Meeting Sir Henry Cecil

| October 9, 2018 | Reply


Welcome to Article Seven, the penultimate article.

I have tried to make sure each article is different and to take you through my journey of where and how it began and right up to date as to where I am now.

The final article, number eight, will be about the mechanics of what I believe are fundamental to becoming a winning bettor…

I did not want this series to become ‘name dropping’ or “look at what I’ve done” articles but much more about what having passion for a subject can do for you.

Remember “What would happen if?” as that phrase has stood me in good stead for a lifetime to date.

What follows are a few stories of a man who became the Doyen of the racing world and a Sir for his achievements within the sport. I met him way back before he became any of the above, and he soon became my second human hero. Of course, it is the unique Sir Henry Cecil.

You will recall from previous articles that I was beginning to have some success by asking if anyone knew of anyone that worked in a racing stable…

I kept on asking, much of the time without success. However, on this occasion, memory fails me and I don’t know how the following happened exactly, other than I was on one of my regular tours of Newmarket and I parked up at the top of Warren Hill, late afternoon, and I walked towards Warren Place, the home and stables of Henry Cecil.

Believe me when I say that I have never been a stalker!! But for me, just to be this close to a stable yard, one steeped in horse racing history, was like owning your own sweet shop aged 4!

Warren Place was previously owned be the late, great, Sir Noel Murless whose daughter, Julie, married Henry. On Sir Noel’s retirement, Henry and Julie moved in.

As I walked towards the maroon and cream painted sign saying Warren Place, I could see one lad and one horse outside the main stable entrance a further 30 or 40 yards ahead. I had the confidence to approach him and ask the name of the horse…

The name I’ll tell of later, but we chatted as the horse picked grass and anyone who has ever met me soon twigs that horse racing is much more than an interest for me, it is a passion. A few minutes passed and he asked if I would like to come into the stable. Yes!

We walked through the main entrance and there, set before me, was a row of boxes to my left and a similar row to the right leading to the main house, either side of a further entrance into the main yard.

The right hand side row had three men stood outside one box, one of whom was Henry Cecil. He looked across towards us and I thought he’s going to ask who I am, why I am here and finally, to clear off!

Thankfully, he didn’t, and the gentlemen he was with would have been of much more importance to him. The lad I was with told me that the two rows of boxes were known as Millionaire’s Row because the dozen top horses were stabled there, close to the house, and easily looked out for.

The lad returned the horse to his box and asked if I wanted to give him a pick of grass. Yes!! The horse gratefully ate from the palm of my hand – his name? – Ardross! He was arguably one of the finest Stayers (except for his adversary Le Moss) and a very close second in the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe on his final racecourse start. This was a wonderful piece of luck for me on that day in 1981.

I had followed the stable fortunes of Henry Cecil throughout the 1970’s and his early exploits showed he was going to be a trainer of force as the years came by – and so he was!

I met him very briefly over an ice cream at Epsom; but a better day was to be had early one morning on Warren Hill overlooking the Long Hill Gallop…

I was on the Heath early and surrounded by hundreds of horses from numerous stables all exercising up Warren Hill. In those days, one could walk on the heath closer to the “action” but today everywhere is fenced off and although viewing is still fantastic, getting up close and personal is not an option. Health and Safety have stepped in for both man and beast.

I had parked my car at the foot of Warren Hill and walked perhaps a quarter mile or so towards the top. As one walks forward, most of the training is happening to one’s right. On this day, I could see a distinct coloured horse with trainer atop, and I knew it was Henry…

I casually walked towards horse and man until only a few yards away and Henry turned, took another drag of his cigarette, and said hello. I asked politely if he minded me staying by to watch…

He beckoned me closer and explained that two horses were to come up Long Hill, upsides, and then pointed to a distant right hand turn at the top of the hill and here he said one was to go on. Henry then added a caveat “at least, that’s what I’ve told them!” I couldn’t wait!

“These two”, said Henry. And as sure as he had said, the two remained upsides until the top of the hill and then one went on. Fantastic!

I forget what the next part of the conversation was but as we were chatting I could see another trainer, ridden horse approaching – this time it was Sir Michael Stoute!

I stood back a bit as I didn’t want to be eavesdropping and they chatted for a while before Sir Michael rode off. I tell you, it’s all go in Newmarket!! I am in a dream world, but it is really happening!

The next meeting was again at Newmarket, this time at the July Course. It would be 2011…

You will recall from Article Six the importance I attach to saying to people what you think, what you feel, what you love, about them before it is too late. I have never been a “forward” person, quite shy, reserved in company and then regret later that I hadn’t done something or enjoyed something to the full. I am better at not missing out these days.

I was walking past the parade ring towards the saddling boxes as I like to see as much of what is going on as possible. As I walked along, so Sir Henry passed by me, carrying a saddle, we were almost shoulder to shoulder. The voice in my head, without any forethought, said “Tell him”. And I did.

We spoke together for about two minutes and I told him all the things I wanted to say and we shook hands.

The next time, and final time, I saw Sir Henry in the flesh was in October 2012 at Ascot on Champions Day. It was to be Frankel’s final outing and Sir Henry was very poorly indeed, but he was there and saddled Frankel to 14 out of 14…

I could not let that day go by without being present. Sir Henry was a shadow of his former self but he was still with us. Could the chemo treatment finally win the day and rid him of cancer? We prayed for it to do so.

How fitting that Sir Henry Cecil would have his final years in the limelight he deserved, training the best horse ever to grace the turf – Frankel. It was a match made in heaven.

One could never think of such a scenario happening, let alone it actually happening, but it did happen, and all of us who have regard for the sport are much the better for witnessing it.

Sir Henry Cecil lost his battle for life on June 11th 2013. May God bless him. R.I.P.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you have enjoyed it. The final article will be about what I believe are the tools you need to be a successful bettor.

Good luck to us all.


Category: Betting, Horse Racing, Horse Racing Tipsters

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