When it comes to stayers, there weren’t many more popular than Sergeant Cecil. Despite taking 14 runs to get off the mark, Rod Millman’s charge improved through handicaps thereafter to eventually win a Group 1.
It was around June 2005 when things really started to click for Cecil. He had just won the Northumberland Plate off a mark of 92 and followed that up with a win in the Ebor off a 4lb higher mark. Finishing runner up to Millenary in the Group 2 Goodwood Cup was perhaps his finest effort yet, but even so, he surely couldn’t win a Cesarewitch off a mark of 104. Or could he?
A monster field of 34 lined up to contest the 2005 Cesarewitch with Nicky Henderson’s Afrad, ridden by Kieren Fallon, starting the hot 3/1f. Cecil was drawn in stall 9, with regular partner Alan Munro in the saddle. Then a 6YO, Cecil had to carry a welter-burden 9st 8lb with Munro using as much lead as he could get his hands on. Munro settled the 10/1 shot out the back early on, as 66/1 no hoper The Last Cast set what was a frantic gallop considering they had 2m 2f ahead of them.
It wasn’t long before it became apparent the leader and anyone who raced up with the pace had gone too fast. One by one the pace collapsed, while Munro and Sergeant Cecil bided their time, edging ever closer as they galloped up Newmarket’s Rowley Mile. Munro said go at the two-pole, and Cecil responded willingly, taking aim at Philip Robinson and King Revo.
Cecil stayed on dourly; wearing his white blaze low to the turf, displaying a will to win that simply broke the hearts of his rivals. He’d done it. He’d won the one of the most competitive handicaps on the calendar off a mark of 104.
That was to be his last handicap for quite some time. While a duo of Group 2s and that famous Group 1 in the Prix du Cadran awaited him the following season, his performance to win the Cesarewitch off top weight (the top weight claimed 5lb) is considered his greatest achievement.
What a horse he was!