In a bit of a man-bites-dog story, Southern California trainer Ben Cecil asked owner Gary Tanaka to remove his five horses from Cecil's barn around the first of March. The horses include Falcon Flight, who won the 2000 El Rincon at Santa Anita Park and was third in this year's San Luis Obispo Handicap, and Polaire, who captured the Glendale Handicap at Turf Paradise this year.
"I probably come out of this worse off, but it's been doing my head in for the last two years," Cecil said. "You do well for someone and you don't see that kind of loyalty in return -- that's the thing that hurt me the most. His giving horses to other people didn't reflect well on me. It didn't show a lot of confidence. It's not like buying a horse and leaving it with its current trainer -- it expanded from that."
Cecil said a recent incident involving Falcon Flight in Hong Kong had no bearing on his split with Tanaka. The horse shipped to run in the Hong Kong Cup but was scratched the day of the race due to the presence of an anti-inflammatory drug that is banned there.
"Hong Kong didn't play a role, although I wasn't keen on taking the horse there," Cecil said. "He's not unsound, but he's not the soundest of horses, and without medication it was very questionable if running there was in his best interests.
"That's another thing -- I was always under pressure to run horses even if I didn't feel it was where they should run. But he had given horses to other trainers well before Hong Kong. It's scary and disappointing, but at the same time, it's a weight off my shoulders."
Cecil now has 14 trainees in his shedrow. Ironically, one of his major clients, Anthony Chula, works for Tanaka's investment management company in San Francisco.
The London-based Tanaka was traveling in Singapore and unavailable for comment. The owner of Amerindo Investment Advisors, Tanaka has campaigned other stakes winners such as Gourmet Girl, On a Soapbox, Lovellon, Snow Polina, Vergennes, and Magellan.