07/19/2004 11:00PM

Two trainers score memorable wins at Solano County Fair


VALLEJO, Calif. - It's a wide-open game on the northern California fair circuit.

Thirty-eight different trainers have reached the winner's circle during the opening week of the Solano County Fair. Thirty-two trainers have won Thoroughbred races, while eight have won non-Thoroughbred races.

Two, Linda Harrell and Greg James, have victories in both categories.

Three of the eight winning trainers in non-Thoroughbred races are women, as are seven of the 32 winning Thoroughbred trainers.

Perhaps the two happiest winners last week were Aggie Ordonez, who scored her first training victory in California with the 3-year-old filly La Brieanna on the July 13 opening-day card, and Donna Elordi, who saddled the Vacaville Handicap winner, Pheiffer.

Ordonez took over Brent Sumja's stable on July 7 after serving as his assistant for seven years. Sumja, 39, has retired to pursue interests outside of racing.

"I wasn't sure it would feel all that much different, but I was whooping and hollering all the way down the stretch. It felt nice," said Ordonez.

Elordi didn't get much of a chance to whoop and holler because Pheiffer pulled away quickly in the lane and was not seriously threatened.

"I couldn't get excited because she was doing it so easy," said Elordi. "I could see on the turn she was doing everything so easy that I knew she would be able to win. The neat part is this is the first time her owner [Billy Hipwell] has seen her run."

Elordi enjoyed Pheiffer's victory, she also knows some luck was involved.

"She does like the track, and everything set up for her," said Elordi.

Pheiffer ran second after nearly a year's layoff in the 2003 Vacaville. Elordi nursed Pheiffer out of a springtime funk, and in the Vacaville saw her win her third stakes since her comeback last July.

Ordonez grew up in racing. Although her father, Pete Anderson, is now a trainer, he was a jockey when Ordonez was young and is best known for riding Cavan to victory in the 1958 Belmont.

Early in her career, Ordonez was public relations director at Hialeah and worked on a handicapping program at Arlington, but her heart always has been with the horses that make racing, in her words, "the most beautiful game in the world."

"Horses have such intense personalities," Ordonez said. "It's an art to bring the best out in them. The joys are so overwhelming."

La Brieanna was not Ordonez's first winner as a trainer. She saddled winners in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Phoenix before being hired by Sumja as an assistant.

It was a good match in many ways.

"Brent had a tremendous influence on me," she said. "He gave me the opportunity to do what I love more than anything else in the world - work with racehorses. It's an opportunity for which I'll be forever grateful. He trusted me, and I was proud to represent him."

Because Sumja trusted Ordonez so completely, in recent years he had curtailed his time at the barn and given Ordonez added authority.

Ordonez points out that Sumja is still her boss because he owns many of the horses she trains.

"It's been a smooth transition," she said. "He trusted my horsemanship in the day-to-day work, but when you put your name on the line as the trainer, perhaps there is more pressure."

Thursday: Sloat Blvd, Greenie, or Xtra Ace?

A three-way battle shapes up in Thursday's feature race at Solano, a $40,000 optional claimer for 3-year-olds at six furlongs

The leading contenders are Sloat Blvd, who has won two straight starts, including a $32,000 starter allowance race at Pleasanton in his last start; Greenie, the runner-up to Jeffries Bay in a Pleasanton allowance race; and Xtra Ace, third in the Greenie allowance race.

All three have speed, but Xtra Ace has the ability to rate, although both his victories have come in wire-to-wire style. Greenie, drawn outside of Sloat Blvd, gets the best of it in in terms of post positions and has two wins and a second in three northern California starts. Sloat Blvd has two wins and two seconds in four career starts.