Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Passage of Time to End Cecil's Seven-Year Itch; Oaks Favourite Can Bring Back the Glory Days for the Popular Trainer, Writes Will Hayler

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Passage of Time to End Cecil's Seven-Year Itch; Oaks Favourite Can Bring Back the Glory Days for the Popular Trainer, Writes Will Hayler

Article excerpt

IT may be seven years since trainer Henry Cecil claimed the most recent of his staggering 23 British Classics but the good times can return at Epsom tomorrow when he saddles Passage Of Time in the Vodafone Oaks.

Despite a training record second to none of his generation, many in racing were still ready to conclude that Cecil was effectively finished a couple of years ago.

His infamous split with Sheikh Mohammed in 1995 led to a dramatic decline in the number of horses in his care, and the deaths of some of his principal owner-breeder patrons did further damage in the years afterwards.

With other personal problems to contend with Cecil, 64, was expected by most to have given up the struggle by now.

Cecil has insisted in every interview that he wanted to do nothing other than train more winners. He doggedly fought back and, when he claimed his first Group 1 prize for six years last autumn, it was a sign that things were about to take a turn for the better.

Loyally supported by the likes of Prince Khalid Abdullah, the owner of Passage Of Time, Cecil now has a team that includes several classy performers.

But none of them shines brighter than the Oaks favourite who, since the end of last year, has been trained by a master to be at her absolute peak in this race tomorrow.

Recent rain has ensured that the ground for this year's Oaks will be soft but, while others might be concerned by the conditions, Cecil need have no fears about PASSAGE OF TIME (nap) handling the conditions.

A tall and physically imposing filly, she was beaten on her debut on fast crowned ground at Yarmouth but, switched to a soft surface, quickly rattled off victories in her next two starts relishing the going.

Not that soft ground is essential.

Back on going that was officially good on her final start as a two-year-old, she took on the colts in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud and beat a field that was headed by subsequent Chester Vase winner Soldier Of Fortune. …

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