Racing: Sham masks the misery for Cecil

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The Independent Online
Bosra Sham suggested yesterday she may be Henry Cecil's next Classic winner by capturing the Fillies' Mile here. He needed that pleasant thought to carry him through the winter at the end of a weekend which may herald an end to his great influence.

Cecil has collected training titles and Classics down the years like other people collect milk from the doorstep, thanks largely in recent times to an association with Sheikh Mohammed. The Sheikh, though, is not happy with the arrangements at Warren Place and the conveyor belt which has seen such as Oh So Sharp, Indian Skimmer and Diminuendo represent the yard in maroon and white silks may be switched off. Dubai's crown prince is displeased with the input at the Newmarket yard of Cecil's second wife, Natalie, so displeased that this normally reticent figure called a press conference here on Saturday to inform others of his thoughts.

"I have nothing against Henry Cecil, I have great respect for him and I think he's one of the best in Europe, a very good trainer," the Sheikh said with an inflection that guaranteed a but was coming. "He has been the champion trainer many times, but he needs the tools -the owners, the horses and the good people -around him.

"If he allows people who know nothing about horses to interfere, then that's bad. I want him to train my horses that are with him, not somebody else. Not somebody who knows very little about the thoroughbred racehorse."

Sheikh Mohammed did not mention Mrs Cecil by name, but thought it silly that the identity of the accused was not obvious. "Everyone in Newmarket knows," he said.

The Sheikh does not think of Henry and Natalie as being as mutually necessary as, say, Richard and Judy, and this puts the trainer in a most difficult position, especially as his wife is not thought to be in a mood of conciliation. There are probably better people to cross in racing than Sheikh Mohammed.

A reliably insouciant character, Cecil appeared wounded yesterday as his hands trembled slightly in a press conference. He was in no mind to discuss relations with Sheikh Mohammed at the end of a period which has seen both him and his wife loudly bemoaning the loss of their top two- year-old, Mark Of Esteem, to the owner's Godolphin operation this winter. "No comment," the trainer said, which is probably what he wishes he had also said when tackled about Mark Of Esteem's departure.

The politics overshadowed a quite stunning performance from Bosra Sham, who is now as low as 7-2 (with Ladbrokes) for the 1996 1,000 Guineas. The sister to Hector Protector needs to be good as she cost 520,000 guineas, the highest price for a yearling in Europe, last year. "She's a very nice filly and a lovely prospect for next year," Cecil said. "She behaves beautifully and she's very switched off. She's probably the best I've had for a few years."

The best America has in the saddle at the moment is Corey Nakatani, who proved his talent travels well when successful on Cool Jazz in the Diadem Stakes, his first ride in Britain. It should be that Nakatani was able to stand a round of drinks last night. He has won 235 races in America this year, earning over $12m in pots along the way.

Henry Cecil was planning a low-key celebration after running up the family standard (the one that flies over Warren Place after a Group One victory) for the first time this season. "Natalie and I will have a good cup of tea when I get home," he said. Sheikh Mohammed is not known to put Natalie and cup of tea in the same sentence.

n Bijou D'Inde, a disappointing fifth to Mons in the Royal Lodge Stakes on Saturday, pulled out lame yesterday. He is sore on the same leg that had been troubling him in the days leading up to the race.