Champions Day tribute to Sir Henry

The boy Henry

The boy Henry

Champions Day at Ascot in a couple of week’s time will showcase the cream of equine talent from around the world. This year, the day will also pay tribute to another champion, one who played a major part in helping establish Champions Day in the racing calendar.

I’m referring here to the greatest trainer in my lifetime, the late Sir Henry Cecil. It was his training of Frankel, and the two breathtaking victories of that horse in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in 2011, the first Champions Day meeting, and last year in the QIPCO Champion Stakes.

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Lady Cecil has loaned many personal items and photos to Ascot for the day, and they will be on display in a marquee on Saturday 19 October. Importantly, this will not be in the exclusive area of the course, but in a free to all section of the grounds. There will be lengthy queues there all day. If you missed Clare Balding’s tribute, screened on Channel 4 during Royal Ascot, the day provides a chance to catch up with that, as it will be played on a video loop throughout.

Included in the items on display is the flag that was always run up the pole at Cecil’s Warren Place stables after a Group 1 winner, along with many of the trophies he took back to Newmarket during the 44 years he was training racehorses. His widow, Lady Cecil, said, “Henry loved Ascot and I know he would be delighted to have this exhibition here on QIPCO Champions Day. I hope people will enjoy seeing the photos and some of the things from our home that meant so much to him.”

The exhibition is not entirely racing related; goodness only knows from where Sir Henry obtained the dinosaur tooth he had framed. And as Lady Cecil said, there are plenty of photos from his childhood and with his horses.

Rod Street, Chief Executive of British Champions Series Ltd pitched it just about perfectly, saying, “We are delighted to be able to pay tribute to Sir Henry in this way after his outstanding support for our new day and the impact that Frankel had on it. We will never see the like of Sir Henry again and the photos are very special indeed, especially the childhood ones with his brothers, mother and stop-father, Capt Sir Cecil Boyd-Rochfort, without whose influence he would never have ventured into training. I think it will prove a very popular addition to the day and we are so grateful to Lady Cecil for her support and the loan of photos and some of his personal possessions and trophies.”

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