An Australian sporting icon, 12-time Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Bart Cummings passed away in the early hours of Sunday morning at the age of 87.

Bart with grandsons Edward (left) and James (right) in 2012. Photo: Steve Hart

Cummings son Anthony tweeted at 2.05am, “Dad died peacefully in his sleep”. Cummings co-trainer, grandson James, issued a statement shortly after on behalf of the family.

“James Bartholomew Cummings OAM passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of this morning, Sunday the 30th of August 2015, in his homestead at Prince’s Farm, Castlereagh,” it read.

“His final moments were spent with his family and wife of 61 years, Valmae, with whom he celebrated their anniversary on Friday.

“For Bart, aged 87, this was a fitting end. A husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather; a master trainer and a larger than life figure.

“We will miss you.”

Born and raised in South Australia, Cummings was the son of a trainer, and has his first Melbourne Cup experience when strapping the 1950 winner Comic Court for his father Jim.

Cummings took out his training licence in 1953 and won his first Group I race when Stormy Passage saluted in 1958.

Eight years later in 1965 it was the bonny mare Light Fingers that gave him his first win in the Melbourne Cup with Viewed being his last in 2008. Cummings has trained seven more winners of Australia’s greatest race than any other trainer.

In all he trained the winners of 258 Group I winners, more than 760 stakes races and almost 7000 races. His last victory came on Saturday at Rosehill when Sultry Feeling was victorious.

Cummings was made a member of the Order Of Australia in 1982 for his services to Australian racing. He was inducted into the Australian sporting Hall of Fame in 1991 and he was an inaugural inductee into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2001.

In 2007 the Australian racing Hall of Fame introduced legend statue and Phar Lap was the first to be granted the honour before Cummings joined our greatest racehorse in 2008.