FORMER stable jockey Steve Cauthen has hailed Sir Henry Cecil as a “genius” following the legendary trainer’s death yesterday morning.
Cecil lost his long battle against stomach cancer at the age of 70, prompting a deluge of tributes to the Master of Warren Place. Responsible for 25 British Classic winners and crowned champion trainer ten times, Cecil was also the leading handler by some way at Royal Ascot with a record 75 successes.
Knighted by the Queen in 2011, Cecil’s later years were illuminated by the great Frankel, officially the best horse in the world and unbeaten in 14 starts before retirement.
Cauthen enjoyed six memorable and highly successful years as his stable jockey, including many Classic triumphs and the Triple Crown success of the filly Oh So Sharp in 1985.
“It’s a great loss to the sport and to everybody who knew him,” said the American. “He was such a great guy – different, special, a genius.
“We had six great years together. The first year we had an amazing run when Slip Anchor won the Derby and Oh So Sharp won the Triple Crown for fillies.
“There were many others – Old Vic who won the French and Irish Derby, Reference Point, Indian Skimmer – there were so many of them. He had a great sense of humour. He was a super intelligent guy and really knew how to place his horses. He tried to have fun. The atmosphere most of the time I was up at Warren Place was just fantastic. It was a team effort but everyone looked to him. He was the one making decisions about where to run the horses. The way he trained was great and the way he placed them was fantastic.
“He went through a rough patch but he came back. To have a horse like Frankel and finish off his career when he wasn’t in great health was incredible. He did a perfect job in making Frankel the horse he was.”
Racing remembered Cecil with a minute’s silence before each of the meetings yesterday and the mood was sombre as a true great of the sport was mourned. Cecil enjoyed immense success at his home track in Newmarket, saddling no fewer than nine Guineas winners during his career.
Royal Ascot takes place next week and Cecil dominated the meeting like no other. Johnny Weatherby, The Queen’s representative at the track, said in a statement: “It is very sad to hear of the loss of Sir Henry Cecil this morning. He has been an intrinsic part of racing and Royal Ascot for the whole of his career. No one had more success at the meeting and his 75 winners are a long way clear of anybody else. Our thoughts are with his family and they will be throughout the whole of next week.”
Tom Queally was Cecil’s first jockey in recent years and was aboard Frankel for each of his wins.
He told Racing UK: “Everybody in racing will be saddened to hear of his passing. This is going to affect an awful lot of people. I’m gutted to hear it. He was very easy to ride for. He was a great trainer and an even greater person.
“Everything he did was class – he was just class, everything about him. Every other trainer aspires to be like him and no other trainer will come close.
“He had a great empathy with horses and was a people person as well. He made a serious business feel like fun – I’m sure any member of his staff will tell you the same.
“Simplicity wins, and he kept things simple. They don’t make people like him anymore. He was a brilliant, brilliant trainer and a great man.”
Queally believes Frankel’s career admirably demonstrated Cecil’s training skills. He added: “He really, really excelled with him [Frankel]. He made all he right calls and all the right choices with him. He retired unbeaten and that was his [Cecil’s] jewel in the crown.”
Mick Kinane rode several big race winners for Cecil, including the 1993 Derby aboard Commander In Chief, and was fulsome in his praise.
“He was a lovely man to ride for and had a great way of making you feel at ease, even when the stakes were high,” Kinane told At The Races. “I have to say he was very instrumental in launching my international career as, in 1989, he gave me the spare ride in the Irish Oaks on Alydaress and things never looked back from there.
“I won a couple of King Georges for him [Belmez and King’s Theatre] and the Derby [Commander In Chief] so I had some great success with him.
“The first time you win a big race you never forget and Commander In Chief was my first Derby. He was the second string on the day but he wasn’t really as he was unexposed.
“His horses were always like the man himself, straightforward and easy to deal with, they were always very genuine and would do their utmost for you, just like he would.
“It was fitting the he ended up with a horse like Frankel when he faced his biggest battle himself, it was great he gave him so much pleasure.
“Breakfast at Warren Place was a lovely place to be, he had a big family and I’m sure he’ll be sorely missed.”
Current champion jockey Richard Hughes was linked to Cecil when he was owner Khalid Abdullah’s retained rider. Hughes said: “It’s very sad. His strength was he didn’t get too technical.
“Some read speed figures and form books but he wasn’t like that. He trained his horse, he didn’t mind what was in the race as, if they were good enough, they would win.”
An emotional Pat Eddery remembered his time riding for the master of Warren Place. “He was a great trainer, he was a genius and I was very fortunate to have ridden for him and it’s just really sad,” he told At The Races. “He was never overpowering. He was quite an easy person to get on with.”
Six-times champion Kieren Fallon, one of an elite band of Cecil stable jockeys, described him as a “legend”. Fallon added: “My first year with him, I was champion jockey. We had a great rapport and he will be sadly missed,” he told Sky Sports News. “We won the Derby with Oath, the Guineas with Sleepytime, we had a lot of great success. I think Frankel will be on everybody’s mind, the way he trained that horse, one of the greatest horses we’ve ever seen. It’s a very sad day, he will be fondly missed.”
Sir Michael Stoute, champion Flat trainer on ten occasions, paid Cecil the ultimate tribute by describing him as the best trainer the UK has ever had.
“I do not believe this country has ever produced a better trainer than Henry,” said the Freemason Lodge handler.
“I know there has never been one so loved.
“And then there was his toughness and courage which had to be seen to be believed as he continued to supervise the training of his horses. Some man.”
Sir Henry’s Horses
No-one could have predicted what he would do in the 2,000 Guineas as he produced a jaw-dropping effort. His performance at that year’s Royal Ascot was just as staggering, after which he struck in the Sussex Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. He had another five Group 1 triumphs in 2012 and signed off with an unblemished 14-race record and with the official status as the best horse on the planet.
OH SO SHARP
Famously won the fillies’ triple crown of 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger in 1985 with Steve Cauthen in the saddle.
Probably the best filly Cecil ever trained, Indian Skimmer lowered the colours of the mighty Miesque in the Prix de Diane of 1987.
One of a select group of just five fillies to have completed the treble of English, Irish and Yorkshire Oaks.
A huge, powerful colt, and a winner at Royal Ascot, he was never better than the day he won the Juddmonte International in 1999, where he was simply spectacular.
Owned by Lord Howard de Walden, his 1985 Derby-winning effort was one of the great Epsom performances.
Won the 1,000 Guineas and Champion Stakes in 1996, and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes the following year.
Sheikh Mohammed’s Old Vic was brilliant in winning the French and Irish Derbies in 1989.
A supreme miler, Kris was second to Tap On Wood in the 1979 2,000 Guineas but proved his worth with wins that year in the St James’s Palace Stakes, Sussex Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Beaten just twice in a 16-race career.
A great of the staying division, landing the Ascot Gold Cup in 1981 and 1982 for Lester Piggott. Beaten just a head in the 1982 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Piled up six Group 1 wins, including a first Breeders’ Cup win for the trainer in the 2009 Filly & Mare Turf.
Won the 1987 Derby and St Leger. Still the last Epsom winner to go on to win at Doncaster in the season’s final Classic.
Her 2007 Oaks win was a landmark, returning her trainer to his rightful place at the top. Cecil, like most in attendance, fought back tears afterwards. A great sporting moment. Without Light Shift the Frankel story may never have happened.