By Simon Jackson at Sandown Park.
AP McCoy retires on Saturday. We all have our favourite memories of the multiple champion jockey and I consider myself fortunate to have spoken to him many times when interviewing on racecourses. Here is my favourite memory of the champion, taken from an interview at Fontwell Park on the day that Sir Henry Cecil died.
Tony McCoy praises Sir Henry Cecil’s strength after news of champion trainer’s death
23:55 11 June 2013. By Simon Jackson, London24’s horse racing correspondent at Fontwell Park.
The jockeys all wore black armbands at Fontwell on Tuesday as a tribute to Newmarket trainer Sir Henry Cecil who died earlier in the day after a long battle with cancer.
Cecil won the trainers’ championship 10 times and bagged four Epsom Derbys in an illustrious career spanning over 40 years that was perhaps highlighted by his sublime handling of the mighty Frankel who retired unbeaten last year.
Cecil’s career was all the more remarkable for the way he burst back to prominence in recent seasons, while all the time battling cancer – which highlighted the strength that multiple champion jockey Tony McCoy believes was the 70-year-olds greatest attribute.
“His record speaks for itself and we don’t need anyone else to tell you how special a trainer or great a genius he [Cecil] was,” McCoy said.
“Very few people in the sport can be mentioned in the same breath as Vincent O’Brien but Sir Henry Cecil certainly was one of them.
“He has left a legacy behind him. When I was a kid growing up I remember watching all of those brilliant horses that he trained. And to go from such a high to a low period in his life and to get back up again with Frankel and all those horses in the last few years show even more what a mark of a man he was. It is a very sad day.”
Cecil’s superb handling of the initially headstrong Frankel was widely considered a master-class in horsemanship and the trainer named him as the best horse he had handled after the four-year-old won his 14th and final race on Champions Day at Ascot last year.
McCoy continued: “What I have noticed in the last three or four years is he is an unbelievably tough man. I think anyone in any sport to achieve at the highest level for as long as he did, whether you are physically or mentally doing it, you need to be unbelievably tough. And I think he showed that in the last few years.
“You have only got to look at the way he handled those brilliant horses over the last 40 years – and the way that training regimes have improved with the modernisation of the sport and has become different – and he still moved along and kept ahead of everyone.
“Braveheart is my favourite film and as William Morris said, ‘Every man dies, but not every man really lives,’ and he really lived so it is a very sad day for sport.”
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