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SBD Global/June 12, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Henry Cecil Remembered As A Humble Sporting Icon After Succumbing To Cancer

Horse trainer HENRY CECIL, "one of the greatest Flat trainers of the post-War era and the man who masterminded Frankel’s 14 race unbeaten career," has died at age 70, according to Marcus Armytage of the London TELEGRAPH. He "had been fighting stomach cancer" since '07. Though Cecil's illness "had been the backdrop to the three seasons during which Frankel dominated the sport, he appeared indomitable." Every time he was written off, "he bounced back so his death still came as a big shock to the racing world." Racing Manager LORD GRIMTHORPE said, "His story is not only the most remarkable sporting one, it’s one of the most remarkable human stories. He enjoyed great success, a period in the wilderness and then climbed back up the greasy pole" (TELEGRAPH, 6/11).

50 YEARS OF RACING: In London, Andy Stephens reported Cecil "had been part of racing's rich fabric for almost half a century and was one of the industry's most respected handlers." The adoration of the public "was absolute." They "loved him for his skill, the bond he had with his horses, his emotion, quirky mannerisms, dry sense of humour and vulnerability." There was also "his self-deprecating nature and very English passion for roses." He won 25 domestic classics, including the Derby on four occasions, and "saddled a record-breaking 75 Royal Ascot winners." But "for all the great horses to pass through his care, the best was saved until last as Frankel demolished everything put in his path." There "were low moments, too." SHEIKH MOHAMMED removed all of his horses from Cecil's Warren Place yard in '95 and then, four years later, there was "the acrimonious split and subsequent out of court settlement with his then retained jockey" KIEREN FALLON. But Cecil "overcame his trials and tribulations and bounced back." Jockey TOM QUEALLY was his first jockey and "was aboard Frankel for each of his wins." Queally: "They don't make people like him anymore. He was a brilliant, brilliant trainer and a great man. Every other trainer aspires to be like him and no other trainer will come close" (LONDON TIMES, 6/11).

A HUMBLE MAN: In London, Chris Cook wrote on the Guardian's Talking Sport blog that "habitually self-deprecating, he often gave the impression in post-victory interviews that he had had very little to do with it and this was just another very talented horse which happened to have turned up in his stable." It was "surely one of the traits that so endeared him to the racing public but he also found it a convenient way to deflect media attention." Training "is a taxing job, even for a young person in perfect health, but the extent to which Cecil was coping with the debilitating effects of his condition and its treatment was made clear to racegoers at York last August." Appearing in public for the first time in two months, he "walked with a cane, kept his head covered with a black trilby and spoke in a croak" (GUARDIAN, 6/11).
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