The passing of Sir Henry Cecil yesterday for me made me feel the same way that I did when I heard of Ginger McCains a few years ago.
In racing you could not but agree that these were two totally different persons but both had been held in high regard by the British racing public with a huge amount of love and respect given to them for all that they had achieved in racing over the years.
While Ginger was straight to the point,typically not politically correct and spoke as he thought albeit with the occasional twinkle in his eye whereas Sir Henry had the look of the quintessential Englishman about him with his dress since,head tilted to one side and self deprecating nature in interviews after a race in which he had just trained a winner.
One did National Service,drove a taxi around Southport including driving a lion in a van for a circus plus ferrying Frank Sinatra around for a comb around Blackpool while the other one failed the Common Entrance exam for Eton while at Sunningdale but managed to get in.
Sir Henry described himself as a “late maturing type and backward” oddly enough I think I know what he means by that!
In years to come all you need to say to any racing fan is “Ginger” or “Sir Henry” and you will be thinking of Red Rum,Amberleigh House,Frankel,Slip Anchor,Oh So Sharp,Midday and Twice Over within seconds.
Racing needs characters in it that make you sit up and take note and when Sir Henry was being spoken to on the television by god did your eyes stay focused on the screen and your ears prick up like Red Rum did when he made his appearance on Sports Personality of the Year when he heard Tommy Stack speaking from a studio elsewhere.
Over the years the sight of how the stomach cancer had got to him was not for pretty viewing but somehow he was not suffering alone as racing fans felt it with him but he was not one for feeling sorry for himself it was a case of keep fighting and carry on as normal in a typical British sense of Keep Calm and Carry On and while he was giving advice to Derek Thompson about what would happen to him as he fought and won his battle against this deadly disease their was of course that one little extra thing that assisted him along with the chemotherapy,Frankel.
No doubt it was this most magnificent and beautiful of thoroughbred horses that kept the fight up, Frankel was the reason for keeping going and his toughness,determination and will to win is what drew even non racing fans into this sport for a quick peek at what years and years of select breeding has done for the racehorse.
For many it was Frankel that was the main antidote for his stomach cancer and I think will disagree about that.
Sir Henry was one of the greatest trainers that this country and indeed the world has ever seen and while the racing community will be a much emptier place the sport will still continue and flourish because of the foundations he laid down for others to follow.
After the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics during the closing ceremonies I was reminded of the saying “Don’t cry because its over,Smile that it happened”
I believe that is what everyone in racing from owners,trainers,jockeys,stable staff,media and officials should do, We should all be saluting the man who enriched our lives and showed that racing can have a fun side too and not be serious all of the time.
Thank you for all the good times Sir Henry may you rest in peace.