08/20/2011 2:54PM

Saratoga: Lovely Lil goes for first stakes win in Union Avenue

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – At this time last year, trainer Mike Hushion thought enough of his New York-bred filly Lovely Lil to run her in the Grade 1 Test Stakes. Her dead-heat finish for fourth was no disgrace in Hushion’s eyes, especially given the rough start she had that day.

Little went right for Lovely Lil the remainder of 2010 as she lost three more races before going to the sidelines with shoulder and ankle issues. Lovely Lil returned from a nine-month layoff to win a New York-bred allowance race by a neck in a gutty performance here on July 27.

Monday, Lovely Lil attempts to win her first stakes race when she heads a field of seven New York-bred fillies and mares in the $75,000 Union Avenue Stakes at Saratoga. The six-furlong race is carded as the fifth on a 10-race program that begins at 1 p.m. Esatern.

Lovely Lil’s neck victory in that July 27 allowance race was quite impressive when you consider she bumped at the half-mile pole with a horse with whom she was dueling before putting that rival away and being confronted by Yawkey Way. Lovely Lil, on the inside, prevailed in a three-furlong duel with Yawkey Way.

“I loved the race,” Hushion said. “She had every reason in the world to let it go the last sixteenth. I expected her to be a little more wrung out than she was but she’s a tough filly.”

Lovely Lil had the rail in her return, which is one reason why Ramon Dominguez put her into the race right out of the starting gate. Now situated in post 3, Lovely Lil could find herself stalking the two speed horses inside of her, My Sire’s Fire and Nicole’s Miss El. Sentimental Lass, winner of the Maid of the Mist Stakes last year as a 2-year-old, also has speed.

“We definitely don’t need the lead,” Hushion said.

Bailzee, trained by Pat Kelly, finished third, 2 3/4 lengths behind Lovely Lil on July 27. Bailzee began her career with two consecutive victories in the winter of 2010 but a fractured cannon bone has inhibited her progress since.

Kelly is hoping there is enough speed to set things up for his filly who will break from the outside post in the seven-horse field.

Lady Gracenote, trained by Gary Contessa, is another who would benefit from a lively pace. She won a first-level statebred allowance at Aqueduct on March 13, the last time she caught a fast track going six furlongs.

Gold for the Queen finished second to Meese Rocks in this race last year.