THE poignancy will be palpable when Lady Jane Cecil’s Joyeuse is saddled at York before the Totepool Summer Stakes – the day-one highlight of the John Smith’s Cup meeting which is expected to attract more than 50,000 spectators today and tomorrow.
Knavesmire’s tree-lined paddock became a second home to the trainer’s late husband, Sir Henry, and the scene of one of his greatest – certainly most emotional – triumphs when he defied cancer, and his doctors, to produce the world-beating Frankel in the form of his life to land the 2012 Juddmonte International in a career-best performance.
Thirteen months after Sir Henry passed away, his legacy lives on thanks to his widow, who recorded the first Group One success of her training career in May when Noble Mission won the Tattersalls Gold Cup on The Curragh under a tactically brilliant ride from James Doyle.
Never did she believe that she would be able to raise the Cecil family flag over Warren Place stables in Newmarket, a tradition begun by her late husband to signify every victory at the highest level.
Joyeuse has a special place in Lady Jane’s heart after winning her racecourse debut at Lingfield last May just a fortnight before Sir Henry lost his fight for life.
Since then, the filly – owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah – has won a Listed race at Salisbury before being unplaced in Newmarket’s 1000 Guineas.
Dropped back in trip, Joyeuse won a six-furlong contest at Haydock – a precursor to Noble Mission’s emotional triumph 24 hours later – before finishing second in the group Three Ballyoagan Stakes at Leopardstown a month ago.
“Joyeuse has run really well on both of her starts at six furlongs this season. We were thrilled with her victory at Haydock and it was also a good performance at Leopardstown, where I feel she didn’t quite get the run of the race,” said Lady Cecil.
“You’d have to consider her best run to have been at Haydock where she travelled into the race smoothly before picking up well. She has got an excellent turn of foot, possessing real speed.
“We’ve been pleased with her build-up and her work has been very solid.
“Ground-wise, she has shown that she enjoys getting her toe in, but a quicker surface does not inconvenience her, so we don’t foresee any problems on that front.
“As a half-sister to Frankel, she has always attracted plenty of interest and we are looking forward to running her at York.
“Of course, Knavesmire was where Frankel gave one of his most memorable performances.
“I shall never forget the exhilarating way in which he won the Juddmonte International.
“Henry loved York and I know Frankel’s win that day meant a huge amount to him.”
Three-year-olds have a decent record against their elders in this Group Three with Serious Attitude, Rose Blossom and Ladies Are Forever winning three in a row between 2009-2011.
Ladies Are Forever also won the corresponding race last year at five and runs again for Malton trainer Geoff Oldroyd while Great Habton-based Tim Easterby’s two runners include Body And Soul, the winner of last year’s MacMillan Charity Sprint Trophy.
The Cecil team are aiming for a double on the card with Mighty Yar who is one of 16 declarations for the GroceryAid Chairman’s Charity Cup.
Lady Cecil’s charge won a valuable event at Newmarket’s Guineas meeting and looks the ideal type for a race like this.
She explained: “Mighty Yar is a horse we’ve always held in high regard.
“He showed when he won a valuable handicap at the Guineas meeting that he is a talented colt.
“After that we ran him on the July Course, but a combination of two or three little things didn’t help him – mainly the ground, which was just on the easy side. He is better suited by a faster surface and I’m sure York’s long straight will be ideal for him.”
Royal Ascot winner Hartnell followed up his win in the Queen’s Vase with an all-the-way success in the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket.
Stepping back in trip, Joe Fanning was able to dictate his own pace at the head of affairs and never really looked like being hauled back.
Trained at Middleham by Mark Johnston, Hartnell is set to be a leading player in September’s Ladbrokes St Leger – the final Classic of the 2014 Flat season.
“That’s the horse we thought we had,” said Johnston whose Torchlighter then brought up a double for connections.
“The St Leger has got to be the target. We were thinking of that even at the beginning of the year.
“Ground may be an issue as he has run his best races with some cut in the ground.”