Cecil can call collect with Twice Over
Henry Cecil admits he is personally breaking new ground by training a horse for a major race by telephone, but that will not prevent his famous Warren Place stable approaching Saturday's Dubai World Cup with confidence.
Twice Over, which he claims is "part of the family," is 2/1 favourite for the world's richest race, which carries a first prize of around £3.7m.
Cecil is a rare species. He is brilliant at his job, as well as being universally popular, which in a highly-competitive sport notorious for its back-biting, is most unusual. His gritty fight against stomach cancer, plus his comeback after being in the doldrums on a professional level, have endeared him to punters.
The former champion trainer, most would agree, is a changed man. Two decades ago, when training rivals such as Ian Balding and John Dunlop were raiding Italy, France, and Germany on Sundays, Cecil and his team of racehorses were in Newmarket, seemingly oblivious to the opportunities abroad.
But look at him now. Breeders Cups, now Dubai World Cups; you detect an ambition that, if it was there previously, was never clearly visible. "Well, some people say I didn't like travel, but I would dispute that. I've won French Classics, big races in Ireland. You really do have to balance what horses you have with the costs involved for the owner," he explains.
In Khalid Abdullah, Cecil has the perfect owner for such adventurous planning. The Saudi prince is not frightened to spend to send his horses to tackle realistic foreign targets, and he has the utmost faith in his trainer.
"I'm looking forward to Saturday. My horse is in very good form," says Cecil.
"But, really, I've been doing all Twice Over's training by telephone, which is something new for me. I have been relying on my team. I've had my travelling head lad, my wife Jane, who went out to Dubai last week, plus Tom, all reporting back to me. I think it's working."
Twice Over finished 10th behind Gloria De Campaeo in last year's World Cup, but a wide draw didn't help his chances, and the training legend has adopted a different approach, in getting the colt to Dubai much earlier in the year. The six-year-old has already won a race at Meydan, which should have him perfectly primed for the big one.
"I adore this horse," Cecil confides. "He is a wonderful horse, he has a strong head, wide eyes, he's got character. He has gained in confidence with his racing." (© Daily Telegraph, London)