06/05/2008 11:00PM

Alderson, Sandspit quite a team


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Trainer Tony Alderson has a special relationship with the 9-year-old gelding Sandspit, whom he has trained since 2002.

The old warrior won his eighth race for Alderson last Sunday, a $7,500 claiming event over the Fort Erie turf course. The win brought smiles and backslaps all around from friends and family.

"After failing to hit the board in six starts last year, we contemplated retiring him to the family farm," said Alderson. "He suffered a serious backbone injury in early 2007 and we just could not get him back to his old self. But, he has never liked the farm and was itching to get back to the track this spring, so we decided to give our old friend one more shot at the races."

Alderson, 48, is a former jockey who stowed away his tack some 20 years ago. Like Sandspit, he was injured last year, when he was dropped by another horse in a morning workout.

"The two of us have a special relationship, and maybe he missed me on his back in the mornings and it showed up in his races," said Alderson. "Or, maybe it was just the back injury that kept him off form throughout last year. That problem still lingers."

Sandspit began his racing career as a 3-year-old at Fort Erie with trainer Rod Cone.

"I watched him in the mornings, and he was a big gangly type with feet going in all directions, but there was just something about him that drew my attention," said Alderson. "When he was dropped into a $5,000 maiden claimer after a few races, I threw in the claim. The two of us have been a team ever since that red-tag day of September 2002."

The following June, Alderson sent out Sandspit to take on open-company maidens at the Fort. Sandspit came home in front in the $32,000 event.

"That win was just the beginning," said Alderson.

Since that first victory, Sandspit has now brought home more than $220,000.

"Between that first win and the one last weekend, this old guy has hit the winner's circle on more than one occasion at the Fort, at Toronto's Woodbine, and at Cleveland's Thistledown track," said Alderson. "He has scored on both turf and dirt. You could not ask for much more. "

Alderson, who won 122 races as a rider before retiring in 1989, still loves to get up on horses in the morning, especially Sandspit.

"The old guy has his share of problems these days," said Alderson, "but he is still anxious to get out of the stall in the mornings."

Alderson and his wife, Kristin, will take it one day at a time with the old warrior.

"He has given the entire family so much pleasure over the years, and as my son Jeffrey says, he is part of the family," Alderson said. "Still, the farm door is always open for his retirement, and when the time comes he will be walking through it."