Sport of kings mourns horse racing royalty

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Sir Henry Cecil with jockey Tom Queally and horse Frankel
Sir Henry Cecil with jockey Tom Queally and horse Frankel Photo: Press Association

I am known, to the point of tedium, for my love of horses and all equine sports. My greatest weakness is show jumping because two of my sons are aficionados.

I am lucky to count some of the giants of that sport, like Peter Charles and Ben Maher, as friends.

Whilst I never met Sir Henry Cecil to talk to, I have often watched him, in collecting rings and trackside, utterly engrossed in what he did so well.

The trademark trilby and tweeds, his trainer badge fluttering from his lapel. There is a magic triangle in equestrianism at any serious level: jockey, trainer and horse.

Excellence requires the greatest on all sides. For Henry, a ten-time champion trainer, it all came together in the unbeaten 'Frankel' and rider Tom Queally. Of the super horse, Henry said:

He's the best I've ever had, the best I've ever seen.

It was a peerless triumvirate. Henry was a 'naughty-boy' with a colourful private life. But in the stables and on the track, that was a private matter.

In the sport of kings, he rubbed shoulders with the aristocracy. But there was a touch of that in his own background: his uncle was a peer and knights bachelor littered his own pedigree.

Sir Henry Cecil was knighted in 2011.
Sir Henry Cecil was knighted in 2011. Credit: Press Association

He failed the Eton entrance exams and went to work for the Earl of Derby. The rest is flat-racing history.

From Clare Balding to Members of Parliament, the tributes litter Twitter and the web.

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Just heard the news that Sir Henry Cecil has died. So so sad. He was one of the true greats and a gentleman. Frankel his crowning glory #RIP

We are all the luckier for having had Henry grace a sport that is loved by monarchs, yes; but it is also a passion for what Sir Alastair Burnet used to call the "plain-folk." And Alastair was not averse to a flutter himself.

The odds will lengthen on many horses now no longer blessed by the gentle training of Henry.

Good luck to his wife, who is given a license by the sport, to continue the work.

And to Henry, rest in peace.