11/07/2001 1:00AM

Rider's Chicago gig payoff nears

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MIAMI, Fla. - Rene Douglas's decision to leave south Florida a month into the Calder meeting and move his tack to Arlington Park caught many here by surprise this summer. But the choice proved to be wise for Douglas, who not only dominated the jockey standings in Chicago but also established some additional contacts among Midwest horsemen that promise to increase his business this winter at Gulfstream Park.

Douglas returned to Calder last weekend for the opening of the Tropical meet but says he plans to take things slowly for a while.

"I really only wanted to ride weekends for now," said Douglas before going out to ride the late double on Wednesday. "Although, once you start, it's hard not to ride every day. But I'm going to take it as easy as I can at first, then go strong the last three or four weeks of this meet to build up some momentum for Gulfstream."

Douglas, who made a similarly surprising and successful move out of Calder to southern California in the mid-1990's, said he thoroughly enjoyed his experience at Arlington.

"It was a good summer," he said. "Better than I even expected. The best part is that the people there treated me well, made me feel comfortable, which is important no matter how many races you win. And I can't say enough about the wonderful job my agent, Scott Cooper, did. But I'm happy to be back in Florida now. And so is my family. This is still home for me."

Among the the most notable mounts Douglas accepted in the Midwest was Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine. Douglas rode the filly to a second-place finish against the boys in the Pennsylvania Derby, and a fourth in the Spinster in her two starts before the Breeders' Cup.

"I told Dave [trainer David Vance] after the Spinster that she would win the Breeders' Cup," Douglas said. "I always had a lot of faith in that filly. I don't know all the circumstances but I can't believe the owner took that horse away from him like that. Especially a week before the big race. He's a great trainer who does a great job with all his horses. I still can't understand what happened."

* Cornelio Velasquez breezed Carey's Gold three furlongs in 36.80 seconds over the main track on Wednesday, and will be aboard the two-time Florida Stallion Series winner for the first time in Saturday's $60,000 Fabulous Frolic Stakes. The one-mile Fabulous Frolic serves as a prep for the $100,000 Mecke Stakes on Dec. 1, and will mark the first start on grass for Carey's Gold, who suffered his first loss in four starts when finishing third in the Stallion Series finale, the In Reality Stakes on Oct. 13.