CHAMPION racehorse trainer Sir Henry Cecil, who triumphed a record 75 times at Royal Ascot, has died of cancer at the age of 70.
• Sir Henry Cecil dies after succumbing to stomach cancer
• 70-year-old orchestrated successes of Frankel and 25 British Classic winners
Aberdeenshire-born Sir Henry, who has been called “the greatest trainer of all time” gained legendary status for his success with Frankel, widely regarded as the best racehorse of the past 40 years.
Knighted in 2011 for his services to horse racing, Sir Henry had been battling stomach cancer for some time.
He is understood to have been in a private hospital in Cambridge suffering from a chest infection at the time of his death, which was announced in a statement on the Newmarket trainer’s official website yesterday.
“It is with great sadness that Warren Place Stables confirms the passing of Sir Henry Cecil earlier this morning,” it said.
“Following communication with the British Horseracing Authority, a temporary licence will be allocated to Lady Cecil.”
Jockeys at all four UK meetings yesterday wore black armbands as a mark of respect. A minute’s silence was also arranged at the fixtures – at Worcester, Fontwell, Lingfield and Salisbury.
Sir Henry was inspired in his racing career by his stepfather.
His father, Henry Cecil, younger brother of the 3rd Lord Amherst of Hackney, was killed in action with the Parachute Regiment in North Africa two weeks before his birth in 1943. While he was a baby his mother, Rohays Cecil, married Captain Cecil Boyd-Rochfort, who was British flat racing champion trainer five times.
Educated at Sunningdale School and at Canford School in Dorset, Sir Henry and his twin brother David started work at the Earl of Derby’s Woodland Stud in Newmarket, Suffolk.
Sir Henry received his training licence in 1969 and celebrated his first British Classic win in 1975 with Bolkonski – ridden by Italian jockey Frankie Dettori’s father Gianfranco – in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
He would go on to have 25 British Classic winners. However, his greatest success came towards the end of his career, with Frankel, the highest-rated racehorse in the world. Frankel was unbeaten in 14 starts before retirement last year.
Sir Henry spoke movingly last year of how Frankel had helped to sustain him in his fight against stomach cancer.
“I cannot believe in the history of horse racing that there has ever been a better racehorse,” he said.
British Horseracing Authority chief executive Paul Bittar paid tribute to Sir Henry, describing him as “one of the great characters and one of the great trainers in British racing for a long time”.