Henry Cecil- a belated tribute

With the passing of Henry Cecil in June it is worth considering his place in the pantheon of the great trainers. It is also worth looking back on the subsequent impact of his runners in the breeding sheds.  Surprisingly, for such a successful trainer over such a long career, Henry trained very few important stallions.

Ranking as a trainer

As a ten time champion trainer, its obvious that Henry Cecil must take very high rank amongst the list of great trainers.  However for me, there are a few factors that temper my enthusiasm for ranking him anywhere near Vincent O’Brien, who is the benchmark for trainers.

1. Firstly Henry had it easy. He came from a privileged background being a stepson of champion trainer and Royal trainer Cecil Boyd Rochfort and his early marriage to Julie Murless (daughter of another champion trainer and Royal trainer) meant he was quickly seated at racing’s top table.  His starting position would have taken others a decade or more to achieve.

2. Apart from Wolver Hollow’s Eclipse in his first season his early years were underwhelming. A lot of tributes talk about Henry’s instinctive way with horses, however to me if there is nothing significant happening for a number of years it looks less like genius and more of a gradual tweaking of the same old methods used by others. Henry may have had a reputation for working his horses hard at Newmarket but he wasn’t much of an innovator in his methods. Gradual improvements in staff, methods and stock are a road map to training success but they are rooted in the ordinary rather than in genius.

3. Henry largely ignored the rest of the world. Henry may have felt that British racing was the best in the world but in his heyday he spurned many opportunities for his runners overseas. His tally of two US wins (Yashmak  in 1997 and Midday in 2009) is very underwhelming given the relatively easy pickings available in the US for turf horses. His tally of 6 Irish classics is also less than one would expect.  In my view, his Anglo-centric approach didn’t do justice to his horses or his owners by ignoring the opportunities that were available throughout the world.

4. He didn’t succeed with sprinters. I don’t know the reason for this but it is noticeable that he never trained a really top class sprinter and almost all of the big sprints are absent from his cv.

Great Stallions trained by Henry

none

Very Good Stallions trained

1. Kris (1976 Sharpen Up- Doubly Sure by Reliance).

Kris was a superb miler who should have won the Guineas and won 14 of his 16 races. His first crop yielded the outstanding Cecil trained triple crown winner Oh So Sharp (1982 Kris ex Oh So Fair by Graustark). His second crop yielded Irish 2000 Guineas winner Flash of Steel (1983 Kris ex Spark of Fire by Run the Gauntlet). His final career stats show 75 black type winners from 846 foals, a very creditable 9% and include other Group 1 winners such as Shavian, Rafha and Balisada. However Kris is regarded as a fillies sire and no important sire sons have emerged to continue his male line.

2. Diesis (1980 Sharpen Up- Doubly Sure by Reliance)

A brother to Kris, Diesis was a brilliant two year old who achieved a rare Middle Park, Dewhurst double.  Like his brother he made an immediate impression with an outstanding filly in his first crop-namely Diminuendo (1985 Diesis ex Cacti by Tom Rolfe).  Other Oaks winners followed in Ramruma (1996 Diesis ex Princess of Man by Green God) and Love Divine (1997 Diesis ex La Sky by Law Society). However unlike his brother there was not the same sex bias amongst his offspring who ranged from sprinters such as Keen Hunter (1987 Diesis ex Love’s Reward by Nonoalco) to milers such as Docksider (1995 Diesis ex Pump by Forli) and superb 10 furlong performers in Halling (1991 Diesis ex Dance Machine by Green Dancer) and Elmaamul (1987 Diesis ex Modena by Roberto). His final stud statistics showed 82 black type winners from 1069 foals (8%) and his sire line is just barely hanging on through Muhtathir (a son of Elmaamul and sire of Doctor Dino) and Halling who  has a few sons at stud.

Really Disappointing Stallions Trained by Henry

1. Reference Point (1984 Mill Reef ex Home on the Range by Habitat)

An above average Derby winner who won a Futurity at two and seemed to have the pedigree to succeed at stud.  He was very disappointing and his early death was not lamented by many breeders.

2. Hello Gorgeous (1977 Mr Prospector ex Bonny Jet by Jet Jewel)

As a winner of a Dante and Futurity (aka Racing Post Trophy) and a son of the new American sensation Mr Prospector, Hello Gorgeous proved popular at Coolmore and big money was paid for many of his early offspring. He was a disaster and led to a distrust of sons of Mr Prospector in Europe that took a long time to fade.  His final stats show 10 black type winners from 510 foals (2%).

2. Old Vic (1986 Sadler’s Wells ex Cockade by Derring Do).

From the first crop of Sadler’s Wells, Old Vic was a brilliant winner of the Irish and French Derby’s. Retired to Dalham Hall he was very disappointing as a flat sire before proving to be an exceptional jumps stallion.

Mixed bag

Of Henry’s other Derby winners, Oath (1996 Fairy King ex Sheer Audacity by Troy) and Commander in Chief(1990 Dancing Brave ex Slightly Dangerous by Roberto) found themselves in Japan and failed to make much impact.  Slip Anchor (1982 Shirley Heights ex Sayonara by Birkhahn) did reasonably well, but as a stamina source was never fashionable enough to attract sufficient high quality mares.

