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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Sir Henry Cecil: ten fantastic memories from Glorious Goodwood

Frankel sauntering to a second Sussex Stakes in 2012
1 of 1

1 Bolkonski

Sussex Stakes 1975

Six years into his training career and already a winner at Group 1 level on several occasions, Sir Henry Cecil went into the Glorious meeting in 1975 with rock-solid credentials for success, having already taken the 2,000 Guineas and St James's Palace with this former champion Italian two-year-old.

The chestnut son of Balidar had defied both the favourite Grundy and a bitter stable lads' strike to land his Newmarket Classic at odds of 33-1, and he lined up at Goodwood as the 1-2 favourite, despite having become het up in the paddock.

He may not have been at his best in narrowly seeing off Rose Bowl and Lianga, and he would be beaten by the former on his only other start, in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, but in responding just well enough to the urgings of Gianfranco Dettori he became the first of 73 winners for the great trainer at this most evocative of racing occasions.

2 Wollow

Sussex Stakes 1976

Carlo d'Alessio had already teamed up with Cecil and Dettori to land one Sussex Stakes with Bolkonski, so when the outstanding British champion two-year-old Wollow gave the Italian lawyer a second successive 2,000 Guineas success, the path back to Goodwood looked an enticing one.

Although he was well beaten behind Empery when a short-priced favourite for the Derby and only bagged the Eclipse when winner Trepan failed a drugs test, the drop back in trip to a mile saw the son of the Cecil-trained Eclipse winner Wolver Hollow get the better of the arguably unlucky Poacher's Moon in the Sussex.

It may not have been the finest hour of one of the few colts to be mentioned by Cecil in the same breath as Frankel, but it was another foundation stone of the trainer's Glorious reputation.

3 Kris

Sussex Stakes 1979

In an era when Cecil struck up long-standing relationships with several prominent British owner-breeders, Kris was one of the prime examples of the fruits such alliances could bear.

Racing in the famous apricot silks of Lord Howard de Walden, the son of Sharpen Up was unbeaten in four sorties from Warren Place as a two-year-old but really hit his stride at three, winning the Greenham before being beaten just half a length when favourite for the 2,000 Guineas by 20-1 shot Tap On Wood.

Kris winning the Sussex Stakes in 1979 under Joe Mercer
Victory in the St James's Palace preceded perhaps his finest hour, when, in the hands of Joe Mercer, he annihilated Champion Stakes winner Swiss Maid, among a strong contingent of older horses, in the Group 1 mile contest that Cecil was fast making his own. The shimmer of orange on the Sussex greensward must have looked sweet to a trainer now firmly ensconced as the embodiment of Goodwood style.

4 Le Moss

Goodwood Cup 1979, 1980

If numbers 1, 2 and 3 suggest Cecil was a man content to farm the meeting's Group 1 mile, the next three years showed a streak of versatility in the great man and his horses, as he brought two of the best stayers of the age to grace the full extent of the switchback track.

The first was St Leger runner-up Le Moss, owned by the oft-aforementioned D'Alessio, who went on to land the race twice as part of a dual stayers' Triple Crown of Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Doncaster Cup.

Those close to him knew him as a stubborn and temperamental horse — Mercer, who rode him to both of his Goodwood victories, is reported to have described him as a "cantankerous bugger" – and these idiosyncrasies were not diminished by an injury that forced Cecil to swim him to fitness in the run-up to his second treble. He beat Ardross no fewer than three times in 1980.

5 Ardross

Goodwood Cup 1981

Following the death of his breeder and trainer Darkie Prendergast, the son of Run The Gantlet was bought by Charles St George to be trained at Warren Place.

In the black and white silks of St George, he went on to be pipped by Akiyda in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe of 1982, but it was as a stayer that he made his name, taking advantage of the retirement of Le Moss to land two Ascot Gold Cups under Lester Piggott, who also steered him to his two-length beating of Donegal Prince at Goodwood as a five-year-old. He shone for Cecil in what is remembered as a golden age for long-distance racers.

