Cecil harbours designs on Ascot couture

At the age of 69 Henry Cecil could be forgiven if he chose to hang up his binoculars, lock up the stable doors, and retire. He's been training horses for as long as I can remember, and for most of the 43 years since he took out a licence in 1969 he has enjoyed immense success.

This has been particularly true at Royal Ascot, where his total of 73 wins puts him 10 ahead of anyone else currently training racehorses. It will take a miracle to stop him adding to that total in the opening race of this year's meeting. Cecil had a monopoly on the Queen Anne Stakes from 1981 to 1984, but hasn't trained the winner since. If ever there was a foregone conclusion it is Frankel tomorrow.

That could be an opportune moment to retire, but there's absolutely no chance of it happening while Frankel's owner, Khalid Abdullah, continues to send him horses to train. And as Abdullah was one of the owners who continued to support Cecil when he barely reached double figures in 2005, that isn't going to happen. Cecil says, "I enjoy training his type of horses. I was very late maturing and backward. Stupid as a child and everything. First one from my prep school ever to fail Common Entrance to Eton. School had been going 90 years or so. I'd like to think I was late maturing and I like those sorts of horses. And his horses, a lot of them are just taking a bit of time but they're worth waiting for, you know?"

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Cecil says he can see the day when he hands in his licence. He thought about it six years ago, after he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. Getting up and out onto Newmarket Heath to watch his charges wasn't easy. But he kept going and still does.

Looking to the future, he says, "I think I will (retired). I will. Not quite yet. I enjoy it; it's a way of life. I think maybe I would cut down a bit. I'd love to be able to have more time doing other things. I'm very interested in clothes. I've got a friend who is a tailor in London and I'm thinking of starting my own clothes design. I like really well cut clothes and cashmere jackets with floral linings and all those sort of things. I think lots of the clothes people buy nowadays are not very exciting. I've got a sports jacket, chocolate herringbone, which is half cashmere and half mink, so it's not something you're going to find in Woolworth’s."

It's something that wouldn't pass the new Ascot dress code either. But it's just possible that in a few years time the name of Cecil will appear not on the racecard, but on the inside label of some other trainer’s morning suit.

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