01/14/2009 12:00AM

Clean start needed for Aggie Engineer

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Aggie Engineer appeared to be on his way to a promising career when he won his debut at Santa Anita last February. Owner-breeders Ward and Roberta Williford and trainer Paddy Gallagher are still waiting to learn the extent of that ability.

Injuries kept Aggie Engineer sidelined for most of 2008. He made one more start last year, finishing third in an allowance race at Hollywood Park in December.

Friday, Aggie Engineer starts in a $48,000 allowance race over six furlongs at Santa Anita. Gallagher is optimistic that a return to the track of his victory will help Aggie Engineer.

"He's breezed well over here," Gallagher said. "He's run well both times in sprints."

Gallagher said Aggie Engineer was sidelined with injury and had further setbacks once back in training.

"There was something wrong with his hind end," Gallagher said. "He came back and had a few minor things."

In December, Aggie Engineer was beaten 3 3/4 lengths by the impressive Rail Trip over 6 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park. Aggie Engineer was squeezed at the start and never threatened the winner.

A clean start is vital for Aggie Engineer's chances Friday. He has drawn the rail in a field of seven that includes the stakes-placed Saint Paul, and A Lil Dumaani and Onetimeatbandcap, who both finished second in an allowance race in their last start.

Saint Paul has not started since finishing third in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes here in March 2007. Owned by Michael Bello, Saint Paul was considered a Triple Crown candidate that season.

Trainer Bob Baffert fears Friday's race distance could work against Saint Paul, a 5-year-old gelding.

"I think he wants to go long," Baffert said. "I thought I'd give him a short race and then stretch him out. I didn't want to go straight into a long race and get him tired. I would have preferred this race at 6 1/2."

A Lil Dumaani has won 3 of 9 starts - a maiden claimer, a starter allowance, and an allowance race against California-breds. He was second in an allowance race against open company at Hollywood Park Dec. 21.

Onetimeatbandcamp starts from the outside post. He was second by a half-length in a six-furlong allowance race at Hollywood Park on Dec. 6, closing from sixth. Trained by Eric Kruljac, Onetimeatbandcamp has 1 victory in 11 starts.