A tribute to Sir Henry Cecil (1943 – 2013)
Sir Henry Cecil was undoubtedly one of the greatest trainers ever. His tally of 25 classic winners is unsurpassed since 1900 and in 2012, he crowned his career by training the “wonder horse” Frankel.
Cecil was born in Aberdeen, with a twin brother, David. Henry Cecil’s father, also Henry, was killed in action just two weeks later with the Parachute Regiment in North Africa. His mother, Rohays, the daughter of a baronet, moved the family to Newmarket subsequently when she married for a second time. Her second husband was an Irish-born racing trainer named Captain Cecil Boyd-Rochfort, the owner of the Freemason Lodge stables.
The young Cecil is said to have shown “little interest in racing during his schooldays” but in 1969, he took out his first training licence at the age of 26.
The trainer had his first major British Classic win with Bolonski in the 1975 renewal of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and from there onwards his career prospered. His stables, Warren Place, acquired through his first marriage in 1966 to Julie Murless, daughter of the legendary trainer Sir Noel Murless, attracted many of the world’s most distinguished owners. Amongst those who placed their horses in his care were Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum and Prince Khalid Abdullah.
His career milestones included six 1000 Guineas winners, eight Oaks winners and 75 successes at Royal Ascot but Cecil will be primarily remembered for training Frankel, “the best racehorse worldwide of the past 40 years”.
Frankel “demolished everything put in his path” and was retired to stud with an unbeaten 14-race record. After his last race, Cecil commented:
“Frankel is the best I have trained, the best I have seen and the best horse ever”.
Cecil sadly developed stomach cancer in 2006 but to the end he showed courage and focused on the love of his sport. The Guardian’s obituary this afternoon noted:
“The ravages of chemotherapy and his difficulty in digesting food saw his weight drop dramatically. Yet at 6am every morning, he would brave the sharp East Anglian winds to watch his string galloping, and to welcome his friends”.
Sir Henry Cecil will be hugely missed by the racing community. They sadly don’t make them like him anymore.
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