His surname is synonymous with the Melbourne Cup and James Cummings is trying something different with Hartnell in a bid to win the famous race for the first time.
Cummings is the grandson of the late Bart Cummings who is remembered as ‘The Cups King’ having trained the winner of a record 12 Melbourne Cups.
Bart’s father Jim also trained a Melbourne Cup winner with Comic Court 67 years ago.
“It adds even a little bit more to me because of the family tradition, but that’s hard to imagine for everybody else involved because the race is so significant,” Cummings said.
In his first spring carnival as the head trainer for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation, James Cummings saddles up topweight Hartnell on Tuesday and is sending the gelding in off an unorthodox preparation.
Hartnell finished 15th in 2015 and third last year as favourite when trained by John O’Shea.
Both times he went in after running in the Cox Plate 10 days earlier.
Cummings sprung somewhat of a surprise when it was confirmed last week the Melbourne Cup was still on the agenda for Hartnell who has not raced since his ninth in the Caulfield Stakes (2000m) on October 14.
“He’s freshened up and looks like he’s responded nicely to a few easy weeks since the Caulfield Stakes,” Cummings said.
“More importantly he has trained more and more like a two miler and raced like one over the past month and a half.
“And he arrives for the first time in a Melbourne Cup on fresh legs with a preparation where we’re clearly trying something different.”
Cummings believes things can unfold nicely for Hartnell from barrier 12 and is not concerned by the seven-year-old’s 57.5kg.
“I’m comfortable with that, actually,” he said.
Cummings said Hartnell won the Queens Vase over 3200m in England in 2014 with six weeks between races and added all his fresh runs in Australia had been impressive.
He said having raced in two Melbourne Cups and a Sydney Cup, the horse knows how to stay.
“So he’s very much in the rhythm of a horse like (2007 Melbourne Cup winner) Efficient who didn’t need to be taught to stay in that preparation, he just needed to arrive in the race fit and ready to grow a leg back to Flemington and out to two miles,” he said.
Cummings’ trained sixth placegetter Precedence in 2014 when he was in partnership with his late grandfather.
A Melbourne Cup win would obviously mean a lot.
“The Cummings tradition is there,” he said.
“But I haven’t thought about it too much. I’ve just been focusing on the processes and ensuring the horse is right and the whole company will enjoy being a part of the whole experience.”