10/18/2001 11:00PM

Sandy accepts hefty load


ELMONT, N.Y. - Say Florida Sandy's connections are hoping the fourth time is the charm when he runs in Sunday's $125,000 Hudson Handicap, one of four New York-bred stakes on the New York Showcase Fall Festival card at Belmont Park.

Say Florida Sandy, a 7-year-old who is in career form this season, has competed in the six-furlong Hudson three times, but has never won the race. This year, the Hudson has added significance for Sandy, a winner of $1,725,926, because he is on the verge of becoming the all-time leading New York-bred in earnings. He needs to finish fifth or better to earn the $250 which will place him in front of the current leader, L'Carriere.

Say Florida Sandy was also entered at The Meadowlands in Friday's $100,000 Skip Trial Stakes, but owner John Rotella said he would scratch and run in the Hudson. When entries were drawn Friday for the Hudson, 13 runners were in the entry box. The number of starters figures to shrink when trainers find out Sandy, who will be a heavy favorite, is a go for the Hudson.

Say Florida Sandy will tote 127 pounds in the Hudson, the most he has ever carried in his 77-race career. He is coming off a lackluster effort in the Grade 1 Vosburgh, where he was a non-threatening fourth behind Left Bank and Squirtle Squirt, the winner and runner-up, who are headed to the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Rotella said the effort doesn't mean Say Florida Sandy, who will make his 13th start of 2001, is showing signs of slowing down.

"Realistically, he's a notch below those horses," Rotella said. "He is also so much better at six furlongs than seven. Once he gets the lead, he'll wait on horses because he runs as hard as he has to."

Aaron Gryder rides Say Florida Sandy, who is 23 for 51 at six furlongs and a winner of five stakes this year. The favorite likely will sit off the early leaders, although there isn't an abundance of speed horses in here.

Impeachthepro is in super form and looks like he has the best shot of toppling Sandy.

Eight-year-old Stalwart Member, the Hudson's defending champion, has lost his last two starts as the favorite in claiming races.

Trainer John Hertler, who won the Hudson 16 years ago with Mugatea, sends out an uncoupled entry, Vodka and Well Fancied.

Hertler said is taking a shot because he believes Say Florida Sandy might be vulnerable with all that weight.

"He is giving a lot of weight," Hertler said.