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Luck's a fortune for old mates with true staying power







BART CUMMINGS hitched his stable to Malaysian property developer Dato Tan Chin Nam in the early 1970s when he saw him playing two-up, and whichever way the coins have landed since, the two have remained friends.


Dato Tan OBE ("Over Bloody Eighty," he joked) urged the other octogenarian to tell the yarn, and Cummings, who loves a short story, did: "He was having a drink in my bar in Adelaide years ago with Glynn Pretty, the jockey, and we were playing two-up. How many times did you win?"


"I won 10 times in a row," Dato Tan chipped in.


"I thought I better stick with this bloke," Cummings went on. "He's lucky."


The pair combined to win back-to-back Melbourne Cups with Think Big in 1974 and 1975. In the early 1990s, Cummings spent heavily buying horses as part of a tax minimisation scheme, but when the recession hit, he went broke. His friend, Dato Tan, helped bail him out. Dato Tan wrote in his memoirs, titled Never Say I Assume: "With a true friend, one does not seek to ask for help when in need. Help is offered even before one asks. In life, there are very few friends of that calibre."


Cummings repaid his mate with Saintly in the 1996 Melbourne Cup and with plenty of other wins with horses in the Dato Tan's chessboard colours; and with a fourth Cup yesterday - a record for an owner.


Dato Tan said of Cummings: "Bart, he's got long pockets and short arms." Cummings said: "Where did I learn that?" "Not from me," shot back a laughing owner. "I hope I'm repaying myself and him," the trainer said.


If Cummings is the king of one-liners, Dato Tan is a riddler extraordinaire. He said of the relationship: "Here's to me, here's to you, may we never disagree. And in the event we do, here's to me and to hell with you."


The 82-year-old has retired but is still involved in family property development and is one of Malaysia's richest men. His children were educated in Melbourne - they now have children of their own - and daughters Tan Lei Teng and Tan Lei Cheng and son Tan Boon Lee were at Flemington yesterday.


"We've been here a few days, we all live in Kuala Lumpur," Lei Teng said, explaining that the win was special for her father. "When he turned 80 he said, 'My wish now is to win a fourth Melbourne Cup.' He wanted to be the only man in the world to have won four … this is a dream come true today."


Dato Tan said he always had faith in Cummings and Viewed, and had backed his horse because of this, but had taken $31 early rather than the $41 on offer yesterday. He said punting was not important to him now, but the first thing Cummings asked him in the mounting yard was what price did he get.


Cummings was emotional, despite his usual hay fever excuse for wet eyes. "Bart is like a bundle of nerves underneath," Dato Tan said. "I am as cool as a cucumber." Bloodstock agent Duncan Ramage, who buys for Dato Tan, paid $50,000 for Viewed when he saw the rain-soaked young horse in a paddock at Wisemans Ferry on the Hawkesbury River. The now five-year-old earned $3.3 million yesterday on top of the half-a-million already won.


Dato Tan said each of his four Cup wins was different: the Think Big pair were shocks; he was "really confident" about Saintly; and "this one I'm quite experienced". Another riddle was raised in answering a question about the enduring relationship. "For better, for worse," Dato Tan said. "Better the devil you know than the angel you don't know."


Cummings followed with: "I've never heard a bad word said about him … he's a benevolent owner, never complains and never asks me to explain anything because he knows what we do is correct for the horses."


Dato Tan said that this Cup was the only time he had made a suggestion and that was simply to ensure the horse got a free run after interrupted runs in the Caulfield Cup and Mackinnon Stakes.


Saintly has always been regarded as Chin Nam's favourite. Has Viewed made inroads? "When you've got a family, everyone is dear to you. Everyone has his merits and this one is so underrated … he shouldn't be more than 20-1."


Nor should the old mates in any betting about another Cup win.





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