Sir Henry Cecil never fully got over the death of his identical twin brother and his widow believes he physically felt his pain as he himself battled cancer.
The disease too was to claim Sir Henry’s life in 2013 and a film set to be shown this weekend tells the bittersweet story of the trainer, his life and his relationship with wonder horse Frankel whose exploits gave him strength in the final years of his life.
Billed as one of the greatest sporting stories ever told The Trainer and the Racehorse: The Legend of Frankel, will be shown on Channel 4 on Saturday at 7pm ahead of Royal Ascot, the meeting Cecil made his own.
It’s a story of disaster and triumph, full of emotion which lays bare the vulnerabilities, the hopes and fears of one of the greatest racehorse trainers of all time, and told by those closest to him in his final years.
Lady Cecil, his third wife, tells how deeply affected he was by the death of his brother who also lost a battle with cancer.
“Henry had a fall from his horse and had a bad back throughout the whole of David’s illness,” she said. “He went into hospital for tests but there was no medical explanation for it. It seemed to be associated somehow or other with Henry feeling David’s pain.
“When David died Henry found it really hard to cope.”
His youngest son, Jake, recalled his father’s will to win and the pair are seen celebrating Light Shift’s 2007 Oaks triumph, a victory which saw Cecil start to emerge from years in the training wilderness. “This was everything he had,” said Jake. “He loved his life and he just wanted to live.”
Many individuals associated with Frankel and his trainer are also featured in the film. Warren Place head lass Dee Deacon broke down as she told how her boss had told her he had been diagnosed with cancer and Frankel’s work rider Shane Fetherstonhaugh recalled Cecil’s frailty compared with Frankel’s youth and strength towards the end of their journey together. “Henry knew how special the horse was and he wanted to see it out to the end with him,” he said.
Director Chris Durlachersaid : “This is a story that pulls at the heartstrings and proves there is such a thing as a second chance at life. Whether or not you’re a horseracing fan, it’s deeply moving how Cecil fought back from rock bottom to train Frankel, a horse that didn’t just win but raced like nobody had ever seen before.”