Sheikh ends 'dream' alliance with Cecil

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The Independent Online


's dream team will go their separate ways following the announcement yesterday that Sheikh Mohammed, the globe's most powerful owner, is to remove the 40 horses he has with the 10-times champion trainer of Britain, Henry Cecil.

The relationship between the two men had deteriorated recently when Cecil, and his wife, Natalie, expressed dissatisfaction at Sheikh Mohammed's policy of moving on some of the best horses at Warren Place to his native Dubai.

It broke down yesterday when the Sheikh complained about the condition of a horse he had taken from Cecil, the two-year-old Mark Of Esteem.

"Sheikh Mohammed expressed extreme disappointment over this matter because his trainer did not inform him of all the facts relating to this colt," Anthony Stroud, the Sheikh's racing manager, said yesterday. "What Sheikh Mohammed is stressing here is that if people are loyal to him, then he is loyal to them."

If Sheikh Mohammed felt his trainer of 14 years had kept him in the dark, so too must some of Cecil's staff. "The writing seemed to be on the wall, but we didn't think it would happen this quickly," Lennie Anderton, Cecil's travelling head lad, said. "This is worrying for the lads in the yard as they are going to be wondering about their jobs. The injury to the horse is news to us. There was no sign of any leg problem with the horse when he was in the yard."

Thus ends a liaison which provided Classic and Group One successes aplenty such as Indian Skimmer, Diminuendo, Old Vic, Belmez, King's Theatre and, perhaps the best of them all, the 1985 Fillies' Triple Crown winner, Oh So Sharp.

Those times seemed to be forgotten, however, when the Sheikh started taking horses from Warren Place, among others, to fuel his Godolphin operation, which winters horses in the Emirates before returning them to compete in Britain.

The Cecils did not like it, and Sheikh Mohammed did not like their reaction.

The trainer said yesterday: "Obviously this is a knock, but I feel that under the circumstances this is probably for the best as his [Sheikh Mohammed's] first priority is Dubai and mine is my family, my staff, my other owners and, as ever, to win as many races as possible."

On the specific topic of Mark Of Esteem, Cecil would not be drawn. "He wants to act with some dignity," a spokesperson at his yard said last night. "He'll not comment further and you can read into that what you will."

There was plenty coming from Mark Of Esteem's owner, however. "Mark Of Esteem arrived safely in Dubai and on his arrival a complete physical examination was carried out and it was discovered that he had a knee condition which could require surgery," Stroud said. "This injury occurred during or after his last race at Goodwood. Contrary to general opinion, it is unlikely that Mark Of Esteem would have been able to run in the Royal Lodge Stakes. However, Sheikh Mohammed was not informed until the day of the Royal Lodge when Henry Cecil admitted that Mark Of Esteem had a knee problem."

An injury to one horse, then, has led to another more damaging, the fracture between the most successful trainer and owner of modern times.

The future for Cecil, page 25