Sir Henry Cecil: Paying Homage to the Master Trainer

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Henry Cecil -his name just conjures up magical memories of a true racing great that has stamped his class all over the racing world with a glorious charm.  A truly legendary horse trainer who has been at the pinnacle of the sport for over 30years.

The first chapter of his racing life started in 1964, at a time when for four years he was assistant to his stepfather at the Freemason Lodge stable.  He then took out his own license in 1969 and won his first race with “Celestial Cloud” at Ripon on the 17th May, 1969, which was obviously the first of many, many victories.  The following year he won his first Royal Ascot race with “Parthenon”, and when he won the Queen Alexandra, who could have guessed that would be the start of such a success filled career?

His first Classic winner came a few years later in the 1973 Irish 1000 Guineas with “Cloonagn”, quickly followed by a first English Classic winner in 1975 with “Bolkonski” in the 2000 Guineas, the first English Derby crème de crème event win of the Sport of Kings was in 1985 with “Slip Anchor” for owner Lord Howard De Walden. In 1976, he took over reins at the glorious Warren Place in Newmarket from fellow legendary trainer Noel Murless – Henry still trains at Warren Place to this day.

Overall, he has won a staggering four derbies, four 2000 Guineas, four St. Leger’s, eight Oaks and six 1000 Guineas.  Consider also a mind-blowing total of 25 domestic classics, which alone is an amazing achievement.  Henry won countless races around the world including a Canadian International, 2 Breeders’ Cup races, 6 Irish Classics, 70 Royal Ascot winners and 14 group 1’s in France to name but a few.  Owner Prince Almed Bin Salmon once said, “Winning Classics is easy. Just buy a horse and send it to Henry Cecil”.

Cecil has trained some of the most outstanding horses ever to grace the hollowed turf:  “Frankel” – will go down as one of the best ever horses, finishing his career unbeaten with 14 wins with 10 group 1, and most by a very. very wide margin.  “Timeform” rated him an amazing 147. “Oh So Sharp” won the triple crown of 1000g, Oaks and St Leger in 1985 on the back of an immense effort by horse and trainer. “Bosra Sham” was the apple of Henry’s eye, and he loved her many niggling injuries stopped her producing her real form more often than not, but under his genius guidance she won 6 group 1’s and produced many top class performances.

He has a special ability to train fillies, and boasts 14 English classics.  He would let them progress, was patient and kind, and that resulted in him getting the utmost out of horses he trained.  I can easily name another 50 top-class horses, but he didn’t just train horses – he also made jockeys with some real superstar’s riding for him over the years:  US star Steve Cauthen,Pat Eddery,Lester Piggott,Kieran Fallon,Joe Mercer and current stable jockey Tom Queally all rode many winners and group races for him.

Between July 2000 and October 2006 Henry amazingly didn’t win any group 1, and in 2005 only had 12 total winners all season.  Many media outlets were preempting his demise, but again he fought with a tiger-like spirit to get back to the big-time.  Filly “Light Shift” won the 2007 Oaks and then came along the super horse “Frankel“, and the rest was history as they say.

He is loved by the racing community for his pure genius and skill to train horses at the highest level.  He is a very classy individual and is always calm and softly spoken, never entering into any dramatics.  Instead he let’s the horses do the talking, or running, which they did on so many occasions.  In the twilight of his career now, Sir Henry Cecil has been battling  cancer for a few years, but just keeps fighting and producing the fairytale -like outcome’s!  Having missed Frankel’s win in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood because of chemotherapy treatment, he returned at York for the Juddmonte International, where over 30,000 gave a standing ovation to the master horseman. Afterwards he said, “I feel 20years better” with a smile.  Henry was deservedly knighted in 2011 for services to horse racing, and will go down as one of the greatest trainers of all-time.

Sir Henry, respect – you are a genius

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photo credit: CharlesFred via photopin cc