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.
The most successful trainer, numerically, in the history of Royal Ascot is Sir Michael Stoute who, in 2019, took his career total to 80 winners at the Royal Meeting. His latest victory came courtesy of Crystal Ocean, who accounted for world-class opposition, including Magical and Waldgeist – subsequent winners of the Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, respectively – in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
Stoute, who hails from Barbados – in fact, was knighted for services to tourism in his native country in 1998 – had already won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes three times before, including with Poet’s Word in 2018. He began training, in his own right, in 1972 and saddled his first Royal Ascot winner, Etienne Gerard, in the Jersey Stakes five years later.
The veteran trainer, who turns 74 in October, 2019, won the last of his ten trainers’ titles in 2009 but, by his own admission, lacks the ‘firepower or the numbers’ to do so again. Nevertheless, Stoute remains as competitive as ever, granted the right ammunition – or, in his own words, ‘some class horses to go to war with’ – and his latest Royal Ascot winner, 42 years after his first, confirms that, at the Berkshire course at least, he remains a force to be reckoned with.
Veteran Newmarket trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who turns 75 in October, 2020, is no stranger to success at Royal Ascot. In fact, the victory of Crystal Ocean in the Prince of Wales’ Stakes in 2019 took his careeer total to 80 winners and confirmed his position as the leading trainer of all time at the Royal Meeting. One race in which Sir Michael has done particularly well is the Hardwicke Stakes, which has been staged in recent years on the and final day of Royal Ascot, but moved to the penultimate day in the revamped schedule for 2020.
Named after the Fifth Earl of Hardwicke, Charles Yorke, popularly known as ‘Champagne Charlie’, who was Her Majesty’s Representative at Ascot, the Hardwicke Stakes is a Group Two contest – that is, just one step below the top tier, Group One, in terms of quality – run over 1 mile, 3 furlongs and 211 yards and open to horses aged four years and upwards.
All told, Sir Michael Stoute has won the Hardwicke Stakes eleven times, with eight of those wins coming after the turn of the twenty-first century. Sir Michael first claimed the prize with Dihistan in 1986 but, after back-to-back victories with the Shareef Dance colt, Rock Hopper in 1991 and 1992 – courtesy of the Ascot stewards on the first occasion – he suffered a lengthy hiatus and did not saddle the winner again until 2006. However, his 2006 winner, Maraahel, followed up in 2007 and
has since been joined on the roll of honour by Harbinger (2010), Sea Moon (2012), Telescope (2014), Snow Sky (2015), Dartmouth (2016), and Crystal Ocean (2018).