Royal Ascot. Tom Queally on life before, with and after Sir Henry Cecil

Royal Ascot. Tom Queally on life before, with and after Sir Henry Cecil

tom queally with sir henryRoyal Ascot will not be the same without the presence of the late Sir Henry Cecil.

You know that. I know it. And so does Tom Queally.

He was not the first jockey to ride Group 1 winning horses for Sir Henry. But he was the last to do so and, thanks to a horse called Frankel, he is the one most race watchers will associate with the gentleman of Newmarket.

I have no idea if Tom Queally is as in love with himself as some in racing have alleged in the past. I do know he is in love with racing and appreciative of where he is in his career right now.

He says: “I understood what Henry wanted from me and I think he understood what I could do for him. He had a way with his horses. He was at one with them. He had something extra. I could talk about him for an hour and still not do him justice.

“He was a genius to work for. Royal Ascot will not be the same without him.”

Not too many years before the sensation that was Frankel, you would have got a big odds against price if betting on Queally to ride Group 1 winners for Cecil. The path to success was not an easy one for the young man from County Waterford.

A former Irish apprentice jockey, he is keen to praise his parents for how they handled him at a crucial stage in his life. He had been riding for trainer Pat Flynn but the relationship between them broke down. Tom’s parents were keen for him to continue his schooling.

Tom says: “My mum would pick me up at 12 o’clock and I would study my school work as well as form on the way to the races and be back in school the next morning.”

He went to ride out for Aidan O’Brien and worked full time at Ballydoyle from 2003. He rode his first Group race winner for O’Brien but that was a rare success. Eleven winning rides in 2003 led to Queally seeking better luck abroad.

He says: “Had I ridden three more winners that year I would probably have stayed in Ireland.

 

“Hand on my heart, I was not cocky. When you handle yourself with a degree of confidence, newspapers take against you.”

He rode in New Orleans and in New Zealand before returning to England and accepting a role as a workrider in Lambourn.

The next trainer to come into the life of a still young Tom Queally was a controversial one. Barney Curley was a legend in the world of racing. A man who never suffered fools or big heads, gladly or otherwise.

Curley took Queally under his wing.

“It was the winter of 2008 and Barney said to me: ‘you have a big season ahead and I am now going to take you to Zambia to make sure you realise how lucky you are’. “What I saw down there with the work he’s doing with Direct Aid for Africa (DAFA) stops you ever feeling sorry for yourself if you are in a traffic jam after riding three beaten favourites at Sandown.”

The experience ensured that, years later, he appreciated how lucky he was to be the jockey who steered the greatest horse of a generation to win after win.

Tom says: “Frankel had a will to win like no other horse I sat on.”

There is no Frankel at Ascot this year. Queally will be there but he admits it will be odd not reporting to Sir Henry Cecil.

 

Tom says: “Sir Henry was a great trainer but an even greater person. Everything about him was class.”

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