02/14/2003 12:00AM

'Sandy' back on attack


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Victor Cuadra said he felt a weight lifted when the 9-year-old Say Florida Sandy finished second Jan. 25 in the Paumonok Handicap and surpassed $2 million in earnings.

With that milestone behind him, Say Florida Sandy has another hurdle in front of him as he attempts to win his first stakes since September 2001 in Sunday's $75,000-added Hollie Hughes Handicap at Aqueduct.

Say Florida Sandy, the 2001 Hollie Hughes winner, is the likely favorite over six other older males entered in the six-furlong race for New York-breds.

With Mike Luzzi in the saddle, Say Florida Sandy will tote high weight of 122 pounds, giving 4 to 13 pounds to his rivals.

In his last start, Say Florida Sandy finished a closing second in the Paumonok to Crossing Point, who set rapid fractions on his way to a front-running victory in 1:09.80 for six furlongs.

Cuadra said Say Florida Sandy was at a disadvantage because he was a bit too far back early and had too much to do to reel in Crossing Point, who defeated him by a half-length.

"I'm going to tell [Luzzi] to have him a little bit closer," said Cuadra, who is seeking his first stakes win. "The way the track was so fast, it made it way hard to make up ground. He's been training very sharp since."

Say Florida Sandy drew post 6.

Tom's Thunder, who won the two-turn Alex M. Robb in December, also exits the Paumonok, finishing third, 2 3/4 lengths behind Say Florida Sandy.

"[Tom's Thunder] was chasing a loose speedball and that's always hard," trainer Pat Reynolds said. "He couldn't keep up, but he didn't give up."

Javier Castellano, the meet's leading rider, has the mount on Tom's Thunder, who drew post 5.

The early lead could be up for grabs because it doesn't look there is any serious speed in the field.

The improving Papua, a winner of his last three starts, all over the inner track in open allowance races, figures to be fairly close during the early running. Richard Migliore, aboard for each of those wins, has the mount.

Papua's connections, trainer Michael Hushion and owner Barry Schwartz, won the 1998 Hollie Hughes with Thepromonroe.

Papua carries 117 pounds, five less than Say Florida Sandy.

Vodka hasn't won a race in five starts, since his 4 1/2-length score in last year's Hollie Hughes. The 6-year-old gets blinkers on.

If the track is wet, Impeachthepro is a danger. Mr. Determined and Wonderful Prospect complete the field.