6 High Estate

Vintage Stakes 1988

... and just when you thought Cecil's Goodwood expertise might be limited to great milers and top-class stayers, along came a stream of glittering two-year-olds that lit up the South Downs with their talent.

There were many to choose from in the halcyon days of the 1980s, through to the likes of Daggers Drawn in the 1990s, but arguably the pick of them, certainly in terms of reputation, was High Estate. Racing in the famous black and red colours of breeder Jim Joel, the highly touted son of Shirley Heights was sent off at 4-9 for his debut success at Doncaster and this outing at Goodwood was the only time in his five-race winning streak as a juvenile that he started at odds-against, albeit only at 6-5.

Two furlongs out, even that price looked large, as he was shaken up by Steve Cauthen and strolled to a halflength success. His three-year-old career never reached quite the same heights, but he was a true star for one season.

7 Be My Chief

Vintage Stakes 1989

The trainer's partnership with Cauthen was in full flight by now and high summer on the racecourse had never looked so enticing, with top two-year-olds rolling off the Warren Place conveyor belt with unfailing regularity.

Be My Chief, a US-bred colt who was unbeaten in six starts as a juvenile, was one such ace in Cecil's pack, and his tricks included this dashing run from the front that he sustained to finish in front of Robellation and Dashing Blade. Sadly, the son of Chief's Crown finished last of seven on his reappearance as a three-year-old at Ayr and never ran again.

8 Distant View

Sussex Stakes 1994

Cecil, Pat Eddery and Khalid Abdullah were as formidable a trio as you could come up against in a Group 1 in the 1990s, and Distant View, unraced as a two-year-old, beaten in Mr Baileys' Guineas and pipped by Grand Lodge in the St James's Palace, had just a Kempton maiden win to his name when he lined up in the Sussex against both those rivals.

Another placed effort looked on the cards when he was niggled along in the straight and left short of room, but Eddery manoeuvred him to the outer and urged him to a game half-length victory over Barathea in what proved to be his finest hour.

Sir Henry Cecil with Midday and Tom Queally after their third victory in the Nassau Stakes in 2011
9 Midday

Nassau Stakes 2009, 2010, 2011

Cecil's career enjoyed an infamous hiatus that seemed never-ending at one stage, but class will out, and our hero bounced back from a great depth, helped in no small part by this admirable mare and her hat-trick of Group 1 triumphs on her favourite stamping ground.

Tom Queally was on board for all three, the first a rout of Rainbow View on soft ground that wasn't supposed to suit her; the second a defeat of Stacelita that was marked by an ears-pricked, hanging-left display on quick ground; the third a decisive victory over Snow Fairy that gave Cecil his eighth Nassau. Emotions ran high as Cecil reclaimed peaks that had once seemed lost to him.

10 Frankel

Sussex Stakes 2011, 2012

Some believed Frankel to be the horse who prolonged Sir Henry's life, but few would dispute he was the horse who gilded the great man's legacy. Not that Cecil's achievements needed embellishing, but in training the unbeaten superstar to be, among other things, the only horse ever to win the Sussex twice, he put his distinctive seal on the message he would leave for posterity.

The two successes could not have been more different in their preamble, with the first being billed as the Duel on the Downs, the second as just one more lap of honour for the horse who had long since proved himself without equal.

The duel turned out to be more of a solo performance, as 8-13 shot Frankel blew away the gifted Canford Cliffs, who was sent off as short as 7-4, despite Queally being all but forced into making his own running.

The lap of honour proved to be just that, with the beast hailed as 'the greatest of all time' justifying odds of 1-20 in putting Farhh to the sword. Who would have believed that one horse could ever eclipse all of Cecil's great Goodwood moments of the past four decades? Frankel made believers of us all.

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The lap of honour proved to be just that, with the beast hailed as ‘the greatest of all time’ justifying odds of 1-20 in putting Farhh to the sword
E.W. Terms
Sky bet