National Hunt sires

Henry was associated with many great stayers such as Le Moss (1975 Le Levanstall ex Feemoss by Ballymoss),  Ardross (1976 Run the Gauntlet ex Le Melody by Levmoss) and Buckskin (1973 Yelapa ex Bete A Bon Dieu by Herbager) . He trained a lot of other horses who also made names as national hunt stallions such as Gunner B (1973 Royal Gunner ex Sweet Councillor by Privy Councillor), Moscow Society (Nijinsky ex Afifa by Dewan). In addition to the previously mentioned leading jumps sire Old Vic, he also trained the King George winner King’s Theatre (1991 Sadler’s Wells ex Regal Beauty by Princely Native) who became champion NH sire.

Conclusions

Henry’s standing as a great trainer is not in doubt and only Michael Stoute has stronger claims to be regarded as the outstanding British trainer of the modern era. A trainers job is to train horses for the racecourse and he has no influence on whether they succeed as stallions. It is of no relevance to Henry’s standing as a trainer that he was not associated with any horses who proved to be great stallions. It is just one of those statistical curiosities. His  success as a trainer of stayers inevitably meant that he was associated with horses who ended up earning their oats as national hunt stallions. Henry’s greatest project, Frankel is now embarking on his stud career and he has every prospect of success, so there could yet be a great stallion associated with the Cecil name.

 

 

Stowaway revealed

 Jumps sires are often dead or infirm by the time their merits become apparent.  Stowaway has just turned 17 so given average luck he should be active for another 4 or 5 years (hopefully more).  His merits are now becoming abundantly clear and National Hunt breeders should be placing him near the top of their lists when planning their future matings. Use him before we lose him is my advice.

Statistics

Stowaway is currently lying in 70th position in the Anglo-Irish jumps list with earnings of around £100,000. He has had 7 winners from 23 runners (30%). In 2009/2010 he finished in 170th position with total earnings of £76,648 and 3 winners from 22 runners (14%). In 2008/2009 he finished in 218th position with total earnings of £57,513 and 5 winners from 21 runners (24%).  “So what?” , would be most people’s response to these figures. However in this case the statistics tell an incomplete story. His winners to runners percentages are not particularly great but they mask the quality of some of the individuals that are now coming through. In addition the mares he initially covered were extremely modest as you would expect from a covering fee of €600.  Also Stowaway did not commence stud duties until 2001 so his oldest progeny have just turned 9.

Shark Hanlon and Stowaway

January 23rd 2011 saw Stowaway record a major double at Leopardstown. Hidden Cyclone (ex Hurricane Debbie by Shahanndeh) was a good winner of a Grade 2 Novice hurdle over 2 1/2 miles.  He was introduced into the betting for the Neptune Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham but his trainer John Joseph aka ‘Shark’ Hanlon feels that in time he will make a top class staying chaser. Shark Hanlon also trained the bumper winner Mart Lane (ex Western Whisper by Supreme Leader) who is also under consideration for Cheltenham.  Mart Lane is a full brother to the best horse sired to date by Stowaway in Western Leader (ex Western Whisper by Supreme Leader) who has won four times including a Grade 2 hurdle, prior to running second at Aintree in the Sefton hurdle.  All of these horses were bred by Ronnie O’Neill who stands Stowaway in Whytemount Stud in Kilkenny and who was the primary supporter in the early years. For good measure Stowaway Pearl (ex Kelly’s Pearl by Miner’s Lamp) won at Thurles on the 10th February and he is also trained by Shark Hanlon who has been key to the rise of Stowaway.

Stowaway race record

Stowaway was first seen on the racecourse as a two year old in October 1996, when he made a winning debut in a mile maiden at Newcastle for trainer Michael Jarvis. The potential he showed that day meant that he was transferred to Godolphin for the rest of his career.  He was beaten on his reappearance at three but then stepped up in class to win the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood over 12 furlongs. He followed up in August by winning the Group 2 Voltigeur Stakes from Derby runner-up Silver Patriarch. The St Leger is the traditional target of Voltigeur winners and it was talked about for Stowaway but he failed to make it to Doncaster and in his absence the classic was won by Silver Patriarch. The Champion Stakes saw him return to action that season. He did respectably, finishing fourth behind Pilsudski over a trip short of his best but still finishing ahead of the likes of Derby winner Benny the Dip and Group 1 winners Revoque and Bijou D’Inde.

 Stowaway spent the winter in Dubai and made a winning reappearance in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Nad Al Sheba.  However this was before that race attained graded status. Alas this also proved to be  his last racecourse appearance. His career finished with a record of four wins from six runs and he had proven himself to be amongst the best of his generation. However it was also a career that seemed to fall short of its potential. He seemed an ideal candidate for the St Leger but never got the opportunity to compete in that classic. He never got the opportunity to run beyond 12 furlongs and he seemed a likely sort to improve with age but we never really saw that assumption tested. In addition he never raced on ground worse than good, but race reports filed after his maiden indicate that he had a high knee action so he should have been suited by softer ground.

