06/23/2003 12:00AM

This family act has a slight twist

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PLEASANTON, Calif. - One of the many qualities about the northern California summer fair circuit is not simply returning to racing's roots but it's also the chance for many trainers to run at home.

That hometown factor is often a piece of the puzzle for handicappers to include as they look for a winner in a race.

Nowhere on the fair circuit is the hometown edge more prevalent than at the Alameda County Fair. A number of trainers stable at the fairgrounds year-round, and many more were either raised in the area or live here now.

Trainers Carmela and John Anderson are not unique in that regard. Their horses are stabled here, and they have roots in the community where John attended high school, playing football and baseball.

Training is often a family business, as it is with the Andersons, but there's one somewhat unusual aspect. In the Anderson family, it's like mother, like son.

Carmela, 66, has been involved with horses since she was a teenager and her family owned horses. Her family owned a grocery story in the Hunter's Point area of San Francisco, but horses, not groceries, were her love.

"I like the horses," she said. "When you look a horse in the eye, you see something you don't see anywhere else."

Carmela Anderson's training mentor was C.B. Hixon.

"Hixon said to put the horse first, and there was nobody more patient than Hixon," she said. "It's the way I was taught."

She is not surprised her son has followed her into the business.

"He has a rapport with horses and really likes horses," she said.

While many trainers point their horses to their home meet here, the Andersons don't do that with their small stables.

Patience is a lesson John Anderson, 40, has learned from his mother.

"The best thing she's done is the horse is always put first," he said. "People don't think it's important, but it is. You put the horse first, ahead of the owners or where they want them to run."

Still, Pleasanton is home in more ways than one.

"It's special because it's home," John said. "It's not like we try to focus on Pleasanton, but horses that train here seem to run better here. I don't think there's any extra pressure, but we do want to win here.

"It's good to see it come, but it's good to see it go."

Last year, John started seven horses here, winning two races, including Evitan Native in her debut. Carmela started only two horses, getting a victory with Market Garden, who then won a stakes race in her second start.

"We like to do good at Pleasanton," Carmela said.

She has a potential stakes winner in her barn in 2-year-old Badgett's Mango, who is being pointed to the Everett Nevin/Alameda County Futurity on July 4 after overcoming early trouble to score an impressive victory in his debut June 12 at Bay Meadows.

The Andersons have no entrants for Wednesday's opening-day card, which will include nine Thoroughbred races and a mule race. The most interesting race on a day when fans can receive a Seabiscuit bobblehead doll is a $25,00 claimer for 2-year-old fillies at five furlongs.

Lucy Loup and High Liability, who were both well-backed in their debuts, return and will meet a trio of interesting first-timers, Flag Burner, Plus Tax, and Irish Isles.

ADDRESS: 4501 Pleasanton Ave.

PHONE: (925) 426-7600

INTERNET: www.alamedacountyfair.com

DATES: June 25-July 6 (dark July 1)

FIRST POST: 12:15 p.m.

FAIR/RACE ADMISSIONS: $7 adults, $4 seniors, $4 children

PARKING: $5

KEY STAKES: June 28 - Sam J. Whiting (3 YO & Up, 6 furlongs) $50,000; July 5 - Alameda County Fillies and Mares (3 YO & Up F&M, 1 1/16 miles) $50,000; July 6 - The Alamedan (3 YO & Up, 1 1/16 miles) $50,000