How Prince Khalid Abdullah’s faith revived the storied career of Sir Henry Cecil

LADY Jane Cecil today pays an emotional tribute to Prince Khalid Abdullah who died this week, crediting the owner-breeder with saving her late husband’s career.

Lady Jane Cecil standing by the statue of Frankel at York.
Lady Jane Cecil standing by the statue of Frankel at York.

The Saudi prince, she says, was one of the few leading owner-breeders who supported Sir Henry Cecil during his fallow years when he was nearly lost to the sport.

“In 2006, the Prince needed a decent winner to be champion owner in France,” she told The Yorkshire Post. “Henry had Passage Of Time who he would have put away after winning a good race at Newmarket.

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“He ran her in France, she won her Group One at Saint-Cloud, and then of course we had horses like Twice Over and Midday for the Prince. Just when you think it will be hard for it to get any better, along comes Frankel.”

This was Noble Mission (left) winning the 2014 Qipco Champion Stakes for Prince Khalid Abdullah, Lady Jane Cecil and jockey James Doyle.

This is the champion colt, now a very successful stallion at the late Prince’s Juddmonte Farms breeding empire, that enjoyed a 14-race unbeaten career on the track, most notably his win in the 2012 International at York.

Yet, while Cecil thrived on the adulation while battling cancer that would ultimately claim his life in 2013, it was repaying Prince Khalid’s loyalty that gave him solace.

Her late husband, says Lady Jane, loved chatting to the Prince and regarded the leather-bound Juddmonte green book of broodmares as his “green bible” that he would take to bed on most nights. “If he (Prince Khalid) hadn’t kept the horses at Warren Place, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did.

“I doubt Henry could have carried on. The faith the Prince did show in Henry, he did manage to repay.”

Owner-breeder Prince Khalid Abdullah (second right) is pictured with racing superstar Frankel in 2011 - and the horse's late trainer Sir Henry Cecil.

Lady Cecil is also in awe of the Prince’s support to her when her husband died on the eve of Royal Ascot in 2013 – and the poignancy of Riposte’s win in her name just 12 days later at the flagship fixture. “That was just a blur, very emotional,” she recalls.

Nevertheless, she was more comfortable in the limelight when the Prince’s Noble Mission won the 2014 Qipco Champion Stakes – the race that had marked Frankel’s farewell two years earlier. The horse’s third Group One win of the campaign under jockey James Doyle, they got the better of the durable Al Kazeem in a classic.

“The day Noble Mission won the Champion Stakes, yes it was emotional but it was also pure joy,” said Lady Cecil, who admits to shedding to a tear when Teddy Grimthorpe, the Prince’s racing manager, phoned her on Tuesday to break the desperately sad news.

“That day, too, wouldn’t have been possible without the Prince’s loyalty. And when I think of all the happiest memories of recent times, they were all due, in part, to the Prince’s support. His support was just crucial. I will miss him.”

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