TERRY Cooper delivered a glowing tribute to Sergeant Cecil this week after announcing the retirement of his staying star.

The Dorset businessman has owned the nine-year-old from a foal and watched him develop into a Group One winner whom the public took to their hearts.

He became the first horse in turf history to land the Northumberland Plate, the Ebor Handicap and the Cesarewitch in the same season and was voted 2005 Horse of the Year.

Cooper, from Stubhampton near Blandford, said: "He was not just the horse of a lifetime but of a dozen lifetimes - he has been absolutely fantastic and it has been a privilege to own him.

"Cecil has taken me to places I never thought I would go to and has enabled me to meet people I would never have met. As a horse he is a real gentleman with a lovely temperament and a sound constitution.

"Of all his victories the Northumberland Plate will always be my favourite because it was such a big surprise, so unexpected.

"We thought after that he would not improve any more. I didn't dream he would win the Ebor at York or carry 9st 8lb to victory in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket in the autumn of the same year. It seemed the further we ran him the better he got."

That 2005 season was Sergeant Cecil's farewell to handicap company, his final 18 races being at group level apart from one listed two-miler.

The son of sprinter King's Signet won four group races, the pinnacle being that electrifying performance in the Group One Prix du Cadran at Longchamp, Paris, on Arc de Triomphe day in 2006 with Frankie Dettori on board.

Cooper said: "He has always had a turn of foot but the gear he found in the final furlong that day he has never shown before or since - Frankie said he took off like a sprinter who had only run a couple of furlongs."

Sergeant Cecil's record from 53 outings reads 10 wins, 14 seconds and four third places with prize money exceeding £828,000. He was trained for virtually all his career by Rod Millman at Cullompton, Devon.

Though Sergeant Cecil's racing days are over, new horizons beckon as a National Stud celebrity - or in the dressage arena.

Having been gelded early in his life there is no stallion potential but the National Stud wants the horse as a tourist attraction at its Newmarket headquarters in Suffolk and to be paraded before important races around the country.

With his striking appearance and good paces, Sergeant Cecil is also being eyed as the type to be trained as a dressage horse. There is interest in taking him down that route and this is another option for Cooper, who has retired his pride and joy fit and healthy.