The late Sir Henry Cecil, who died of cancer on June 11, 2013, at the age of 70, is best known as the trainer of Frankel, the highest rated horse in the history of Timeform and World Thoughbred Rankings, who retired, unbeaten in 14 races, in October, 2012. However, while Cecil, who was kinghted for services to horse racing in 2011, may have described Frankel as ‘the best horse I’ve ever seen’, he was arguably one of the greatest trainers in history.
Unfortunately his career was overshadowed by controversy but, in his heyday, between the late Seventies and early Nineties, Cecil was Champion Trainer ten times. Overall, he saddled 25 British Classic winners and was particularly adept with fillies, winning the Oaks eight times, including with Fillies’ Triple Crown heroine Oh So Sharp in 1985, and the 1,000 Guineas six times. He also won the Derby four times, including with British Horse of the Year, Reference Point, in 1987, the St. Leger four times and the 2,000 Guineas three times. Until June, 2018, when Poet’s Word, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, won the St. James’s Palace Stakes, Cecil also held the record for the most winners at Royal Ascot, having saddled 75 in his long, illustrious career.
Bred and owned by Juddmonte Farms, under the auspices of Khalid Abdullah, and trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel won five times at Ascot in all, but just two of those victories came at Royal Ascot. Indeed, on the first occasion, as a three-year-old, on June 14, 2011, Frankel came as close to defeat as he did in his entire 14-race career. Fresh from an impressive 6-length win in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Galileo colt was sent off at 30/100 to win the St. James’s Palace Stakes at the Royal Meeting. However, having taken a 6-length lead with a quarter of a mile to run, Frankel was quickly coming back to his rivals inside the final half a furlong and had to be ridden out by jockey Tom Queally to beat 20/1 chance Zoffany, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore, by three-quarters of a length.
The following season, as a four-year-old, Frankel contested the opening Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, for which he started a hugley prohibitive 1/10. Nevertheless, his cramped odds proved entirely justified as he soon quickened clear, despite drifting slightly right in the closing stages, for an extremely impressive 11-length win over old rival Excelebration; in so doing, Frankel achieved the highest rating ever achieved by a Flat horse in the history of Timeform.