Newmarket: Sir Henry Cecil praises Frankel following historic 14th victory
“HE IS the best I’ve ever had. He’s the best I’ve ever seen. I’d be surprised if there’s ever been any better” – that was the reaction from legendary Newmarket trainer Sir Henry Cecil after Frankel the wonder horse bowed out of racing with an unblemished record of 14 wins from 14 starts.
Before the start of the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on Saturday afternoon, expectations were high and a tense atmosphere prevailed as Sir Henry, 69, helped jockey Tom Queally on to what can now be confirmed as the greatest race horse of all time.
Queally admitted Frankel was not completely at home with the conditions, but despite concerns over soft ground, the 2-11 favourite ran out a convincing winner, prevailing over last year’s winner Cirrus Des Aigles by a length and three-quarters.
His triumph was watched by The Queen, and millions of racing fans throughout the world.
Speaking after Newmarket-born Frankel romped to victory and cemented his place in racing history, Sir Henry – who has credited the inspiration of the four-year-old colt with helping him fight an ongoing battle with cancer – was visibly touched by the crowd’s reaction. He said: “It’s the greatest for the greatest. He is the ultimate athlete. It’s important for our sport to jump from the back pages to the front, and he just excites people.”
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Sir Henry’s career hit a low point in 2005 when he saddled only 12 winners, but the victory of Light Shift in the 2007 Oaks signalled a return to the big time.
The winners began to flow again and then in 2010 when he unleashed Frankel to the world, Sir Henry was thrust back into the racing limelight.
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Although ill health prevented him from witnessing several of Frankel’s major triumphs, after attending York’s Juddmonte International in August, he said the colt’s winning performance had made him feel “20 years better”.
He added: “I am so lucky to have been allocated Frankel to train. He has been an inspiration and challenge, which I really needed so badly.”
Paying tribute to Sir Henry, Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Frankel’s owner Prince Khalid Abdullah, said: “Henry’s re-emergence as a trainer is not just one of the greatest stories in sport but one of the all-time great sports stories generally.”
Following what will be his final victory on Frankel, Queally added: “It’s right up there with his best performances. He didn’t like the ground but he has delivered. He has done so much for so many people and it’s an amazing story.”