And so, as all who have followed the fortunes of Newmarket’s most iconic training stable knew it would, Warren Place, cradle of so many champions, has sent out its final runner bearing the initials of the training genius with which it will be forever associated.
The Henry Cecil connection with Warren Place, which stretched back almost four decades, ended on the other side of the world at the weekend when his widow Jane saddled the last runner to carry the HRAC initialled sheet at Woodbine racecourse in Canada.
Back in 1977 when Cecil sent out his first runners few thought he could enjoy the same sort of success his then father-in-law Sir Noel Murless, from who he had taken over the yard, had during a glorious Newmarket career that began in 1953 when he moved to Headquarters from Beckhampton.
Warren Place had been created nearly 30 years before that by trainer Sam Darling, who built it close to the one-time stud farm Warren Towers. It was described at the time as “the most up to date stables in Newmarket.”
In 1946 Darling sold Warren Place to the Maharajah of Baroda who installed Sam Armstrong as his trainer. When Armstrong relocated to St Gatien, it was Noel Murless, already a Classic winning trainer, who became the new incumbent at Warren Place and so began the yard’s glory years as the partnership between Murless and the riding genius that was Lester Piggott took off.
By the time he retired in 1976 Murless had trained 19 domestic Classic winners including greats like Crepello, Royal Palace and Petite Etoile, and countless others.
Cecil, the new master of Warren Place, was to take the yard to new heights and cement its place in turf history. The first Classic winner he trained there was 1000 Guineas winner, One in a Million, in 1979, and in 1987, he sent out 180 winners – obliterating John Day’s record of 146 in 1867. The yard found champions season after season, Slip Anchor, Reference Point, Oath, Commander-in-Chief, Old Vic, Ardross, Le Moss, Bosra Sham, Indian Skimmer, Oh So Sharp, Diminuendo, the list goes on, with the very best of them in the majestic shape of Frankel, whose brilliance was to consummate one of the great training careers in history.
When Frankel was retired and left Warren Place in 2012, it seemed Sir Henry’s final race was also run. And so it was. He lost his long battle with cancer and died in June the following year.
Lady Cecil took out a trainers’ licence and carried on the proud family tradition enjoying multiple Group 1 successes with Frankel’s brother, Noble Mission, including an emotion-packed Champions’ Day victory at Ascot, the course her late husband had made his own. But in a sport which owes so much to hopes and dreams her final runner, Western Reserve, could not quite deliver the fairy-tale ending to her training career as he faded in the final furlong to finish fourth behind Are You Kidding Me in the Grade 2 Autumn Stakes at Woodbine in Canada on Sunday.
Successful though it was, Lady Cecil’s tenure was never likely to be more than a temporary one. Warren Place, now the property of Sheikh Mohammed, waits to welcome a new tenant and a new dawn. But for the time being the boxes once occupied by a legion of Classic winners stand eerily empty, the banter of stable staff silenced, the characters gone.
But the memories will forever remain, woven into the very bricks and mortar of a yard which has seen triumph and disaster, delight and despair.
As long as the boxes stand, the links with Warren Place’s glorious past will remain and will always be part of the folklore of the town where those who were part of it will tell the stories, relive the memories and remember golden eras presided over by true racing legends.