Stowaway’s Pedigree

Sire: Slip Anchor

Stowaway is a son of the runaway 1985 Derby winner Slip Anchor.   Slip Anchor did not follow on from his sire  and grandsire in throwing a Derby winner but he compiled a reasonable record from his time at stud. From 586 foals he had 302 winners(52%) and 28 (5%) stakes winners.  His best offspring included Oaks, Irish Oaks and St Leger winner User Friendly (ex Rostova by Blakeney), Italian Derby winner and Irish Derby runner-up Morshdi (ex Reem Albaraari by Sadler’s Wells), Italian Group 1 winner and Hardwicke Stakes winner Posidonas (ex Tamassos by Dance in Time) and Melbourne Cup runner-up Give the Slip (ex Falafil by Fabulous Dancer).  His best offspring weren’t precocious, stayed well and tended to be durable. The average winning distance of his offspring is a very high at 12.4 furlongs.  Slip Anchor’s stud fee began at £30,000 in 1987 before dropping to £25000 in 1989, £20000 in 1990. He was available at 3-4k throughout the noughties before his retirement from stud duties in 2007.

Dam: On Credit

On Credit, the dam of Stowaway showed high class form in France. She won as a juvenile, won twice over 10 furlongs at three and was twice runner-up in editions of the 11 furlong Group 3 Prix Fille de L’Air. She is also a half sister to Falafil (by Fabulous Dancer) the dam of the previously mentioned Give the Slip (by Slip Anchor). At stud she is also the dam of Credit-A-Plenty (by Generous) who was runner up in the Group 3 Park Hill Stakes.  Stowaway’s grand-dam Noble Tiara was twice a winner( over 10 and 12 furlongs) from nine starts she made as a three year old. This was her only season to race but aside from winning she placed fourth in both the Prix de Flore (Gr3) and Prix de Royallieu (Gr3). On Credit was a daughter of French Guineas winner, No Pass No Sale a son of Northfields. Slip Anchor worked well with Northfields and from only 7 horses bred on this cross they included Slicious (ex Precious Jade) winner of a Group 1 Premio Roma and Anchorite (ex Elysian) who was a high class two year old.

The secret of Success

Stowaway’s success has taken people by surprise.  At the time of his arrival at Whytemount Stud in 2001, it had been three years since he had set foot on a racecourse. Understandably there weren’t big queues of breeders to use this forgotten horse. His initial crop sizes numbered 30 with many of these mares being provided by the horses new owner, Ronnie O’Neill.  Following some success he secured 120 mares in 2009 and this rose to 200 mares in 2010 at a heady €1000 service fee. His fee for 2011 is listed as private, but even if the fee is trebled or quadrupled it may still represent value.

Understanding his success may be easier than we think.  It is well to remember what a high class racehorse he was and it is certainly likely that we never saw the best of him.  Physically he is a big good looking bay. His sire is a potent influence for stamina and the Mill Reef line is responsible for plenty of high profile National Hunt sires.  He has covered mostly moderate mares and made the most of his opportunities.  There is no secret to his success apart from his own abilities.

Nicks and the future

Stowaway seems to throw winners to all sorts of lines.  An unfamiliar name that occurs a lot amongst his offspring as broodmare sire is Shahanndeh (Assert ex Shademah by Thatch) who was a half brother to Sharastani who previously stood at Whytemount Stud and was the sire of many of his earlier mates.  Apart from Presenting the Irish national hunt stallion scene is dominated by sons of Sadler’s Wells. Given the success enjoyed on the flat by crossing Sadlers Well’s and Shirley Heights line mares it seems natural that many of these mares will be tried with Stowaway. His first 3 figure sized crop are now yearlings so it will take a few years to make an impact on the track. In the meantime, breeders should take advantage of his availability and I am confident that he will be highly placed on the sires table throughout the mid to late years of this decade.

STOWAWAY (GB) 1994

Slip
Anchor (GB) 1982
Shirley
Heights (GB) 1975
Mill
Reef (USA) 1968
Never
Bend (USA) 1960
Milan
Mill (USA) 1962
Hardiemma
(GB) 1969
Hardicanute
(GB) 1962
Grand
Cross (GB) 1952
Sayonara
(GER) 1965
Birkhahn
(GER) 1945
Alchimist
(GER) 1930
Bramouse
(FR) 1936
Suleika
(GER) 1954
Ticino
(GER) 1939
Schwarzblaurot
(GER) 1947
On
Credit (FR) 1988
No
Pass No Sale (IRE) 1982
Northfields
(USA) 1968
Northern
Dancer (CAN) 1961
Little
Hut (USA) 1952
No
Disgrace (IRE) 1976
Djakao
(FR) 1966
Exbury
Grace (FR) 1970
Noble
Tiara (USA) 1981
Vaguely
Noble (GB) 1965
Vienna
(GB) 1957
Noble
Lassie (GB) 1956
Tayyara
(IRE) 1975
Targowice
(USA) 1970
Shahla
(IRE) 1968