Morpheus soothes grief of Sir Henry Cecil's yard with win at Nottingham
Just as his final fight was sustained by Frankel, so the malign destiny that finally claimed Sir Henry Cecil on Tuesday also seems to have reserved a degree of solace for those he has left behind. As though shamed by its own cruelty, it granted Cecil's grieving widow and employees two winners within barely 10 minutes – and the first of them, as a half-brother to Frankel, could not have been more fitting.
The success of Morpheus at Nottingham was a predictably bittersweet affair. As though to underscore the undiminished commitment of the Warren Place team, Lady Cecil attended in person to supervise a colt whose entry had been made, just five days previously, by her late husband. James Doyle wore the same Khaled Abdulla silks that will forever be associated with Frankel, with the poignant addition of a black armband. And even the weather conspired with the sense that this palliative had somehow been ordained from above. As the improving Morpheus pulled up, after a decisive success, a squall of rain sobbed from a mournful sky.
Lady Cecil, who has been granted a temporary licence, nonetheless managed a smile for Doyle. Evidently the first stabs of bereavement have been somewhat allayed by so many hectic distractions – from absorbing a flood of communal commiseration, to the simple practicalities of keeping the show on the road as Cecil had urged. It would be only natural for her desolation to obtain a new keenness in quieter times ahead.
Though Doyle had never previously ridden for the stable – its first jockey, Tom Queally, was on his way to Ireland to ride Tickled Pink, who finished unplaced in a Group race at Leopardstown last night – it was fitting that Ian Mongan, one of the most trusted cogs in its workings, should promptly ride Songbird to a runaway success at Yarmouth. Mongan rode Frankel's pacemaker and was rewarded with the summit of his own career in the Juddmonte International success of Twice Over in 2011.
"Life goes on and Henry would want that," Mongan stressed. "I'm sure he's looking down and smiling today. The whole racing community will have been watching Lady Cecil's runners today, and I was a little nervous as I wanted to win so badly for the whole team.
"Myself and Tom used to have breakfast with Henry two or three times a week and it was a great time – something to look forward to. We'd do crosswords and Henry would bring us his clothes down to look at. We wouldn't necessarily talk horses so much. He always made jokes, would slap you on the head and things, it was fun.
"He gave me chances like no other trainer would. If I wasn't riding for Henry, I wouldn't be riding. Warren Place goes on. We're still up there having winners, and fingers crossed we get a winner at Ascot for him. It would be fantastic."
One way or another, high emotion is guaranteed next week at the meeting Cecil bestrode with a record 75 career winners. Those who perceived the hand of fate in the results will register an infectious optimism at Warren Place for Joyeuse, a sister to Morpheus, in the Albany Stakes on Friday. She was an impressive debut winner at Lingfield last month.
The Ascot management has been quick to acknowledge the void that will be felt so widely next week. Today it announced that the Queen's Vase, also on Friday, will be formally run in his memory. Along with the King Edward VII Stakes, this is the race in which Cecil achieved most success, with eight winners. Lady Cecil will accompany the Countess of Wessex for the trophy presentation.
There will be a minute's silence when the meeting opens on Tuesday, after the arrival of the royal procession in the parade ring. Johnny Weatherby, the Queen's representative at Ascot, said: "Sir Henry was an intrinsic part of Royal Ascot over more than four decades. It is no secret that Royal Ascot was his favourite meeting of the year, and we felt it was fitting to honour his achievements here, and remember the passing of one the greatest figures that the world of sport has ever seen."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Majeed (8.00 Goodwood) Looked equal to this rating when closing well on his handicap debut.
War Lord (2.20 Musselburgh) Pulled a subsequent winner six clear on his reappearance and may not have absorbed that effort when disappointing only a week later.
One to watch
The well-bred Loved One (James Fanshawe) Is in good hands to build on the handicap mark she earned in her third maiden at Nottingham.
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