The late Sir Henry Richard Amherst Cecil, who died in June, 2013, at the age of 70 after battling cancer for the last six years of his life, is one of the few racehorse trainers who can, justifiably, be mentioned in the same breath as his erstwhile father-in-law, Sir Noel Murless After four years as assistant trainer to Murless, took charge of Freemason Lodge Stables in Newmarket on the retirement of royal trainer Sir Cecil Boyd Rochford in 1968 and, on Murless’ own retirement in 1976, moved to Warren Place, also in Newmarket.
Cecil became Champion Trainer in his first year at Warren Place, thanks in no small part to the exploits of Wollow, who won the 2,000 Guineas, the Coral-Eclipse Stakes, the Sussex Stakes and the Juddmonte International Stakes. He won the trainers’ title again in 1978 and 1979, the highlights of the latter year including a notable treble for Kris in the St. James’s Palace Stakes, the Sussex Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Cecil was Champion Trainer five more times in the 1980s, famously saddling his first Derby winner, Slip Anchor, in 1985 and his second, Reference Point, in 1987. Of course, 1985 was also the year in which Oh So Sharp won the 1,000 Guineas, the Oaks and the St. Leger to become the first filly since Meld, in 1955, to win the Fillies’ Triple Crown.
Cecil continued, at the peak of his powers, into the 1990s, becoming Champion Trainer again in 1990, with 111 winners and £1.93 million in prize money, and again in 1993, with 94 winners – including his third Derby winner, Commander In Chief – and £1.8 million in prize money. In 1995, Cecil had very public falling-out with Sheikh Mohammed, the leading racehorse owner in the world, culminating in the removal of 40 horses from his care and, after 14 years, bringing to an end one of the most successful owner-trainer partnerships in the history of horse racing. Cecil never won the trainers’ title again.