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Turf innovator and steward Cecil Blacker dies aged 86.

Byline: HOWARD WRIGHT

SIR Cecil Blacker, one of the most versatile men to be involved with British racing since World War II, has died at the age of 86. He suffered a stroke on Friday and died in Banbury Hospital.

Known throughout his life - as was his father - by the nickname `Monkey', he followed an outstanding military career with a notable period as a racing administrator.

As well as being deputy senior steward from 1984-86, he chaired Jockey Club committees that paved the way for all-weather tracks and Sunday racing, and improved local stewarding.

A superb horseman, he was also an artist who exhibited at the Royal Academy, and a writer, with three books of personal recollections.

Until he was nearly 40, he combined various sporting pursuits with duties in the army, and once surprised his tutors at Sandhurst by completing what should have been an all-day exam in the morning and riding at Sandown in the afternoon.

Cecil Blacker was born on June 4, 1916, into a military family, and was educated at Wellington school. He served with the 23rd Hussars and the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, and was awarded the Military Cross during the war, rising to the rank of general.

After being forced to give up competitive riding, he became assistant commandant at Sandhurst, and later worked for the Ministry of Defence, was made vice-chief of the General Staff and served his last senior army position as adjutant general at the MoD from 1973-76.

During this period, his sporting achievements included representing Britain in the modern pentathlon world championships in 1951 and winning several races under Rules, including the 1954 Grand Military Gold Cup on his own Pointsman.

Once Blacker retired from the army in 1976, he embarked on a successful spell in equine sports administration, first as president of the British Show Jumping Association from 1976-80, and then with his work for the Jockey Club, to which he had been elected in 1954. At one time he was chairman of four working parties and three standing committees for the Jockey Club.

Blacker's all-weather track racing group was set up in 1985, after official concern had been expressed about the loss of revenue to racing caused by cancelled jumps meetings during the winter. His report the following year was positive, though many professionals opposed the idea. He wrote in his memoirs: "Never has the instinctive conservatism of the British racehorse trainer been more in evidence and, it often seemed, the younger and more promising the trainer the more reactionary he or she was."

All-weather track racing began in Britain in 1989, and Blacker took pride in its subsequent growth and general acceptance. His judgement also proved sound over Sunday racing with betting, though the recommendations of his working party could not be turned into reality until Parliament picked up the cause after the advent of the BHB.

Blacker, who served a term on the Levy Board, conducted an inquiry into local stewarding, which highlighted shortcomings. Its recommendations led to wide-ranging reforms both on and off the course.

Blacker's artistic talents have been handed on to his two sons, Philip, a renowned sculptor since he retired as a professional jump jockey, and Terence, a writer.

Philip Blacker said yesterday: "My father was an inspiration to both my brother and me, because while he was incredibly versatile, he was totally focused and determined about each new challenge. He believed in leading by example, which may explain why the many people who worked for him remained so loyal."

nSir Cecil Blacker's funeral will be private, but a memorial service will be held at a date to be announced.

CAPTION(S):

Sir Cecil `Monkey' Blacker Outstanding military man who served racing
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Oct 21, 2002
Words:621
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