Competitive Cecil puts faith in Frankel

After four decades in the job, training legend has a glint in his eye over his potential wonder horse

Let no one doubt that the competitive flame still burns within Henry Cecil, even after more than four decades in his job. On a dull, muggy exercise morning on the Newmarket training grounds, a couple of things brought a glint to his eyes. Firstly, the sight of a handsome colt called Frankel, one of the most exciting young talents of the season, striding with ease up the demanding incline of Warren Hill. And secondly, a mention of the prospect of his colleague and neighbour Sir Michael Stoute edging ahead in the trainers' titles tally.

The two men each have 10, second only to the 12 amassed by Alec Taylor Jnr early in the 20th century. Stoute is currently chasing down Richard Hannon for his 11th. For Cecil, though he will be as gracious as ever should it happen, to cede his share of supremacy in the modern era would rankle. He won his last championship in 1993, since when Stoute has picked up seven, and though he remained in the mix during the Nineties, the Noughties, a time of well-documented personaland health problems, brought a dip in his fortunes hard to bear.

After Beat Hollow's Grand Prix de Paris in 2000, the family-crested flag was not hoisted over Cecil's Warren Place stables to celebrate another Group One winner until Passage Of Time's Grand Criterium de Saint-Cloud six years later. "When things are going badly," he said, "and you simply don't have the ammunition, rigor mortis can start to set in. But I just hate being an also-ran and was determined to get back.

"It will be difficult for me to be champion again. I train 100 horses and now others have 200 and more. With 100, I can be competitive,if they have quality. But to be champion, they have to be the best."

Cecil, 67, has held a licence since 1969, when he took over his step-father Cecil Boyd-Rochfort's business. "Maybe I was spoilt for most of my career," he said, "by being routinely sent lovely horses. Over that long dull period I didn't have them and now I have some better ones again I really appreciate them."

Step forward Midday, winner of five Group One contests and set to defend her Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf title in Kentucky next month. And this year's Coral-Eclipse winner Twice Over, going for a second Champion Stakes at his local track on Saturday and with the world's richest prize, the Dubai World Cup, on his radar next March. And Frankel, who may just be the best but will face the sternest test of his young life in the Dewhurst Stakes also next Saturday. All three carry the pink, white and green silks of Khaled Abdullah, Cecil's most loyal patron.

The quest for a wonder horse is what keeps the sport, never mind an individual trainer, going and Frankel's potential shone loud and clear as he took his unbeaten run to three at Ascot last month with a burst of speed and a 10-length solo tour de force.

Of course, the juvenile is no more than a schoolboy prodigy at this stage of his career but his trainer has made no secret of the regard in which he holds the shapely son of Galileo, and heightened heartbeat he provokes. He has paid the bay colt the considerable compliment of favourable comparison with his first real star, Wollow,top-notch at both two and threeduring the mid-Seventies. "He was brilliant," Cecil said, "with a fantastic electric turn of foot. I know I have had some wonderful horses over the years but most of them have been late-maturing types. But you have to go back to Wollow for one with such promise at two, and I don't know if we've ever had one so progressive."

Cecil is perfectly aware that over-trumpeting an equine second coming is usually the road to disappointment. But, still, he is prepared to invest hope in this callow bay athlete, whose bright white star between his eyes stood out through the autumn morning gloom.

"He is exciting for all of us," he admitted. "He's improving the whole time and he's growing up mentally. He's a healthy, active sort of horse and the type who should be better at three. If he happens to win the Dewhurst then you'd have to fancy him very much for the Guineas.

"But we must take it step by step and hype is the last thing we need; we all want it to work out, but they're not machines. If he's a monster, if he's the best for years, let him tell us. But make no assumptions until he does, because bubbles can burst so easily."

Cecil is just pleased to have his first runner in the Dewhurst Stakes, the country's top two-year-old contest, since Vacamonte finished sixth in the 2000 running. "In the past 10 years," he said ruefully, "I wouldn't have been at Newmarket that day, I'd have been somewhere like Wolverhampton. It's good to be back competing at this level with a horse entitled to be there. And to be looking forward."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Day In a Page

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England