06/06/2007 12:00AM

Anderson's only horse takes him far


MIAMI - Dressed in an old-fashioned suit, a wide tie, and a hat that went out of style about 60 years ago, Pete Anderson looked like an extra straight out of the movie "Seabiscuit" when he arrived at the Thistledown paddock to saddle Delightful Kiss for last Saturday's $300,000 Ohio Derby. Twenty minutes later, the 4-foot-something Anderson was standing 10 feet tall after Delightful Kiss had drawn off to a 3 1/2-length victory in the Grade 2 event.

Anderson has been barnstorming the country with Delightful Kiss, who flies the colors of 93-year-old Jack Dreyfus's Hobeau Farm. Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens asked Dreyfus if he would send his old friend a horse to train last season, and under Anderson, Delightful Kiss has earned more than $325,000.

Delightful Kiss, a son of Kissin Kris, registered his lone victory at 2 on the turf at Calder Race Course in Miami. He spent the winter in south Florida knocking heads with some of the top members of the division, beating Chelokee and Sightseeing in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park and finishing third behind Street Sense in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby.

But his performance in the Ohio Derby was easily the biggest of his career, and while it shocked most of the experts and the racing public, who made Delightful Kiss 24-1, it did not surprise his 75-year-old trainer in the least.

"I was as confident in my horse as any horse I'd ever run," said Anderson, who had won the Ohio Derby as a jockey 43 years earlier aboard National. "He has been improving with every start and just ran to my expectations. It was his price that overwhelmed me."

When asked if he bet Delightful Kiss, who paid $51.80 to win, Anderson's reply was simple.

"Is a bluebird blue?" he asked. "I never go to the races to wager on other horses. But I always bet on my own. And getting that kind of price was just an extra, added bonus besides the purse money for this race."

The outspoken Anderson is a throwback to the golden era of racing in America. He was born and raised on the east side of New York, and has been in racing for more than 60 years. He was the leading apprentice rider in New York in 1948 and rode Forego to a fourth-place finish behind Secretariat in the 1973 Kentucky Derby. After retiring from the saddle, he began a training career that included stints working for the Tartan Stable as well as for Hialeah owner John Brunetti.

"I trained on the New York, New Jersey, and Florida circuits," Anderson recalled. "About 15 years ago I decided I didn't want to travel north any more. So I just gave up training, settled down in Florida, and played a lot of golf."

As was the case during his riding and training careers, Anderson kept some pretty good company on the golf course. Among his playing partners were the legendary comedian Jackie Gleason and Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Arcaro.

"I met Gleason through his producer Jack Philbin, who was my closest friend back in those days," Anderson said. "I could write a book about some of the stories Jackie would tell during our rounds of golf or the card games we played afterwards."

Unfortunately, those good times eventually came to an end.

"All my old golfing buddies died," said Anderson. "So I went back to training again."

Anderson is stabled at Churchill Downs with Delightful Kiss. He had sent his horse from Calder to Louisville in April hoping to run in the Kentucky Derby. But Delightful Kiss did not have enough graded earnings to get into the race.

Now, Anderson is mapping out the next road trip for his one-horse stable.

"I'm thinking about the Iowa Derby," Anderson said. "I've also received a call from Monmouth Park with an invitation to the Haskell."

The West Virginia and Pennsylvania derbies are other possibilities.

As much as Anderson would love to return to Saratoga for the Jim Dandy or Travers, those races are not likely to be on his agenda.

"I've had the Travers in the back of my mind for a long time, but I'm smart enough to know to pick my spots," said Anderson. "And I'd be a fool to go hunting for horses like Street Sense or Curlin right now."

Anderson plans to return to Calder and south Florida once his barnstorming tour with Delightful Kiss has ended. He said his current situation is like a dream and almost too good to be true.

"If somebody made a movie about all this, everyone would think they probably just made it up," he said.