02/12/2004 12:00AM

Local star's return comes in favorable setting

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Sue's Good News, who went from maiden winner to Grade 3 winner in five short months last year, returns to the track where it all started in Saturday's $50,000 Pippin Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

A 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares, the Pippin is a stepping-stone to the Grade 3 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup on March 13 and the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 3.

Sue's Good News is considered a top local candidate for those races. She is undefeated at Oaklawn, where she won her debut, an entry-level allowance, and the $70,000 Instant Racing Breeders' Cup in three Hot Springs starts in 2003.

Sue's Good News, trained by Steve Hobby, went on to win the Grade 3 Singapore Plate at Arlington Park in August and has won 5 of 8 career starts.

The Pippin will be her first race since Oct. 3, when she finished sixth to Awesome Humor in the Grade 3 Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks. After the race, she was found to have a lung infection, Hobby said.

"She's trained up great to this race," said Hobby. "She's just been training super."

Sue's Good News, a half-sister to stakes winner Easyfromthegitgo, has turned in some powerful works at Oaklawn. In her final major prep for the Pippin, she went six furlongs in 1:13.80 on Feb. 3. Hobby said he has reason to believe Sue's Good News will be an even better horse at 4 than she was last year at 3.

"She's just bigger and stronger," he said.

Sue's Good News, who is by Woodman, is an elegant-looking filly. She set herself apart from her local peers last meet, when she won her first three starts by a total of 18 lengths. After making her debut at six furlongs, Sue's Good News won at two turns in her first attempt in the one-mile Instant Racing.

"She has a lot of talent," said Hobby. "She's smart, and she just gets over the ground really good."

Tim Doocy, who has ridden Sue's Good News in each of her starts, has the mount Saturday.

Sue's Good News will take on six others in the Pippin. One of her chief rivals is Reason to Talk, who was third last out in the $40,000 Sam Houston Distaff on Jan. 17. Reason to Talk broke slowly in that race and found herself much farther back than she usually races. With a better start, she should be a big factor in the Pippin.

Also in the race are Due to Win and Salzurita, who finished second and third in an allowance prep for the Pippin; the Bernie Flint-trained Drexel Monorail and Small Promises, who are not coupled; and There Runs Hattie.