By Duane Ranger
“This is the pinnacle of a lifetime in trotting. I am overwhelmed.”
Those were the words from Mr Warren Cummins, who was inducted into Racing Queensland’s Hall-of-Fame at the 2019 TAB Queensland Harness Awards ceremony on Sunday night.
Two days after receiving the award at Moda Events, Portside, Mr Cummins, was in his Ipswich garden still coming to terms with what he achieved.
“It’s only really starting to sink in. It was an absolute honour to be bestowed with a life membership. Certainly, one of the highlights of my life.
“Anything I’ve done in life I’ve always given 110 per cent, whether it be my family, at work, at the track, or on the Chamber of the Queensland Royal Show. I am very humbled,” said Mr Cummins, who was almost brought to tears.
Now 81, Mr Cummins was born in Ipswich and educated at Christian Brothers Convent School, and then Christian Brothers College. He was obsessed with horses from a very early age.
“Because we lived in town, Dad had every excuse in the book not to get me a horse, but thankfully I had friends with big back yards and managed to get around it that way.
“I actually trained and drove my first standardbred when I was 17, but I never had much luck. I just enjoyed the thrill of being around, and working with horses,” Mr Cummins said.
“I also had gallopers, but never had any wins there either,” he added.
When he left High School, Mr Cummins applied to study at Gatton College, but because they had a “full book” he joined the Railways where he became an apprentice fitter.
“I was a fitter for nine years and then joined the Police where I worked in the licensing branch, where I chased down bookies,” he winked.
Mr Cummins spent 10 years in the Police Force, but due to health problems changed careers and ventured into real estate, and later owned his own Ipswich business.
“When I was in the Police, I was approached to prepare horses for various parades and shows. I actually entered my first Show in the ring events at Marburg in about 1954. From that trotting event I went on to get my licenses to train and drive,” Mr Cummins said.
“I think Lord Brown was probably the best of a poor lot I had. I think he placed a few times and ran second in a Sires Stakes race at Rocklea one year.”
Mr Cummins joined the former Ipswich harness Racing Club and the Ipswich Show Society in his early 20s (late 1950s).
“I remember I was married to Nola, so I must have ben about 22. I served on the Ipswich HRC committee as secretary, vice-president, and then president, from then, until we lost our track in the late 1970s.
“I remember we ran a few day meetings at Albion Park until we closed. I was then approached to serve on the Albion Park committee, the Racing and Appeals Tribunal, and then did two years on the Racing Queensland Board.
“The Board was a two-year appointment, and then I served on it again for another couple of years just under 10 years ago,” Mr Cummins said.
He also served on the Sires Stakes committee and was the country clubs’ representative. That was an elected position.
“I did that for at least a decade,” said Mr Cummins, who is also the patron at Ipswich-Marburg Harness Racing.
“That amalgamation too place not long after the Ipswich track closed,” he added.
Mr Cummins has also been a long-time councillor on the Chamber of the Brisbane Royal Show until his retirement 13 years ago.
“The retiring age was 72 but there were already enough ‘old men’ on the chamber, so I gave some young blood a chance when I was 68.
“I am still an avid regular at Shows everywhere throughout Queensland, and New South Wales, and not long ago returned from judging standardbreds, hacks, and ponies at the Auckland Show in Greenlane, New Zealand.”
Mr Cummins said he had seen a lot of changes in more than six decades of equine racing and administration. Although he believed the prize-money was never enough, he said he was proud of the way the Sires Stakes Series had developed over the years.
“The Sires Stakes have provided lifelines for young horses and helped out a lot of breeders and hobby trainers.
“TV has also brought racing into almost every home. I’m very proud of the way Marburg has developed. We can get more than 200 at some meetings, which many people say is more than what Albion Park attracts.
“If there is one thing I would like to see, that would be the development of more harness tracks in the north.”
Mr Cummins said he had no idea that he was going to be inducted into the Hall-of-Fame, but was a little bit suspicious when organisers insisted he attend the four-hour function.
“I’ve seen a few ‘old boys’ attend such functions over the years and then be presented with awards. I wasn’t certain but I did wonder.
“Nola had known for a week and it was the only time in our long marriage that she has kept a secret from me,” he laughed.
The Cummins’ have two children – Mandy and Mark, and two grandchildren, Thomas and Samantha.
He said he enjoyed spending his retirement with his wife attending Shows, watching the trots, and travelling the north coast in their motor home.
“We can get up to 27,000 people at the Marburg Show and have hosted 110 races in nine days at Brisbane. That has to be great publicity for harness racing.
“I’m very proud that I have played a small part in that over the years,” he said.
Mr Cummins was presented his award by Doug Freeman, Sky Racing’s General Manager for Group Special Projects.