09/29/2004 11:00PM

The day a stable pony fooled them all


ARCADIA, Calif. - Someone must have known something. Because when a slow-working first-time starter that is 6 years old gets hammered from a 30-1 morning line to 10-1, overcomes trouble, and wins by two lengths, there just has to be a conspiracy, right?

The fact Andial won his debut last Saturday at Fairplex Park is no big deal. First-time starters win all the time. But the unusual circumstances that surrounded the Sept. 25 win fueled wild speculation. Perhaps Andial had been winning on unrecognized bush tracks in Utah. Maybe he had been training in the dark, hidden from clockers, and was faster than his published works.

If "they" put one over, it would not be the first time.

Erin Anderson owns and trains Andial, and she heard the din after Andial paid $23.60. Someone must have known something; someone must have made a score. Said Anderson: "I wish it was me."

It was not. Until last weekend, Anderson said, Andial had not raced anywhere. She said his workouts were no better than they looked - three works at six furlongs (1:15.60 was the fastest) and none in nearly four weeks. He was tough for handicappers to find, and buried in the second leg of the pick six. Tough to find, that is, unless you knew something.

Anderson knew plenty. For the better part of two years, she had been getting on Andial almost every morning. He was not a racehorse. In fact, Andial was her morning pony.

"I actually entered him opening day at Santa Anita, but he wasn't right," said Anderson, a 30-year-old who trains a 23-horse string at Fairplex Park. "His workouts were okay, but nothing you can rave about."

A gelded son of Odyle, Andial was 30-1 on the morning line for the ninth race Dec. 26, 2003. He got sick, was scratched, and disappeared.

Anderson had bought Andial one year earlier from a farm in Arizona. Originally purchased at auction for $4,200, Andial was going nowhere in the desert. Anderson did not spend much. "Peanuts," she said.

The idea was to train him, get him fit, and sell him. But a deal was never made, and after Andial scratched at Santa Anita, Anderson abandoned the racing idea and made Andial her pony. He was a pretty good one, it turns out.

Andial was an athlete, and for most of 2004 he was content to carry Anderson around the five-furlong Fairplex track while she trained horses who were pointing for races.

But a funny thing happened during summer. After all, Andial is a Thoroughbred. Racing is in his blood. "He started getting tough; he was getting racy on me," Anderson said.

Andial wanted more, and Anderson sensed he wanted to run in a race. Workouts? He sure would not need much.

"He probably gets five or six miles a day, anyway, and do you know how many short workouts he gets [being a pony] in the morning?" Anderson said. "I didn't see any reason to give him short works when I knew he was fit."

She gave him three six-furlong workouts at Fairplex to build his air.

"They weren't impressive works," she said, "but we were home and had the home-court advantage. What do I have to lose?"

Anderson entered Andial in a cheap $20,000 maiden claimer on the final Saturday of the Los Angeles County Fair meet at Fairplex. It was not a strong field, but the race was crucial because it was the second leg of a pick six that included a $45,603 carryover.

Anderson said she occasionally bets $2 across the board - that is all - but she understands why some gamblers were irritated after Andial got hammered from 30-1 to 10-1, and delivered.

"I think the biggest thing is it screwed up everyone's pick six," Anderson said, "but it wasn't that tough of a field."

She is right. The favorite was Free to Please, who lost his comeback by more than 20 lengths. The second favorite was Way Sexy, who earned a 55 Beyer in his last start. If ever a race was begging to be won by a new shooter, even one that was 6 years old, this was it.

Adolfo Rodriguez rode Andial, and while several rivals encountered trouble on the tight first turn, he negotiated the corner without severe incident. "Did he make it around the turn?" Anderson asked. "Kind of."

It was enough. Andial drifted out, rushed from sixth on the turn and four wide to the lead at the three-eighths pole, cut to the rail, and inched clear in the lane.

Celebration? Not quite. That night, Anderson was at work doing double duty as an outrider at Los Alamitos. She was off at midnight and back at her Fairplex barn the following morning at the crack of dawn.

Andial went back to work early this week, too, as a stable pony for Anderson. She said he may run this fall at Santa Anita. And this time, everyone knows everything.