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Millman pays tribute to staying star Sergeant Cecil

Millman pays tribute to staying star Sergeant Cecil
Millman pays tribute to staying star Sergeant Cecil

Rod Millman has hailed Sergeant Cecil as “one in a lifetime” following the death of his former stable star at the age of 25.

The popular stayer won 10 of his 53 races and was second on another 14 occasions, working his way up from low-key handicaps to Group One glory in the Prix du Cadran at Longchamp.

In 2005, he landed a trio of major handicaps, prevailing in the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle, the Ebor at York and Newmarket’s Cesarewitch.

When stepping up in class, he kept on improving to secure Lonsdale Cup, Doncaster Cup and Yorkshire Cup triumphs, almost always earned in his trademark gutsy manner.

Devon handler Millman declared: “He was fantastic, one of the toughest horses I’ve ever been involved with.

Horse Racing – 2005 Ebor Festival – York Racecourse
Alan Munro (yellow cap) brings Sergeant Cecil to victory in the Ebor (John Giles/PA).

“He took quite a bit of work, but he had such a great constitution. He hardly ever had a sick day and I was so lucky to be involved with him.

“When he came to me rated 63, I thought we’d definitely be able to win a couple of races with him but I had no idea he’d go on to be as good as he was.

“Nobody did really, although Sharon, the girl who used to ride him out, always thought he was a champion, even when he was rated that low.

“But he was a horse that was a one in a lifetime and he changed everyone’s lives when we had him.”

Having initially raced six times for Seamus Mullins without troubling the judge, Sergeant Cecil joined Millman in the summer of 2002, but it wasn’t a case of instant success.

“When I first got him, he’d been with Seamus Mullins first and Seamus gave him a lovely start in life, he looked after him really, really well,” added Millman.

Horse Racing – John Smith’s Northumberland Plate – Newcastle Racecourse
Sergeant Cecil and Alan Munro winning the Northumberland Plate (Owen Humphreys/PA).

“Unfortunately for Seamus, the owner became impatient and I was very lucky to get him – and he came to me ready to go on to the next stage of his career.

“But it took me quite a long time – I think we had five or six seconds before he won a race, and he kept going up the handicap without winning.”

However, once the floodgates opened, Sergeant Cecil simply never stopped improving.

Millman recalled: “When he won his first race, I think he went up to around 80 and I thought it was going to be hard to place him, but he just kept improving every year.”

Alan Munro partnered the chestnut gelding to some memorable handicap victories, before Frankie Dettori took over when the Group-class triumphs began.

“Luckily for me, I think in 2005, Alan Munro came into our yard and he was riding out for us,” said Millman.

Racing – Newmarket Racecourse
Sergeant Cecil ridden by jockey Alan Munroe to win the Cesarewitch (Chris Radburn/PA)

“And although he didn’t actually ride Cecil work, he was always available to ride him in races and it was a big advantage having a top jockey to ride him all the time, otherwise you’re just using different people and you’re getting a different opinion on the horse.

“He was a very good jockey and he won the three big handicaps on him and unfortunately Alan suffered from low blood pressure, everyone thought it was epilepsy, so they stopped him riding for a long time and he couldn’t ride Cecil at the end of his next season.

“But luckily for me, Frankie Dettori stepped in and won three Group races with him. Frankie is obviously a brilliant jockey and he rode him very well as well, so I was lucky to have those two jockeys ride him for me.”

One quirk of fate regarding Sergeant Cecil’s stellar career was that he was hardly bred to be a stayer.

Millman noted: “He came from a humble background, although he was quite well bred, as his mother came from a good Hamdan family, even though she was picked up quite cheaply.

“But the funny thing is that his sire King’s Signet was a sprinter, who won the Stewards’ Cup.”

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