10/01/2002 11:00PM

'Hick' Oglala Sue to be taken seriously


CHICAGO - A Nebraska-bred who made her way to Arlington late this summer by way of Canterbury Park in Minnesota, Oglala Sue was dismissed by most as a hick from the sticks when she raced in a tough optional-claiming sprint here Sept. 18. Provincial she is not. Oglala Sue beat the city crowd by more than a length that day, and Friday she is back for more in Arlington's featured eighth race.

Trainer Hugh Robertson, with more horses than Arlington stalls, has taken to sending a summer string to Canterbury with his son, Mac. It's from this group that Oglala Sue emerged, paying off at odds of 10-1 last out when her relentless stretch run got her to the wire nearly a length in front of the talented Take the Cake. You would think the blow she struck for Minnesota racing would have resonated with Chicagoans, but just this past Sunday another Robertson-trained Canterbury refugee, Silver Zipper, beat a top-class allowance field at odds of 13-1.

"They don't pay much attention to those Canterbury horses," Robertson said. Because of that, he didn't hesitate to enter Oglala Sue for the $75,000 claiming option offered in the conditions of her last start. "The way she ran last time, maybe she is worth that kind of money," said Robertson.

With seven wins from 16 starts, Oglala Sue has long been out of conditions, and she races Friday in an allowance that drew seven other entrants. The field isn't much tougher than the one Oglala Sue just beat, and the extra half-furlong Oglala Sue has to work with in this 6 1/2-furlong dash should be to her benefit.

"She's doing real good right now, real good," Robertson said. "If she runs well this time, we'll have to consider the [Safely Kept] stakes on Breeders' Cup Day."

Cat and the Hat and Smoke Chaser are Oglala Sue's most obvious rivals. Cat and the Hat was beaten more than 18 lengths in her last start, but that was the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga, and earlier this meet she missed by only a head to Mandy's Gold in the Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Smoke Chaser took a backward step for the first time all summer when she was second at 6-5 here in a Sept. 15 allowance. Smoke Chaser may be headed down the wrong side of her form cycle, but a return to the form she showed in July and August makes her a legitimate win threat.