My passion for horseracing began when my parents bought their first colour TV in 1975. The sheer spectacle of seeing those marvellous racing silks in colour for the first time soon had me hooked. In the summer of 1975 GRUNDY won the DERBY and then went on to beat BUSTINO in what many experts have called the greatest ever race, the King George & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. In the autumn of that year the champion 2 Year Old was an unbeaten colt named WOLLOW, trained by Henry Cecil. WOLLOW became my favourite racehorse and I remember having a 50p bet with my Maths teacher at school that it would win the 2000 Guineas the following spring. I can still hear the radio commentary in a maths lesson as WOLLOW duly obliged, ridden by Gianfranco Dettori (Frankie Dettori's father). WOLLOW didn't win the Epsom Derby for which he was favourite, but did win the Eclipse and the Champion Stakes.
Wollow's trainer Henry Cecil became, and still is, my sporting hero. I have followed his training career very closely ever since the time of Wollow and have recorded the results achieved by every single one of the horses that he trains. I would never dream of betting on one of the horses that he trains because it somehow seems to denigrate the standing that I hold the horses in! In the spring of each year I obtain a copy of 'Horses in Training' and go through the list of all the 2 Year Olds which Henry Cecil has in his stables and choose 2 or 3 which have the pedigree that look as though they have the potential to become champions. This was the case with REFERENCE POINT who was a really great horse. He won the Racing Post Trophy to become champion 2 Y.O., then in the following season, after suffering ill health in the spring, went on to win the Dante, Derby, King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, The Great Voltigeur and The St Leger, as well as finishing a brave second in the Eclipse to Mtoto, who also went on to become a champion. It was probably the best sporting moment of my life watching Reference Point lead all the way to win the Derby, but I don't think my heart could cope with many occasions like it. Other champions that Henry Cecil has trained are Bolkonski, Kris, Le Moss, Ardross, Diesis, Slip Anchor, Oh So Sharp, Indian Skimmer, Commander in Chief, Bosra Sham, King's Theatre, Old Vic, Oath, Reams of Verse, Sleepytime, Lady Carla, Ramruna, Royal Anthem, Diminuendo, Light Cavalry and many other extremely gifted racehorses.
Now of course Henry is the trainer of the mighty Frankel. This could be the greatest racehorse of all time - unbeatable at a mile and even better at a mile and a quarter; it has been a joy to have been able to watch Frankel perform.
What I shall do when Henry Cecil finally retires I'm not sure, though I don't find it difficult to admire a true champion, whoever trains it.
The most wonderful thing that has happened in racing, from my point of view, is the arrival of dedicated racing channels on TV. Both Attheraces and RacingUK are excellent and allow me, with the aid of SKY+, to see all the racing that takes place whilst I am at work,
LINKS: www.henrycecil.com www.racenews.co.uk www.sportinglife.com www.racingpost.com