12/17/2002 12:00AM

Sam Eye Am back healthy this time

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - When trainer Gary Contessa had an uncharacteristically slow Aqueduct fall meet, he knew that something was up.

Contessa found that a number of horses in his stable were battling a virus, which he believes accounted for his 4-for-56 meet record.

"During the month of November, every horse I ran looked like a winner until the top of the stretch," Contessa said.

Blood samples, Contessa said, showed that his horses' "white-counts were through the roof. They were loaded with mucus." One of the horses in the Contessa barn stricken with the bug was Sam Eye Am, who is entered at Aqueduct in Thursday's sixth race, a second-level allowance for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles.

Sam Eye Am won the off-the-turf Liberty Stakes at The Meadowlands in September and then finished second in a $100,000 optional claimer in October.

Contessa thinks Sam Eye Am had an excuse when she finished a well-beaten fifth in a second-level allowance at Aqueduct on Nov. 29 as the second choice.

"She was really affected by [the virus]," Contessa said. "I think she has a big chance to rebound." Contessa has rebounded at the inner track meet, where he had saddled five winners through Sunday's card, which placed him in a tie for second with Frank Laboccetta Jr.

Norberto Arroyo Jr. will ride Sam Eye Am from post 5.

The horse to beat is Pupil, the runner-up in the Grade 2 Cotillion at Philadelphia Park on Oct. 5. In her last start, Pupil won a preliminary allowance race by 6 1/2 lengths at Delaware Park on Oct. 23.

Mike Luzzi rides Pupil for trainer John Servis.

A $52,000 classified allowance sprint also will be run Thursday, and among the seven fillies and mares in the field are Outstanding Info, Bonefide Reason, and Saskya, who were scratched from last Saturday's Garland of Roses.

For some runners, the six-furlong race could serve as a stepping-stone to the $75,000-added Correction on Feb. 1.

Outstanding Info, third in last year's Correction, nearly always picks up a check and is well spotted for her first win since Jan. 12. She catches softer opposition after spending much of the summer running against bears like Xtra Heat and Mandy's Gold.

Bonefide Reason, a winner of her last two starts, both on the main track, is equally adept on the inner, with a record of 2-2-0 from four starts. Saskya was an easy winner of a third-level allowance over the main track on Nov. 2.

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