Updated on 09/17/2011 10:25AM

Juliet needs track to play fair


STICKNEY, Ill. - Steve Hobby has won more than his fair share of races at Oaklawn Park, and many a talented 3-year-old has come out of Hobby's barn to race well in Arkansas.

So, how in the world was Smart Juliet 62-1 when she won her debut March 23 at Oaklawn?

"I still haven't figured that one out," Hobby said Friday.

Hobby was at the airport Friday, bound for Churchill Downs, where he was to saddle Chindi on Saturday. The aging Chindi is part of Hobby's old guard, but with talented young horses such as Smart Juliet in his stable, Hobby should have a better season this year in Chicago than he did in 2002.

Smart Juliet, Hobby said, had trained solidly up to her first start, which she won by more than two lengths with a closing rush. Late-running debut winners often flatten out when they move up to face other winners for the first time, but Smart Juliet closed with a rush to miss by only a neck in her second start, and with plenty of early speed lined up for Sunday's featured sixth race at Hawthorne, Smart Juliet has a great chance to win her second race in an overnight stakes.

Dubbed the Nervous John, Sunday's six-furlong feature drew a field of six 3-year-old fillies. Santa Fe Strip and In Secure, both pace factors, are Smart Juliet's main rivals.

Hawthorne's racing strip had played fair and slow for a couple weeks, but inside speed held extremely well here on Friday, when another 3-year-old Hobby-trained filly, Feisty Princess, scored a front-running win. Smart Juliet will have to hope the racetrack's complexion changes before Sunday, or her lack of early speed could present an insurmountable obstacle. On a fair track, Smart Juliet should save ground and rush past the speed horses in the stretch run.

"I think she's a pretty nice filly," Hobby said.

In Secure is Louie Roussel's baby, bred, trained and co-owned by Roussel, who also campaigned her dam, Morelia. In Secure showed plenty of early gas when she ran in a Fair Grounds training race, but she was fairly relaxed here April 12, when she won her debut by a half-length despite bleeding during the race. Sunday, In Secure races with Lasix for the first time.

Santa Fe Strip, in from Kentucky for trainer Bernie Flint, won the $44,000 Oliver Stakes at Indiana Downs in her last race, but a better measure of her ability was a third-place finish last summer in the $100,000 Ellis Park Debutante.