03/09/2004 12:00AM

Quero Quero looks like the one


ARCADIA, Calif. - Jolie Rafaela, an allowance-caliber mare from Brazil, has failed to meet horseplayer's expectations. Though her seven-race losing streak includes four losses as the favorite, many bettors expect her drought to end Thursday at Santa Anita where she heads a two other-than allowance at a mile on grass.

Paulo Lobo, a trainer from Brazil, has exceeded expectations. Though his win percentage is only slightly higher than average at 13.9 percent (19 of 136), his runners typically are overlooked in the wagering - only three of his 19 winners have been favored. Lobo starts comebacker Quero Quero in the N2X allowance, and basic class handicapping suggests that she can add to Lobo's impressive statistics.

are in a field of eight fillies and mares in race 3, a $56,000 allowance, in which a winning case can be made for most of the runners. European import Janayen makes her U.S. debut for trainer Sandy Shulman, who has done well with similar imports. Shezsospiritual fits, though she appears far more effective in a sprint. Sea Jewel, Throw Me Roses, Blond Dancer, and Kabylia complete the field.

Jolie Rafaela was hammered to 6-5 on Feb. 12 when trainer Bobby Frankel stretched her out to two turns following a good sprint prep. Jolie Rafaela went too fast, however, and faded to second after setting a hot pace of 46.46 seconds for the opening half-mile, and 1:10.50 for six furlongs. To her credit, Jolie Rafaela held second in a race that was otherwise dominated by late-runners. Jolie Rafaela has won 2 of 10 starts, and with the turf rails up at 30 feet Thursday, she could be tough to catch if she gets a soft pace under Alex Solis.

Quero Quero has never run a bad race for Lobo. Her six starts include two wins and two seconds, and they also include a 10-1 upset in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap for 3-year-old turf fillies last June. A 4-year-old filly by Royal Academy, Quero Quero did not race for five months when she returned Nov. 23 in a minor stakes at Hollywood Park. She closed from last to fourth, beaten only three lengths.

A steady work pattern over the last month suggests that Quero Quero is ready to roll for Lobo, whose 139 U.S. starters have produced total win mutuels of $500.10, a return on investment of $3.67 per $2 win bet. Based on her fourth-place comeback and her Grade 2 win against 3-year-old fillies last summer, Quero Quero is the most probable winner of the race.