Huge memorial service held to celebrate life of Sir Henry Cecil
Figures from across the sport of racing gathered in Ely Cathedral on Monday to celebrate the life of Sir Henry Cecil.
By Tom Peacock
Last Updated: 17/09/13 1:54pm
The huge Gothic structure, which looms over the Fens, was a building Cecil admired and it was chosen by his widow, Lady Jane, as a fitting venue for his remembrance.
The legendary trainer died after a long and dignified battle against cancer on June 11 and had a private family funeral at St Agnes Church in Newmarket. His body was laid to rest at his ancestral seat of Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire.
Among those at a service open to all were the jockeys to have ridden for Cecil, such as Richard Quinn, Willie Ryan, Tony McGlone, Ted Durcan, John Lowe and Tom Queally, who partnered his last and greatest horse, Frankel.
Most of the current trainers were present, Newmarket rivals like Sir Michael Stoute and John Gosden, former assistants Luca Cumani, William Jarvis and David Lanigan, plus other leading members of the profession such as John and Ed Dunlop, Marco Botti, James Fanshawe and Roger Varian.
Other notable names among the congregation were National Hunt giant Martin Pipe, owners Sir Robert Ogden, Lady Howard de Walden and Maria Niarchos, British Horseracing Authority chief executive Paul Bittar, Simon Crisford of Godolphin and television presenter Clare Balding.
There were around 50 members of the staff at Warren Place stables, past and present, including staunch servants like Frank Conlon and Paddy Rudkin.
A recollection was given by Teddy Grimthorpe, the racing manager for Cecil's long-standing supporter Khalid Abdullah. The combination had enjoyed countless Classic and Group One victories years before Frankel was even born.
"If you were asked to paint a mural of the lifetime of Sir Henry Cecil, how on earth would you start this masterpiece?" he said.
After paying tribute to his three wives, Julie, Natalie and Jane, as well as his children, Grimthorpe said: "To know Henry, you'd have to understand his closest friends were his horses.
"His maxim was 'to feel our way, and let the horses tell us'...Perhaps Henry's greatest friend was Frankel, with apologies to all the others. Like all great friendships, neither would be the same without the other."
Grimthorpe concluded by describing Cecil as "a completely unique human being, whose legacy is recognised by all those here, and by the millions around the world who loved him without even having had the good fortune to meet him."
Cecil's singular popularity, due to his willingness to engage with those from all walks of life as much as the almost unparalleled success he managed with his horses, led to the cathedral filling up some time before the service began and there were many ordinary people among the attendance of around a thousand.
The connection the public felt with Cecil was discussed in a reading from his son Jake, who said: "Everyone was treated with the utmost respect by dad. He would find the time to share his personality with whoever crossed his path. They stood by him when he was knocked down, and applauded him when he stood back up...They knew he was the embodiment of honesty."
Four hymns - Cecil's personal favourite All Things Bright and Beautiful, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise and Amazing Grace - featured in a service lasting an hour, as well as recordings of Cecil interviews.
It ended with a Scots Guards piper arranged by his step-brother, Arthur Boyd-Rochfort.
Two young grandchildren, Olivia and Jack Mackenzie, also gave readings, and Olivia said: "You never gave up and that's something we'll never forget about you. You were the bravest person ever."