06/14/2001 11:00PM

Dreams of the Cup for Sandy


Say Florida Sandy is without a doubt the hottest New York-bred around these days.

At 7 years old he won his third stakes this year in the $150,000 True North Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day, while defeating some classy rivals, including Wake at Noon, Men's Exclusive, and Hook and Ladder.

The victory earned Say Florida Sandy, a former claimer, his first inclusion on Daily Racing Form's Watchmaker Watch, with a ranking as the seventh-leading sprinter in the country. #

Not surprisingly, Say Florida Sandy's owner, John Rotella, said he caught Breeders' Cup fever after his horse's latest win and is now mulling over the $1 million Sprint at Belmont Park on Oct. 27.

A win in the Grade 1 Sprint would be the first by a New York-bred in Breeders' Cup history.

"I was told by the Breeders' Cup, if he didn't compete from now until then, he would have enough points to get in because that race is usually a full field of 14," Rotella said. "I don't know if he can compete at that level, but he has been just super for us."

The Grade 2 True North was Say Florida Sandy's 26th win in 72 starts and boosted his career earnings to $1,497,926, placing him fourth on the list of all-time leading New York-bred earners.

Say Florida Sandy, a son of New York sire Personal Flag, also won the Grade 3 Bold Ruler, the restricted Hollie Hughes, and an overnight handicap in open company this year.

In defeat, Say Florida Sandy hardly disgraced himself. He finished fifth in the one-mile Westchester - too far for him - and was second on two occasions to Peeping Tom, considered by many to be the leading sprinter on the East Coast.

One of Sandy's losses to Peeping Tom took place in the Grade 1 Carter when he had a nightmare trip and had to settle for second, 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner.

Say Florida Sandy's accomplishments this year have not gone unnoticed. Rotella said he is considering four offers to sell the horse for stud duty, including one from a New York farm and one from Korea. Rotella declined to reveal names or the terms of the offers.

Earlier this year, Rotella said he was in no rush to retire Say Florida Sandy. But now that the offers are becoming more persistent, especially after the horse's latest win, Rotella admits his interest is piqued.

"These are pretty solid offers," Rotella said. "I guess they think he is for real now. I have to consider it because of his age, but it's a tough decision because he's 100 percent sound. But you never know what can happen in this business."

Rotella said if Say Florida Sandy was sold, the horse would continue to race in his name for the remainder of the year until entering stud in 2002.

Rotella, who doesn't own any mares and isn't involved in the breeding end of the business, said he would probably make a decision within 60 days.

Say Florida Sandy, who is trained by Juan Serey, runs next in the $150,000 Tom Fool at Belmont on July 4, where once again he is expected to meet Peeping Tom.

Say Florida Sandy represents one of the more successful claims in recent years. Rotella claimed Say Florida Sandy for $60,000 off of trainer Gasper Moschera in 1998.

Say Florida Sandy was bred and originally raced by Sandy Bacon, who lost the horse to Moschera for $70,000, several starts before Rotella stepped in.

Bacon still owns Say Florida Sandy's dam, Lolli Lucka Lolli, and bred her this year to Personal Flag, who stands at McMahon Thoroughbreds of Saratoga. The resulting foal will be Say Florida Sandy's first full brother or sister.

* Shopping for Love nearly pulled off a stakes double for New York-breds 37 minutes after the True North was run by finishing second to License Fee in the $189,050 Just a Game Breeders' Cup, a Grade 3. At 15-1, Shopping for Love, last year's champion New York-bred grass filly, put in a determined run to finish a neck behind License Fee, the favorite of the 11-horse field.