Sir Henry Cecil: Trainer of Genius Reviewed

Brough Scott’s book on the late Sir Henry Cecil makes for an informative and compelling read… well worth anyone’s time.

Henry Cecil: Trainer of Genius, by Brough Scott

Considered by many in the industry to be the best at what he did, Sir Henry Cecil led a life that was in many ways defined by his unique relationship with horses, intellectually inexplicable even by the great man himself. The many parts that make up the whole of this man’s life could have served as the basis for a story by a top writer of fiction – years of success and a climb into the highest stratosphere of his career followed by a period marked by loss on all fronts, and finally redemption through what he was best at – working with horses.

However, the services of a writer were not needed to encapsulate this man’s story for every bit of it is true and has been intricately realised through someone perfect for the job – Brough Scott. Scott’s credentials as a TV presenter, sports writer, jockey and editorial director of the Racing Post more than qualifies him for the job. The book is pretty much up there with some of the top sporting drama but it delivers even more as its story engulfs the imagination while transcending the barrier of sport.

Sir Henry Cecil was knighted in 2011 for services to racing and is considered the quintessential trainer of his time and of the modern era of horse racing. In his 44-year career he had 36 Classic winners, 114 Group One winners and 75 Royal Ascot winners. It would be safe to assume that whoever knew Sir Henry and placed a bet or two like the kind one can do at, must have come out tops.

The real drama of his life comes in the latter part and hits with such succession that one cannot help but think of the overused, clichéd phrase –“when it rains, it pours”. Things start to go south  in the year 2000 – a year in which Cecil loses his wife, custody of his son and his driving licence for five years. On top of it all, he is diagnosed with stomach cancer and has to face the fact that his twin brother died from the disease. What follows is a six-year period of desolation.

Redemption comes in 2007 when Cecil returns to form in the Oaks and this is usurped by his work with the Khalid Abdullah-owned Frankel – the last horse he would work with and one that kept him going through the onslaught of his chemotherapy.

Brough Scott presents an engaging and full-bodied retelling of Sir Henry’s life, yet at times tussles in trying to convey the public’s well deserved affection and awe of the man.

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