole system.
"We had three imports, Avilius, Best Of Days and Home Of The Brave, everyone of them has won at least a Group 2 race.
"This time 12 months ago we had not saddled up any of those three in a race here so between them they have won (owner) Sheikh Mohammed a lot of prizemoney.
"I've got a great team around me and although we are not always going to have years as big as this season, but if we can keep putting our horses in the moment to be competitive in the feature races, that is all we can do.''
Cummings is keen to cap his memorable season by getting to 100 Sydney wins and is hopeful of snaring a winner or two at Randwick.
In early betting, the Godolphin trio are at double-figure odds for their respective races but their trainer is expecting each to be competitive.
"Gongs won two starts ago, the soft track is more in her favour, although she has to run the 1400m right out,'' he said. "She put in a really strong 1300m at the end of last preparation so I shouldn't be too concerned but I have that little reservation in the back of my mind.
"Taniko is really going well and Tommy Berry has been keen to see her back on a soft surface as the heavy going has been against her.
"Singing Sand has to make the leap to Saturday city grade but it was hard not to be impressed with her win at the provincials. I will dual accept with her for Kembla Grange but I'd like to give her a crack at Randwick.''
Blue army gearing up for spring
It's still mid-winter but some of Godolphin's main spring carnival contenders will be strutting their stuff in barrier trials at Rosehill Gardens on Friday.
"This is an important day for us,'' trainer James Cummings said. "We've got a big team going to the trials and our focus is already on the spring ahead.''
The first of 15 heats is over 900m with Cummings saddling up six of the nine starters. They are Group 1 winners Alizee, Avilius, Best Of Days, Hartnell and Kiamichi, plus the promising young sprinter Roheryn.
Futurity Stakes winner Alizee is being considered for Godolphin's slot in the $14 million The Everest during the spring. Cummings has been taken by how well the mare has come up for the new season.
"She is 'smoking' along nicely,'' he said. "I think I should have her ready to go next month. I like the idea of running her first-up in the Missile Stakes (Rosehill, August 10). She won the Expressway Stakes at Rosehill first-up last preparation.
"As for the Everest, it will take care of itself. The right horse will come along and we will know it when the time comes.''
Avilius, who took the Ranvet Stakes-Tancred Stakes Group 1 double during autumn, is likely to be aimed at the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup this spring.
"He has come up well, he looks in impeccable condition and is in a good frame of mind,'' the trainer said.
Hartnell, who won the Epsom Handicap and was placed in another four Group 1 races during the season, is a rising nine-year-old but retains his enthusiasm for racing, according to Cummings. "He's training like a two-year-old, he's an amazing horse,'' he said.
Cantala Stakes winner Best Of Days is pleasing the stable in preparation for a return to racing later next month.
Kiamichi, who held off stablemate Microphone to win the Golden Slipper, is ready to pick up where she left off in the spring.
"This filly is so well in herself, she is very fresh, absolutely squealing,'' he said. "We have a couple of options with her but I'm looking forward to getting her back to the races.''
Roheryn doesn't have the big-race credentials of his stablemates in Friday's trial but the young sprinter is held in very high regard by Godolphin.
"I like Roheryn, he is very promising,'' Cummings said. "He is only rated in the low 70s but the thing about him is he is talented.
"I don't want to get ahead of myself as he has to prove himself in one of the toughest jurisdictions around, which is Sydney racing, but if he can keep coming through the grades, he is not that far behind some of those really nice rising four-year-olds.''
Cummings is also trialling some of his best two-year-olds, including Exhilarates (Magic Millions winner), Pin Sec (Black Opal), La Tene (VRC Sires Produce Stakes), Bivouac, Flit and Athiri at the Rosehill trials session.