07/07/2003 11:00PM

Smart Juliet gets chance


CHICAGO - It almost attained the status of ritual. Trainer Steve Hobby would call the Arlington racing office. He'd enter Smart Juliet in a second-level allowance race. The race wouldn't attract enough entries to make it onto a racing card.

"I entered her I don't know how many times," Hobby said Tuesday. "It seems like it's been every day the last two weeks."

Finally, the entry became more than an exercise. Smart Juliet made it onto Thursday's program, and her race, the eighth, serves as Arlington's feature.

"They had the race up at three quarters, then it was seven eighths, then back to three-quarters again," Hobby said. "Give [racing secretary] Frank Gabriel credit. He kept bringing it back until he made it work."

This happens all the time, though not often to the extent Hobby has experienced. Horsemen try to train a horse based on races in a track's condition book, but often they end up winging it.

"It can be tough not knowing when they're going to run," Hobby said. "You don't know whether to work them, or how far to work them. Fortunately with [Smart Juliet], she's a pretty good horse to work."

Her afternoon efforts aren't bad, either. Smart Juliet was 62-1 when she won her career debut in March at Oaklawn. The bettors haven't overlooked her again. Favored in her three starts since that win, Smart Juliet has lost by a neck at Oaklawn, by four lengths in a Hawthorne stakes race when she struggled with the track surface, and won an Arlington allowance race May 22 going away.

"She's training real well right now," Hobby said.

Thursday's race is at six furlongs, the distance of Smart Juliet's two wins. A stalker, she and jockey Rene Douglas should have a solid pace to chase if Southern Alert, Crystal Dancer, and Double Audit show speed. The best of that trio probably is Double Audit, who won her first start in a $30,000 maiden claiming race and returned to thump allowance horses here June 5.

Double Audit benefits from having the outside stall in a six-horse field. From there, jockey Marlon St. Julien can break easily and assess the pace situation before committing to the front end.

Hobby has another horse for the race, Feisty Princess, who along with Anyplace Anytime rates as a fringe contender.