05/20/2003 12:00AM

Smart Juliet gets call


CHICAGO - There are seven horses in the best race Thursday at Arlington, but the most likely winner is jockey agent Dennis Cooper.

Cooper's main client, Rene Douglas, is fully expected to win his third straight Arlington riding title, and at this point finding mounts for him is easy. Douglas rides Smart Juliet, the most likely winner of Thursday's sixth race, who is a neck away from already having won a first-level allowance race like this one.

But Cooper also represents jockey Chris DeCarlo, a newcomer to the Chicago circuit, and for him, Cooper has landed the mount on Padmore, arguably the second-most likely winner. DeCarlo already has clicked with Padmore's trainer, Tony Reinstedler, having ridden Mellowes to victory here Saturday in the meet's first grass race.

Padmore hasn't raced since Feb. 21 at Gulfstream, where her good form fell apart in a two-turn allowance race on dirt. Padmore had won her maiden there by almost four lengths six weeks earlier, and subsequently finished second in a turf route.

Padmore may be a notch below Smart Juliet, who was 62-1 when she cruised to an easy debut win March 23 at Oaklawn for trainer Steve Hobby and owners Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaraman. The race was no fluke. Despite a poor break, Smart Juliet returned and missed by a neck in a first-level allowance sprint, and she was favored to win the $42,000 Nervous John Stakes May 4 at Hawthorne. Hobby, who moved straight from Oaklawn to Arlington, already had shipped a horse in to win a Hawthorne race, but that's not an easy task. The racing surface there can become loose and tiring, and horses unfamiliar with it often are at a disadvantage.

"It's tough going over there without even a work over the track," Hobby said. "I got away with it once."

But not with Smart Juliet, who seemed to spin her wheels during a fourth-place finish in the Nervous John. The effort hardly was dismal - Smart Juliet was beaten less than five lengths - and she returned and worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 here Sunday, the fastest breeze of her young career.

Restricted to 3-year-olds, the race has a pair of potential upsetters. Beautiful Bets, a 4 1/4-length maiden winner in her last start, may control the pace from her rail post. Sparkling Sabia regressed in her last start, finishing fourth at Hawthorne, after winning well there March 23.

The others - Heroic Flight, Royal Prize, and Simply Tricky - appear to be competing for minor awards.