Few men have achieved such swift, sensational success in the training business as Ted Andrews. In the last two years, he has developed three champion trotters, one of them the filly Fancy Crown, who is favored to win the $365,000 Breeders Crown at Rosecroft Raceway tonight. Yet only four years ago, Andrews wasn't sure he was entirely rational in thinking that he could make his living in the harness-racing game. He wondered if he were going through a midlife crisis that was prompting him to make an implausible, risky career change.
Andrews had reached the textbook age for an attack of anxiety: 40. And he had the textbook type of job, one filled with pressure, responsibility and frustration. He had spent his whole adult life in the construction and land-development business in his native Nova Scotia. As the manager and vice president of a large company, he had to fight political battles with local zoning boards, worry about long-range planning and suffer through the ups and downs of a volatile industry.
In the late 1970s, the Nova Scotia economy took a severe downward turn, the construction business was lousy, and, Andrews said, "I started to think seriously about doing what I'd had the urge to do for a number of years -- training horses."
This had been Andrews' one hobby; he would always have one or two standardbreds that he would both train and drive. But training as a hobby in the minor leagues is a lot different from doing it professionally in the majors.
"I thought I might have been getting the 40-year itch," Andrews said, "and I know a lot of people didn't understand how I could walk away from a position where I had it made. But my wife and family supported me."
Andrews came to the U.S. in the summer of 1980 with a two-horse stable, bought four yearlings that winter and promptly began to compile an amazing record. Tiffany Star, the first trotter he ever trained, developed into one of the best fillies in the country. Within two years, Andrews became a specialist with trotters. Power Seat was voted the country's top 3-year-old trotting colt and Gentle Stroke the top 2-year-old.
Tonight, Fancy Crown can wrap up another championship for Andrews. The trainer took over her management at the start of this year and she has responded by winning 11 of 19 starts, earning nearly $500,000 and trotting a mile in a world-record 1:53 4/5.
"Her last quarter was :26 4/5," Andrews said. "It was devastating." Even more amazing than Fancy Crown's record is Andrews' own. Neophytes who think it should be easy to be a horse trainer inevitably wind up defeated and humiliated; it takes years and years to learn the business.
Andrews attributes his success in part to the experience he gained while horses were his hobby. "I was totally involved with all aspects of the horses. Larger operations are more specialized. I had to train and race and shoe and condition my own horses. I read all the veterinary books and breeding books. I think that's why I've been able to jump into the fray so quickly."
And, clearly, he has a special affinity for trotters. "Patience," Andrews said, "is one of the major factors. If you rush them, you wind up with a horse who won't stay trotting and will start to lose interest."
Having waited 40 years to pursue his great ambition, Andrews obviously knows a lot about patience.