01/22/2003 1:00AM

Owners consider grander heights for Snake Mountain


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Dr. Doug Koch, one of the co-owners of Aqueduct Handicap winner Snake Mountain, said winning is good fun, even if he isn't the breeder.

Koch, a veterinarian, owns Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, N.Y., and has bred and raised several stakes winners at his farm, including Private Emblem, last year's Arkansas Derby winner; Rhum; and Sherpa Guide. Those horses and two others foaled at Berkshire Stud - Celtic Sky and Infinite Justice - are among the contenders for 2002 New York-bred divisional honors.

"That's almost as exciting as Snake Mountain," Koch said a few days after Snake Mountain won Saturday's Aqueduct Handicap by 7 1/2 lengths. "It's hard to a win a race. So whether you bred the horse or not, to get your picture taken after a graded race is all you want in this business. This is just a different facet for me to enjoy."

Snake Mountain, a winner of his last four starts, including three graded stakes races at Aqueduct, was bought privately by Koch and two other influential New York breeders, John Nerud and Chester Broman, through a bloodstock agent in Europe. At the time of purchase, Snake Mountain was trained by Aidan O'Brien in Ireland and was still a maiden following four grass starts.

The original plan was to bring the regally bred Snake Mountain, sired by A.P. Indy and out of a Mr. Prospector mare, to this country to race, followed by a career at stud in New York. Later the partners decided to geld Snake Mountain, who was a ridgling at the time of his purchase.

Jimmy Jerkens, who trains Snake Mountain, and Jack Shelley joined the other owners as partners after the horse was gelded.

Koch said it was disappointing that Snake Mountain, who is now 5, had to be gelded but believes it might have been for the best.

"[Jerkens] wasn't that keen on him at first," Koch recalled. "He was pretty high-strung before he was gelded. No one can know how he would have turned out if he was a colt, but he might not have been what he is now. All the credit goes to Jimmy because his super training job has brought the horse out."

Koch said the partners will meet this week and map out a plan for Snake Mountain. Among the long-range goals being considered are the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 5 and the $600,000 Pimlico Special on May 16.

Snake Mountain's success brings to mind Evening Attire, who won the Aqueduct Handicap last year, later became a Grade 1 winner and one of the top handicap horses in the country.

Koch said he would be tickled if Snake Mountain were able follow in Evening Attire's footsteps.

"I'd love that; Evening Attire is an awfully nice horse," Koch said. "It's fun to start to look at the big races with Snake Mountain."

New rider for Say Florida Sandy

You may not be able to teach an old horse new tricks, but 9-year-old Say Florida Sandy will get a new rider on Saturday for the $75,000-added Paumonok Handicap.

Mike Luzzi will become the 20th jockey to pilot Say Florida Sandy, who makes his 93rd career start in the six-furlong Paumonok.

John Rotella, Say Florida Sandy's owner, said he and trainer Victor Cuadra tried to get three other riders - Aaron Gryder, Richard Migliore, and Shaun Bridgmohan - who have ridden the horse several times, but none was available. Gryder and Migliore have commitments elsewhere and Bridgmohan is serving days for a careless riding suspension.

But Rotella knows he is not settling by using Luzzi, who has won three stakes at the inner track meet and was third in the jockey standings following Monday's races.

"[Cuadra] likes the way Luzzi rides," Rotella said. "The key to Sandy is to let him run his race. We've been a little [too] aggressive with him in his recent races by trying to keep him a little closer early because the track was playing speed."

Say Florida Sandy, the richest New York-bred in history, is a mere $11,193 shy of $2 million in earnings. A win or second-place finish in the Paumonok should push him over that mark.

A small field, headed by Multiple Choice, is expected for the Paumonok. Multiple Choice seeks his third consecutive stakes win in the ungraded Paumonok.

Cozy post for Ginzano

Ginzano, Dial a Hero, and Street Life look like the main contenders in Friday's feature, a $46,000 allowance race for nonwinners of three races lifetime.

Ten older males entered the two-turn race at one mile.

Ginzano, who has early speed, drew well in post 3 for the quick run into the first turn. A gelding, Ginzano is coming off a second-place finish to Infiltrator, who outfinished Ginzano in a 1 1/16-mile race over a sloppy track on Jan. 1.

Ginzano is trained by Allen Iwinski and will be ridden by Richard Migliore.

Street Life, who does his best running on the inner track, wheels back nine days after finishing third in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race after getting pinched at the start.

Chuck Lopez rides Street Life, who drew post 8.

Dial a Hero has been a steady check earner and has run decently when facing some tougher fields during the last year.

Javier Castellano, the meet's leading rider, picks up the mount on Dial a Hero.