05/01/2002 11:00PM

Two years later, Summer Note resurfaces

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CHICAGO - Summer Note almost fell into the dustbin of racing history, but after more than two years on the sidelines, Summer Note is no more than a couple weeks away from a race.

Now 5, Summer Note won a pair of 2-year-old races in Chicago for trainer Richard Hazelton, then went to Florida and dead-heated with More Than Ready in the 2000 Hutcheson Stakes for trainer Randy Morse. If you've lost track of his career since then, don't be alarmed: Summer Note hasn't raced again yet.

He bowed a tendon in his front leg as a 3-year-old, then, last spring, after progressing well in his morning workouts, Summer Note suffered a bowed tendon in his other front leg and fell off the map again. But he's back again, and if his health holds, Summer Note will run in a second-level allowance race early in the Hawthorne meet, according to Mary Rodriguez, Hazelton's assistant trainer.

Rodriguez said Summer Note recently came into Hazelton's Hawthorne barn, but Summer Note has been in steady training at a farm and is well along in his works. Monday, he breezed six furlongs at Hawthorne in 1:14.60.

There have been other alterations in Summer Note's physical makeup besides his injuries. Chiefly, he is now a gelding, which comes as a relief to Rodriguez and the Hazelton crew. Summer Note was a vicious colt and could be as hard on himself as he was on his handlers. "He's not as self-destructive anymore," Rodriguez said.

Even so, Summer Note remains far from a docile presence in the barn and on the racetrack. "He's a gelding, but he's a pretty mean gelding," said Rodriguez.

Curious Conundrum's 18-week break from racing ends Saturday in the Sportsman's feature.

Twelve races were carded on Saturday's closing-day program, including a simulcast of the Kentucky Derby, race 11 here.

Curious Conundrum makes her comeback one race earlier, when she meets five rivals in a second-level allowance race at one mile. Owned by My Jo Lee Stable and trained by Gene Brajczewski, Curious Conundrum is the most talented horse in the race, with enough natural ability that she won the Prairie Meadows Oaks last summer and finished a close fifth in the Grade 3 Pucker Up at Arlington.

But one wonders if Curious Conundrum gives everything she has during her races. Given her performance in stakes races, she should have won a pair of first-level allowance races at Arlington before the Prairie Meadows Oaks, and she should have won a second-level allowance late in the Arlington meet. To make matters worse, Curious Conundrum's season ended on a sour note, with a pair of subpar races on turf.

Still, the lack of depth in Saturday's race makes Curious Conundrum's talent dangerous, and Brajczewski has done very well the last couple years with layoff horses. An alert break under jockey Eddie Razo would quickly put Curious Conundrum into a relatively paceless race. What happens after that is a Curious Conundrum, indeed.