Henry Cecil, Epsom Oaks

Emotional victory for Team Cecil at Royal Ascot

Huge amounts of cheering greeted the victory of Riposte, trained by Lady Jane Cecil, widow of master trainer Sir Henry Cecil who died on June 11 having sent out a record 75 winners at Royal Ascot.

Lady Cecil, welcoming her first Royal Ascot winner yesterday (Thursday 20th June) in the Ribblesdale Stakes, said: "First of all, that was for Henry, the Prince (Khalid Abdullah – the owner of Riposte) and all of the staff at Warren – for team Cecil.

"I don't really have the words to say what I am feeling right now. I think people will probably have a good idea. Henry was just adored by so many people. People who had never met him just loved him.

"We hardly dared dream that we would have a winner but, at the beginning of the week, I thought that this was one the best teams we had going into Ascot for a while and that Henry would have been relishing this. Everyone knows how he loved Ascot, not only the fashion but the racing and everything.

"Keeping busy is what is keeping us all going – if we had nothing to do, then I think we would all fall to bits.

"Tuesday was very hard. Henry adored Ascot – he was so looking forward to Royal Ascot with a good team of horses. I am just so pleased that team Cecil managed to get this win for him.

 "I don't have the words (to describe what I felt when Riposte won). She was slowly away which gave us a few moments of worry but she did it very well. She was the winner from quite some way out which was quite scary.

"I am sorry, my head is in a complete spin. Henry had been planning for Royal Ascot, with some plans from last year and definitely from the spring. We are just carrying on what he wanted.

"We have focused on this week. It is the most important week of the whole year for any training establishment – we haven't got to the end of the week yet.

"That reception that Riposte got was for him."

Tom Queally, the winning jockey, commented: "It means an awful lot to everybody. So many people work so hard.

"It has been a tough, tough week and I know that a lot of people are struggling, emotionally as well as everything else. It's great that Riposte did it as well as she did and I am sure Henry is looking down, helping us.

"She showed a turn of foot. I thought her forte would be stamina but she quickened up into it very well. She was a little slowly away – I wanted to be a little bit handier – but she was in front where it mattered."

Khalid Abdullah said: "We lost him (Sir Henry Cecil) and I don't know what to say. Lady Jane is doing very well and I hope that will continue."


As racing comes to terms with the premature loss through cancer of Sir Henry Cecil, any winner from his Warren Place stables is greeted with a sense of poignancy.

Hence it was that Riposte's victory in the Ribblesdale Stakes was universally applauded, including by those who finished in the places.

Taking second was Just Pretending, trained by Aidan O'Brien, who said: "I'm delighted to be second. Our filly ran very well – she wears a hood because when we put it on her at home it helps her." O'Brien had no plan for the filly, although she holds a number of engagements at ten and 12 furlongs in coming weeks.

Third place went to Elik, who is trained by Sir Michael Stoute and is owned by Nurlan Bizakov, a businessman from Kazakhstan who is establishing a European racing and breeding operation from his Hesmonds Stud base in Sussex. His best horse to date has been Asker Tau, but today's result took him into the winners' enclosure at Royal Ascot for the first time.

With the breeding sheds in mind, he said: "I'm very pleased with that – before the race I thought that if she won I would be overwhelmed, but I'm happy because this race has a wonderful record for producing top broodmares. Even fillies that are placed in it can do very well at stud, and I hope that is the case this time.

"I believe she will be better over a longer trip, but one day she will be retired to my stud."

He added: "I have two more runners this week. Ollie Olga is an outsider in tomorrow's Coronation Stakes – although I hope the bookmakers are wrong – and Tinga runs in the Chesham Stakes on Saturday. I fancy she will run a big race."

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