Say Florida Sandy Kicks Off Belmont Fall Meet

(From track report)
All Say Florida Sandy needed was a first or second-place finish in last October's Hudson Handicap and the title "leading New York-bred money earner of all time" was his.

He earned the title that autumn afternoon in his usual workmanlike fashion, but it was Impeachthepro who proved the winner and party pooper of the Hudson.

On Friday, the Opening Day of Belmont Park's 33-day Fall Championship meet, Say Florida Sandy has a chance of becoming the only three-time winner of the General Douglas MacArthur Handicap.

And, wouldn't you know? Impeachthepro has another shot to crash the party.

Eleven were entered in the $75,000-added, state-bred restricted MacArthur at seven furlongs. Say Florida Sandy is the 125-pound highweight and will spot seven to 11 pounds to his rivals.

Owned by John Rotella, Say Florida Sandy has earned the respect of most hardened horseplayers the hard way. In August, he received the inaugural Big Apple Award from the New York Turf Writers Association as the top New York-bred of 2001.

An 86-race veteran, the venerable horse gives his all each and every time he steps onto the racetrack. Say Florida Sandy is a multiple graded stakes winner, millionaire and has held his own against the country's best sprinters over the last couple of seasons.

For proof, check out his recent second-place finish behind Orientate in Saratoga's A.G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II). With wins in Saratoga's Vanderbilt and Forego (gr. I) this summer, Orientate is possilby the country's premier sprinter.

"Sandy put in a good run and we were beaten by a top sprinter," said Victor Cuadra, Say Florida Sandy's trainer. "A lot of people were saying Orientate hadn't beaten anything. He proved them wrong in the Forego."

For a top New York-bred that excels in races at seven furlongs and under, it's surprising Say Florida Sandy has raced in the MacArthur just twice. It's no surprise that he's won the race in both appearances.

"He's an amazing horse," Cuadra said. "For him to be competitive in Grade 1 and 2 races at eight-year-old is remarkable. He's still got that fire."

In the last fall's Hudson Handicap on New York Showcase Day, Say Florida Sandy carried 127 pounds in his familiar highweight role. Impeachthepro carried 119 pounds. Both rallied from off the pace but it was Impeachthepro who may have benefited from the better trip.

Under jockey John Grabowski, Impeachthepro had a traffic-free journey while racing with the pace and took the lead nearing the eighth pole en route to his 1 ¼-length win. Say Florida Sandy, meanwhile, got off poorly from post 4, raced inside and was forced to alter course in the stretch in search of racing room. He finished well for second money.

"I thought our horse had the worst of it when they met last time," Cuadra said. "I have respect for Impeachthepro. He's a good horse. I'm not happy about giving up seven pounds to him."

Cuadra and Rotella also entered Stalwart Member, a MacArthur winner in 1997 and 1999. Combine the nine-year-old Stalwart Member with his younger stablemate Say Florida Sandy, and you've got the MacArthur champ from 1997 to 2000.

"We entered Stalwart Member is case there is an emergency and Sandy can't run," Cuadra said. "Having both of them in there gives us a few more options."

Stalwart Member is an earner of more than $750,000 in 54 races. While easy to root for, the gelding's recent efforts in mid-priced claiming races won't be good enough to win this race.

Laneve and Warner's Impeachthepro has compiled an excellent record of 14-3-4 from 23 starts and figures close to the lead early. A gelding by Distinctive Pro, Impeachthepro owns victories this year in Monmouth Park's Longfellow and a money allowance race at Delaware Park.

Belmont Park's Fall Championship Meet will run from Friday through October 20th. Racing is conducted Wednesdays through Sundays – dark Mondays and Tuesdays -- with a few exceptions. Belmont Park will be open on Monday, September 9 and on Columbus Day, Monday, October 14. Belmont will be closed on Wednesday, September 11 and Wednesday, October 16. Post time is 1 p.m.

$75,000 General Douglas MacArthur Handicap
PP Horse, Weight (Jockey)
1 Private Enterprise (L), 115 (Santos, Jose)
2 Impeachthepro (L), 118 (Luzzi, Mike)
3 Chasin' Wimmin (L), 117 (Samyn, Jean-Luc)
4* Stalwart Member (L), 115 (Arroyo Jr, Norberto)
5 As Wicked (L), 114 (Prado, Edgar)
6 Magic and Bird(L), 116 (Bridgmohan, Shaun)
7* Say Florida Sandy (L), 125 (Gryder, Aaron)
8 Tortellini Ted (L), 114 (Espinoza, Jose)
9 Well Fancied (L), 116 (Velazquez, John R)
10 Mount Intrepid (L), 116 (McCarthy, Michael J) 10
11 Personable Pete (L), 115 (Chavez, Jorge F)
* John Rotella-owned entry