08/26/2010 2:36PM

Cecil's faced and overcome long odds before


In light of recent Pacific Classic history, with such winners as Student Council ($48.80) and Richard’s Kid ($50.80) lighting up two of its three runnings over the Polytrack synthetic surface, there is a temptation to sidestep such obvious candidates as Awesome Gem, The Usual Q.T., Dakota Phone, and Hold Me Back in favor of a longshot from deep left field.

Ben Cecil will be saddling two who fit the category Saturday, when the $1 million Pacific Classic is run for the 20th time, at 1 1/4 miles over the Del Mar main track.

Isle of Giant’s is a son of Giant’s Causeway who took his time becoming a racehorse, then unleashed two freakishly good wins at Hollywood Park this year by a combined 22 1/2 lengths. He came back to earth to finish fourth in Dakota Phone’s San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 31, but the memory of those earlier efforts linger.

Cecil’s other runner, Crowded House, among the last of the Rainbow Quests, was a precocious British 2-year-old in 2008 who did not pan out at 3. He spent the winter of 2010 in Dubai, where he finished in the cluster of runners only a few lengths back of Gloria de Campeao in the first Dubai World Cup on synthetics. Now, after three dreary efforts in England, he has set up shop in California, where he ran a respectable fourth to The Usual Q.T. in the Eddie Read last time out.

“We’re still getting to know him,” said Cecil, who took over the training of Crowded House from Brian Meehan after the Read. “We’re still trying to get him to switch leads – they’re obviously not taught that in Europe – and I’m not overly confident we can get that done in time for this race, but I don’t know that it will really matter.”

Crowded House is owned by Paul Reddam, Jonathan Harvey, and Peter Burrell, and Reddam also has an interest in Isle of Giant’s with the Davonne Stable of Dave Fernandez. Cecil counts himself lucky the horse is still in the barn.

Isle of Giant’s is a 5-year-old gelding who came to Cecil from Woodbine last winter, having just won for the first time in 10 starts. Following a so-so California debut, he was dropped into a $25,000 claiming spot and promptly won by 16 1/2 lengths.

“He just got a bit tired that last eighth of a mile his first time out for us,” Cecil said. “I thought there was a good opportunity to run him for a tag. Dave Fernandez has been around the racetrack a long time, and he’s friends with a lot of trainers. I figured that cut out about half the guys who might claim him. Still, we were fortunate not to lose him. I would have looked pretty stupid if we had.”

Isle of Giant’s came right back to win an allowance race by 6 1/2 lengths, again going wire-to-wire.

“He’s a very aggressive horse, and we learned how he likes to run,” Cecil said. “We’ll be putting him on the lead in the Classic.”

Cecil is a big believer in the power of longshots these days. His Classic runners should both be more than 20-1, but that’s nothing compared to the odds beaten back, so far, by his prematurely born son, Hugo.

Make that Hugo Rupert William Cecil, born May 16, 2010, at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, coming in at one pound, eight ounces. Cecil and his wife, Kristy, have been visiting little Hugo in the hospital ever since as he remains on oxygen while his underdeveloped lungs continue to grow stronger.

“He’s had just about everything happen that could possibly happen to a premature child, including three surgeries,” Cecil said. “There are still times when he stops breathing, and you have to shake him a little to get him started again. That’s pretty scary, but we’re kind of used to it by now. We sit there all day looking at the monitors.”

The Cecils hope to bring Hugo home some time in the next several weeks.

“He’s not in an incubator anymore, so I can take him out and hold him,” Cecil said. “He’ll look at you and smile – there’s definitely some personality there, and he knows Kristy and me when we’re there.”

Hugo weighs approximately five pounds, five ounces now and is described by his father as “very long.”

“If everything had gone normally, he would have been around eight pounds at birth,” Cecil said. “At this point, we’ve been 15 weeks at the hospital. He was born at 25 weeks, there is another baby born at 27 weeks, and there was one at 23 weeks, but he didn’t make it. It just shows how rare it is. We’ve been very lucky.”

A lot will have to happen out there on the track Saturday afternoon for one of Cecil’s longshots to come through in the Pacific Classic, and several very good horses will need to misfire if either Isle of Giant’s or Crowded House are going to take centerstage.

Then again, some things are just in the cards, and it was going to be a big weekend for Cecil no matter what transpired in the Classic, because Hugo Cecil’s full term due date was Sunday, Aug. 29. So win or lose, cheers or tears, it will happy birthday to Hugo, and home real soon.