When we think of horse racing, people assume the jockey, the owner and the horse get all the glory after they’ve crossed the finish line. Unfortunately, the role the trainer plays in readying the horse for races is often overlooked by the public, simply because the responsibilities are always behind the scenes. However, when it comes to discussing the training career of Sir Henry Cecil, no one can second guess his influence on his horses.
Cecil is a legend when it comes to horse training, and his long and illustrious career paved the way for some of the most awarded horses in British horse racing history. For more than 50 years, Cecil’s horses continued to dominate the horse racing world, and his awards and recognition serve as a constant reminder of how he revolutionized the art of training horses. His legacy within the horse training community lives on today. For those unfamiliar with the legendary trainer, here is a quick biography and look into Sir Henry Cecil’s rise to fame and continued success:
Born Jan. 11, 1943, greatness was already in Cecil’s blood. While his father was killed fighting German forces in North Africa during WWII a mere six weeks prior to Cecil’s birth, his mother was practically royalty, as her father was the owner of Crathes Castle, an iconic landmark in Scotland that had been owned and operated for more than 400 years. Horse training became a part of the family quickly after Cecil’s father died, as his mother married a man named Cecil Boyd-Rochfort, a thoroughbred racehorse trainer in England who worked for famous figures such as Queen Elizabeth II and King George VI.
Destined for training
His stepfather’s success piqued Cecil’s interest in the world of horse training, but it wasn’t until he met his first wife that he began to focus on the sport of racing as not just a passion, but a full-time occupation. In 1966, Cecil married Julie Murless, who was the daughter of Sir Noel Murless, another acclaimed horse trainer in England. Cecil then acquired his now-famous Warren Place Stables through the marriage, and the grounds then became the site where some of the world’s most famous race horses trained.
Birth of a career
Within one year of obtaining a horse training license, Cecil won his first race, and his horse Wolver Hollow took home first place at the Eclipse Stakes. This would only be the tip of the iceberg in terms of tournament wins and notoriety, and within the next five years, Cecil and his trained horses would go onto win a wide variety of prestigious events, such as the Irish 1,000 Guineas in 1973 and other British Classic Races.
At the highest point of Cecil’s training days in the mid-1980s, he trained an estimated 220 horses, according to The Guardian. He trained horses from famous figures all around the world, ranging from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum to Khalid ibn Abdullah, one of the most famous horse owners of the 20th and 21st century. Perhaps the most notable of his many famous horses was Frankel, a British thoroughbred racehorse that was unbeaten in its 14-race career, being ranked as the top-rated racehorse in the world in 2011. While Frankel received plenty of acclaim, what was truly inspirational was the fact that Cecil was also battling stomach cancer during his time training the horse.
Other famous horses included Bosra Sham, considered by many to be one of Cecil’s favorite and closest of horses. Its career lasted from 1995 to 1997, and in between, the animal went on to win several prestigious races, such as the 1,000 Guineas and the Champion Stakes. Bosra Sham was awarded the title of European Champion Three-Year Old Filly in 1996, and Cecil once described the horse as one of the best he had ever trained.
While his career certainly had its ups and downs, one thing that cannot be denied was Cecil’s passion for training. His personal life was marked with various mishaps, but when it came to the racetrack, Cecil flourished. The man’s legacy will forever live on, as his training grounds of Warren Place Stables continues to operate after his death.