Henry Cecil, by Brough Scott
Sunday 21 April 2013
"That's Henry Cecil… he should have retired years ago." The words of a young trainer drifting across the Heath at Newmarket must have stung, but during Cecil's dog days in the Noughties it was not an isolated view.
For mighty indeed had been the fall: having taken over in 1969 from his stepfather, Sir Cecil Boyd-Rochfort, the Queen's trainer, by 1987 Cecil was champion trainer for the seventh time after producing 180 winners, the tally including a Derby, St Leger and seven Royal Ascot successes; in contrast, 2005 brought only 12 winners, none very prestigious. He was suffering from cancer, had financial problems and his two marriages had failed. But while his health is still fragile, the past few seasons have seen an unlikely renaissance, culminating in the feats of the wonder horse Frankel.
In Brough Scott he has found the perfect biographer, who knows everyone worth knowing in the racing world and can also write. Scott's definitive account of this shy, complicated dandy with an instinctive genius for training is at heart sympathetic, though he does not skate over his subject's flaws. Yet even Scott struggles to explain the almost mystical affection Cecil inspires in the public; when he won his first Classic for seven years, the 2007 Oaks, the crowd burst into a spontaneous "Three cheers for Henry Cecil!".
Scott deserves the same accolade for producing a classic book about a Classic legend.
Published in hardback by Racing Post, £20
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
ReviewThese heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Salisbury ranked seventh-best city in the world to visit in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015
- 2 Disney announces new female-led film Moana
- 3 Banksy not arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Disney announces new female-led film Moana
Eight seconds of white noise is top of the Canadian iTunes chart because people love Taylor Swift that much
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt is intriguing as unsympathetic war hero
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - TV review: Sensitive, silly and sensational
Peep Show series 9: Final season to air on Channel 4 in 2015
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Jose Manuel Barroso warns David Cameron against making 'historic mistake' over immigration reforms