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.
Royal Ascot, running for five days in mid June of each year (Tuesday 16th June – Saturday 20th June in 2020), is one of the most highly anticipated events in UK racing. With its royal connections and history dating back to 1911, it’s one to watch for all ardent horse racing fans.
As is the nature of racing, it’s impossible to totally rule out big raced winners, and over the years outsiders have won even the most prestigious of Royal Ascot races. I recall Arcadian Heights winning the 1994 Gold Cup on his third attempt as outsider at 20-1.
2020 was no exception for big priced winners. There were several horses winning at big odds with bookmakers over the five days (Onassis and Scarlett Dragon both won as 33-1 outsiders). As often happens though, racing saves the best for last. On the final day not only did Frankie Dettori pull off an impressive treble (which as an accumulator would have been 150-1), but it also brought us the biggest odds winner in Royal Ascot history, co-incidentally also 150-1, Nando Parrado.
Coming in at only fifth on his Newmarket debut earlier this month, Nando Parrado simply wasn’t on the radar, and left punters and bookmakers stunned with a performance that earned him the title of biggest price Royal Ascot winner in modern times. He looked to have serious ambitions as he started the Coventry Stakes, featuring prominently. Qaader put down a challenge but there was only one winner on the day, Nando Parrado, ridden by Jockey Adam Kirby. Prior to this the longest-priced outsider winner in Royal Ascot’s history was Flashmans Papers in the 2008 Windsor Castle and Fox Chapel in the 1990 Britannia Stakes.
After the victory Trainer Clive Cox was more inclined to say he was shocked by the 150-1 price, rather than the win, “I was just saying it is not a shock. The price was a shock. He is a proper horse and we loved him from the start. It was always the plan to come here, it was just a sideways step on his first run.”. Before 2020, the biggest priced winner(s) in the Coventry Stakes was just 20-1 (Chief Singer (1983), Landseer (2001), War Command (2013)). At 150-1 with bookmakers – and much bigger on the exchanges – Nando Parrado has set a Royal Ascot record that’s going to be hard to top.
Although not quite in the same league as Brown Jack, who won the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot six years running between 1929 and 1934, Trelawny was, nonetheless, one of the most popular British racehorses of the early Sixties. Two years running, in 1962 and 1963, Trelawny won both the Ascot Stakes and the Queen Alexandra Stakes at the Royal Meeting and although failing to complete a third consecutive double in 1964, lost nothing in defeat. He was second in the Ascot Stakes, conceding an eye-watering 40lb, or 2st 12lb, to the winner and would have walked over in the Queen Alexandra Stakes had racing on Thursday and Friday not been abandoned because of the waterlogged state of the course.
Trelawny was trained by George Todd at Manton, near Marlborough, Wiltshire. Todd was renowned as a trainer of staying horses and an intrepid gambler; he bought the Manton Estate from Tattersalls in 1947 and reputedly paid off the balance – £47,000, or £1.85 million by modern standards – with the proceeds from a series of winning bets on Dramatic in the Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster in 1950, which he carried to London in a paper bag. He would remain at Manton until his retirement in 1973.
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.