05/22/2003 11:00PM

Oglala Sue carries teaser's trait of toughness


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Several years ago, far enough back that the exact dates blur, the trainer Hugh Robertson went home to Nebraska and stopped at Bluestem Farm, which was and still is managed by his brother, Jim. Robertson's business was to inspect 12 yearlings and cull from them a couple racing prospects.

"I picked two chestnuts out of the field," Robertson recalled, "and my brother said, 'Yep, I thought so, too. Those two are by the teaser.' "

At a stud farm, a teaser lives through constant frustration, "teasing" mares in heat before the females are brought to the real stallion and bred. Rarely, a farm actually lets a teaser breed a mare or two, and the teaser at Bluestem happened to be a failed racehorse named Verzy. Those yearlings Robertson liked were Verzy's only two foals at the time, and suddenly, Verzy's life changed completely. He supplanted Bluestem's faltering stallion, Tonzarun, and quickly became the best stud in Nebraska.

Verzy died from colic three years ago, but he still has 2-year-olds floating around the Midwest, and Sunday at Arlington one his best racehorses, the 5-year-old Oglala Sue, meets five opponents in an excellent six-furlong allowance race.

Oglala Sue turned out like many of the Verzys - tough as hickory. "She's a lot like them that way," Robertson said. "She's a runner."

Don Everet, a Nebraska fast food entrepreneur, owns Bluestem, which sits near Crete, Neb. Everet got into the Thoroughbred business long enough ago to catch the heyday of Nebraska racing, when top-quality Midwest meets like the one at Ak-Sar-Ben were the rule.

Now except for one weekend of good racing at Horsemen's Park in Omaha, the Nebraska product, at Lincoln and Fonner and tracks even smaller, strictly is bottom-end. "There's barely anything there anymore," said Robertson.

But the Bluestem horses are there. Each winter, Everet brings them home for a rest at the farm. "It's a nice farm," Robertson said.

But this is Nebraska, not paradise. The landscape is bleak, the wind chill, and "first day back, my brother turns them right out," said Robertson.

The toughness, already in the Verzys' genes, gets into their bones. Oglala Sue has started in 17 races and won seven of them. Only four times has she finished worse than third, and with a strong pace in front of her Saturday, she has a great chance to win again.

"Last year she was good, and she may get better and better," said Robertson.

So Oglala Sue still has a future, even if her past is disappearing.

Smoke Chaser steady as she goes

Oglala Sue has excellent rivals in Sunday's race, but the best of them for this circumstance may be Smoke Chaser. She has won half of her 14 races and is 6 for 8 at six furlongs and 4 for 8 at Arlington. Smoke Chaser rarely misfires, and the job of simply keeping her happy has now fallen to trainer Rey Aguirre.

Aguirre, who has been training for only about three years, worked as a longtime assistant for several Chicago outfits. He has had horses for owners Mark Goldish and Savoy Stable since he started, but just began training Smoke Chaser this spring. She won her only race for Aguirre, easily beating seven opponents in the March 22 Kissapotamus Stakes at Hawthorne.

"She's a very nice horse, really simple to train," said Aguirre.

And training is all Smoke Chaser has done the last couple months. Aguirre said there were no races for her at Hawthorne, but he has breezed Smoke Chaser six times since her last start.

Besides Smoke Chaser and Oglala Sue, Supreme Discovery, Summer Mis, Victory at Sea, and McKinney were entered.

Hobby horses looking good

One of them practiced and one of them raced, but Thursday was a good day all around for trainer Steve Hobby's 3-year-old fillies. Thursday morning at Arlington, Sue's Good News worked five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.40. In the afternoon, Smart Juliet won a first-level allowance race by 3 1/4 lengths.

Sue's Good News had been scheduled to start last weekend in the Grade 3 Dogwood at Churchill, but came down with a minor illness that kept her in Chicago. Hobby said Thursday's breeze was "super," but he is not certain what he will do with the unbeaten Sue's Good News.

"There's nothing around the country for her right now," Hobby said.

Sue's Good News has moved from sprints to route racing, but the lack of opportunities could land her in the six-furlong Real Delight Stakes here May 31. Smart Juliet also could wind up there, though Hobby said the race came up "a little but quick" for the filly.