04/23/2003 11:00PM

Coquettish begins her season in earnest

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Trainer Graham Motion has had good luck in the Delaware Oaks, winning the Grade 3 race for 3-year-old fillies in 2000 with Sincerely and finishing second to Allamerican Bertie with Alternate last year.

The $500,000 Delaware Oaks is still nearly three months away, but already Motion is thinking it might be a good long-range target for his promising filly Coquettish.

Coquettish, a well-beaten third in her season debut sprinting in Laurel Park's Jamela Stakes, returns to a route for Saturday's $75,000 Caesar's Wish Stakes at Pimlico.

The 1 1/16-mile Caesar's Wish should be a much better fit for Coquettish than the seven-furlong Jameela, a race in which she was beaten almost five lengths as the 4-5 favorite. Prior to the Jameela, Coquettish had closed out her 2-year-old campaign by winning the Maryland Juvenile Fillies Championship at 1 1/8 miles, running faster than the colts who competed in a nine-furlong stakes on the same card.

"She likes two turns," Motion said. "I had reservations about shortening her up to seven furlongs for her last race. But the choices were very limited and the seven-furlong race at Laurel was about the only place where we could run."

According to Motion, Coquettish came out of the Jameela fine physically, but with so much bad weather on the East Coast during February and March, he had difficulty maintaining a training schedule for Coquettish, so he decided to give her an extended vacation until spring.

"She's ready to go now. She looks super," said Motion, noting Coquettish worked twice at seven furlongs and went five furlongs in 1:02 over the wood chips at Fair Hill last Sunday in preparation for the Caesar's Wish.

Motion said that assuming Coquettish runs well Saturday, she will be pointed to the two main preps for the July 19 Delaware Oaks, the $100,000 Go for Wand on May 31 and the $175,000 Susan's Girl Breeders' Cup on June 28. Both are 1 1/16 miles at Delaware Park.

If Coquettish isn't ready to fire her best shot off the layoff, Demetra's Love and Grace Bay are capable of winning.

Demetra's Love, a four-time winner in 11 starts, was fifth behind Coquettish in the Maryland Juvenile Fillies. She most recently defeated allowance horses at 1 1/16 miles, earning a 78 Beyer Speed Figure - 3 points higher than Coquettish's figure in the Jameela.

Grace Bay, second in the Maryland Juvenile Fillies, has been off since she placed third in the Wide Country at Laurel on March 8. She was awarded a 76 Beyer for that effort.