Cecil ‘raring to go’ for Flat season

AS a pencil-thin Sir Henry Cecil prepared to saddle his wonderhorse Frankel at York last summer, his voice barely audible because of the ravages of cancer treatment, it appeared only to be a matter of time before ailing health would force the former champion trainer to call time on a career that had been both illustrious and courageous in equal measure.

Peddlers Cross ridden by Jason Maguire

Yet the very fact that Cecil, who has a stud at Helmsley, North Yorkshire, is “raring to go” for the 2013 Flat season is as significant – and heartwarming – as any of the record-breaking Frankel’s 14 wins which included York’s prestigious Juddmonte International on his penultimate start.

As part of a BBC Radio 5 Live Sport documentary which will be broadcast tonight, a rejuvenated Cecil has spoken at length about his improving health and his confidence that Frankel – the best racehorse in the world – can become one of the bloodstock industry’s great stallions after being retired to stud in the hope that he will sire a generation of equine trailblazers.

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“The pressure’s off me now,” admits Cecil, speaking from his yard in Newmarket. “Frankel has a new career starting and it’s very exciting. As he’s so close it means I can go and see him. You never know (when horses go to stud) but he was such a terrific racehorse with so much ability you feel he’ll pass it to his offspring.

“It was a difficult year because I wasn’t well, I had a lot of treatment and everything. When you’re trying to work and you’ve got a horse of that calibre there’s a certain amount of pressure at being able to do it properly.

“I found it more pressure trying to be there for him when I wasn’t feeling very well.

“I’m picking up the whole time now, I had three and a half weeks doing nothing in Dubai, it was a lovely holiday, I’m getting my energy back, putting on weight and raring to go.”

While Cecil, and every other trainer for that matter, can only dream about training a racehorse as talented as Frankel, the countdown to next month’s National Hunt Festival continues to gather pace with the Ladbrokes World Hurdle the probable target for Peddlers Cross after the gelding returned to winning ways at Musselburgh yesterday.

Following an unsatisfactory season novice chasing, it was the first time that Peddlers Cross had encountered timber obstacles since finishing second in the 2011 Champion Hurdle and Jason Maguire’s mount had to battle hard to beat the James Reveley-ridden Cue To Cue.

“My first thought was that he could have been a little more impressive, but when I spoke to Jason he was full of him and he’s the man that matters,” said McCain who appeared to rule out another tilt at the Champion Hurdle.

“Jason said he felt more like a World Hurdle horse today than he ever has. I think the World Hurdle has to be his target but I’ll have another talk with owner Tim Leslie. You don’t see the best of these horses until they are going championship pace when they settle better. Make no mistake Peddlers Cross hasn’t changed, his work is still exceptional.”

David Pipe will not decide until Cheltenham week whether star novice Dynaste runs in the three-mile RSA Chase – or the slightly shorter and less prestigious Jewson.

He has not raced since winning the Grade One Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day under jockey Tom Scudamore.

There is also slightly more to the Pipe yard’s customary waiting game than meets the eye – stablemate Grands Crus won the Feltham last season before finishing a very leg weary fourth in the RSA. “He’s in really good form and the Feltham runner-up, Hadrians Approach, has come out and really franked the form since, so his form seems to look better and better. Having said that I thought the same about Grands Crus last season before he got beaten at Cheltenham,” said Pipe.

“Tom says he wouldn’t be worried about him going back in trip and nor would I, but we don’t need to make that decision yet. The going will certainly be a factor.”

Pipe will also race Goulanes, a final stride winner of Wetherby’s Towton Novices’ Chase, in either the RSA Chase or the National Hunt Chase over four miles.

“He has come out of the race in good form and will run in either the RSA or the four-miler,” said the trainer. “If he had to take on Dynaste it wouldn’t worry me – we will choose the best race for each horse.”

Grands Crus is one of a star-studded 27 horses to be declared for Cheltenham’s Ryanair Chase as connections of many look to swerve the two-mile Queen Mother Champion Chase where just eight horses have been entered to take on Nicky Henderson’s Sprinter Sacre who has been dubbed ‘Frankel over fences’ because of his athleticism.

Jockey Bryan Cooper says he was very impressed by the victory of Our Conor in the Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday.

The Dessie Hughes-trained four-year-old easily despatched of the previously unbeaten Diakali and shot to the head of the Triumph Hurdle betting.

“We always thought he was quite special and as good as what he showed the other day,” said Cooper, a rising star of Irish racing.