I know it’s a 100-1 shot, but I just hope they are merely doing it for the publicity. I just hope that Sir Henry Cecil and Brough Scott have not really fallen out but are rather chasing each other round the table in the manner of Tom and Jerry. Please let it all be a cartoon.
The reality, however, seems to be that two of racing’s doyens – men born less than a month apart – will not be swapping Christmas cards this year. Immediately after the recent publication of Henry Cecil – Trainer Of Genius, the journalist’s authorised biography of the master of Warren Place, we seemed to get Brough Scott – Writer Of Hurt, the said genius’s statement of response.
Cecil believes Scott has broken a confidence by dwelling overly on the negative aspects of his life. He spoke of “disappointment”. Brough replied that he was simply trying to paint a rounded portrait of his subject and was not in the business of betraying trusts. He said he was “disappointed”.
Brough takes writing very seriously – he loves his craft and part of that is getting the full story across
Oh dear. Judging from chatroom responses, commentators are fairly split on the hero/villain narrative in this unfortunate episode. Before I form my opinion I must make two admissions: 1) I have not read the book; 2) I have not trained any Classic winners, but I have had a go at being a journalist.
During the course of my work I’ve obviously bumped into Brough, quite literally. He may be an unbelievable 70, but he’s still acutely sharp of mind and elbow, as you soon learn when a big story breaks on the racecourse.
Brough is an acclaimed author, journalist and editor. He has been horseracing’s writer of the year and he’s been the nation’s sports feature writer of the year on no less than three occasions. He is not renowned as a master of the stitch-up. He takes writing very seriously, as becomes apparent when you witness him physically geeing himself up in the press room before he pens a significant piece.
The Cecil book will have tested twin loyalties. Brough loves racing and would not have wanted to upset one of its greatest trainers. But he also loves his craft and part of that is getting the full story across.
If he has made a misjudgment here it is in anticipating Cecil’s reaction to his detail. Sir Henry seems to have imagined a hagiography rather than a biography. Something like: Chapter One: Those 10 championships; Chapter Two: My 75 Royal Ascot wins; Chapter Three: Frankel. The End. It would have been a book of sorts but not the one Brough chose to write. It would have been like a biography of Tiger Woods that talked only about golf.
Like any sentient human being, there are things in Sir Henry’s past he would like to change. Probably one of them is when he agreed to my interview request for The Independent at the depth of his fortunes in 2005, a year that yielded just 12 winners for a trainer more used to celebrating centuries.
Henry was charm itself in the ‘old boys’ room at his Warren Place stable, but the moment I tried to bring up the spicier elements of his life, the windows started frosting from the inside.
“You mustn’t talk about the downs.” Cecil said at the time. “I don’t want to go into the Fallon thing or anything like that and I don’t want anything about Natalie. Basically, I’m still a positive person, so I don’t want a negative article.”
Thus Henry commanded a promise that no detail should be included on the split from his second wife, Natalie, neither the subsequent sacking of his stable jockey, Kieren Fallon.
“I don’t like reminiscing,” Cecil explained. “It’s no good to anybody. People can do it for me if they like, but life’s about what you’re going to do, not what you have done.
“I could retire and become a member of White’s Club [the exclusive Mayfair establishment] and sit there with a glass of port and some stilton and talk all day long about what I’ve done. But who’s interested? Least of all me.”
Yet, as Henry and Brough found out, that’s the problem with biographies. They are all about reminiscing.