Cecil relishes regaining place in Kentucky sun with Midday

Henry Cecil ambled back towards the quarantine barn yesterday morning, his drawled asides drifting and dispersing in the tobacco smoke, each jealously salvaged by a cluster of notepads and microphones. His magnetism seemed to obtain a literal quality as press and photographers tried to keep step, stumbling backwards, craning and twisting. Better testimony to his standing on the Turf, however, came from those who have shared it – both the living and the dead.

Cecil was asked about one whose memory is preserved by a young colt back in Newmarket, reckoned among the very best he has trained. Last year, Bobby Frankel lost his battle with the same sickness that has disclosed unsuspected steel in Cecil himself – fey and fragile as he always seemed next to Frankel, the pugnacious Brooklyn Jew who ended up joining him in the service of a Saudi prince. "Really, I only ever met him when I came out here," Cecil said. "But I knew him reasonably well. He was a character. Tough. And obviously a very good trainer."

As he discussed Frankel, the horse, few noticed the man straightening a piece of tack with a hammer in one of the adjacent barns. Wayne Lukas affected his own indifference, barely looking up as the posse passed. The poignant certainty, however, is that he must have been admitting to himself that he will never, now, match Cecil's astonishing return from oblivion.

These days, Lukas has only a small string and peripheral involvement in carnivals like the one staged here on Saturday. In his time, though, he has trained 18 Breeders' Cup winners – twice as many as the next in the all-time standings, Shug McGaughey. Cecil, in contrast, saddled his first winner only last year, Midday in the Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita. But she was just his ninth starter, and he has now brought her here as hot favourite to follow up on Friday's preliminary card. With Twice Over preparing for another trip to Dubai, there is no better measure of a resurrection apparently beyond Lukas than Cecil's increasing international ambition.

"You've got to have the horses," Cecil protested. "I went through five or six years when I didn't have horses worth taking to Catterick, never mind Churchill Downs. I've always enjoyed coming here. The first year I came, they picked me up from the airport in the longest stretch in America. It had four sets of wheels. But when I got to the track, to see my animal, the press saw me getting out of this thing and they all laughed. That was too much to take – they gave me a complex, you see – so I asked for a smaller vehicle."

Dependably as he deprecates himself, nobody was deceived that he could ever be cowed. He playfully rebuked one questioner by asking: "When did you get here? Tomorrow?" He seemed unmistakably at home himself, offering heavy-eyed ironies from beneath a large, black, button-down cap, after Midday ventured into the cold, flat sunlight creeping across the back stretch.

"You never quite know at this time of year," he admitted. "I ran a colt at Newmarket last weekend [Picture Editor] who had been working beautifully, and I couldn't see him being beaten. But he'd gone, overnight. So far as I can tell, this mare is bouncing. She has travelled well, eaten up, and seems in very good order. I've always had this race in mind. I don't think the Arc would have been her race anyway, but she'd had three pretty tough races in eight weeks, and needed a breather. So I have no excuses." He paused wryly. "At the moment."

His one concern, having seen Midday jar herself at York in May, is that the turf is so firm. He confined her to the dirt track yesterday, whereas Workforce was allowed to sample the grass when he emerged for a cautious spin under Ryan Moore. The Arc winner's trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, is yet to arrive but his assistant, Stuart Messenger, grimly promised "a serious discussion with the boss" about the wisdom of risking him in these conditions.

Moore may yet ride Paco Boy in the Mile as Richard Hughes maintains his epic pursuit of Paul Hanagan in the final week of the Flat jockeys' championship. Having extended his lead to five the previous day, Hanagan saw his rival peg him back with a double at Kempton yesterday, and Hughes will leave it late before deciding whether to sit out the final day of the campaign at Doncaster on Saturday to ride Paco Boy.

It is an excruciating dilemma for Hughes, who had been reminded overnight of the fulfilment available in international glory to even the most seasoned riders. The footage of Gérald Mossé celebrating France's first success in the Melbourne Cup – riding Americain for Alain de Royer-Dupré – will haunt Hughes should he decide to stay on home soil, and still fail to catch Hanagan. After all, as Cecil's example shows, sometimes horses will permit you a living legacy.

Melbourne Cup: Americain scores a first for France

Americain, ridden by Gérald Mossé, gave France its first victory in the Melbourne Cup yesterday when the Alain de Royer-Dupré-trained five-year-old scored by two-and-three-quarter lengths from Maluckyday in "the race that stops a nation". The Cox Plate and Mackinnon Stakes winner So You Think was third.

Godolphin's Holberg did best of the British in sixth, with Luca Cumani's Manighar seventh. Cumani's other contender, Bauer, was a non-runner.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Cheddar George (7.35 Kempton) Set plenty to do last time, in heavy ground, against one who has since followed up. Returns now to course and distance of success on first start for new stable – had been gelded – and well treated at just 3lb higher.

Next best

Final Verse (3.30 Nottingham) Made a promising start for his latest stable at Lingfield last month, showing sprightly acceleration from last to fourth, and very well handicapped if able to build on that comeback.

One to watch

Tocca Ferro (Emma Lavelle) Ultimately only scrambled home at Ascot on Saturday but the way he travelled through the race reiterated the impression that he will thrive with the emphasis on speed.

Where the money's going

Or not – with Coral easing Workforce from evens to 6-4 (non-runner, no bet) for the Breeders' Cup Turf as connections express misgivings about fast ground.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage