04/21/2003 11:00PM

Lilac Queen looks capable of class rise

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Just when Kentucky racing fans may have thought they were familiar with all the stakes horses Bobby Frankel brought with him from California this spring - think Empire Maker, Peace Rules, You, and Sightseek - here comes the relatively unknown Lilac Queen, who quite possibly could become the Hall of Fame trainer's next graded stakes winner.

Thursday's Bewitch Stakes, a $100,000 turf marathon that highlights the penultimate day of racing at the Keeneland spring meet, is the setting in which Lilac Queen will attempt to further add to Frankel's riches. A German-bred who began her career in her native land by going 2 for 3 in 2001, Lilac Queen subsequently was absent from the races for 18 months before resurfacing under Frankel's care in January at Santa Anita, where she promptly encouraged talk of unlimited potential by winning an allowance race at 2-5.

Some 10 weeks later, Lilac Queen once again was 2-5, this time at Keeneland, where racegoers were awed by another easy allowance win. Having seen enough of what she can do in conditioned races, Frankel is now giving her a chance to strut her stuff against graded stakes company in the Bewitch, a 1 1/2-mile race that has attracted the type of quality field that seemingly surpasses its Grade 3 ranking.

Nine other fillies and mares will challenge Lilac Queen. Foremost among them are a pair of 5-year-old mares who won graded races in Florida over the winter: San Dare, a former $30,000 claimer who has been sensational in recent outings for trainer Rick Hiles, and New Economy, a somewhat inconsistent mare who won the Grade 2 La Prevoyante at Calder in late December.

At least one other filly, Something Ventured, a winner of both of her starts this year, rates a solid chance. She is trained by Todd Pletcher.

The rest of the Bewitch lineup is Daisyago, Dancing, Beyond the Waves, Sunstone, Hi Tech Honeycomb, and Splendeur.

The Bewitch, named for the Calumet Farm star of the late 1940's, is the eighth of nine races on a terrific card that also includes five allowance races. This is the 42nd running of the Bewitch, which was moved to the grass in 1986, the second year that Keeneland began using its newly built turf course.

Friday is closing day at Keeneland, after which live action on the Kentucky circuit shifts to Churchill Downs.