05/20/2001 11:00PM

Sincerely must work her way up

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As a 3-year-old last season, Sincerely was sharp enough to win the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks. But when she stepped up to Grade 1 competition in her next start and attempted 1 1/4 miles for the first time in the Alabama at Saratoga, Sincerely flopped badly.

Trainer Graham Motion may give Sincerely another crack at tackling 10 furlongs in a major race this summer. First, however, she must prove she deserves it.

Sincerely takes the first step in what could lead to a start in the $600,000 Delaware Handicap on July 22 when she faces 12 other fillies and mares in Sunday's $75,000 Nastique Stakes at Delaware Park.

Motion said he is willing to forgive Sincerely's poor effort in last year's Alabama, in which she finished 22 lengths behind Jostle.

"The only time she went a mile and a quarter, it was an uncharacteristic race for her," Motion said. "I just can't say off that one race that she does not want to go a mile and a quarter. But she still has to prove to me that she wants to go that far."

The Nastique, run at

1 1/16 miles, and the 1 1/8-mile Obeah on June 24 will reveal much about whether Sincerely goes on to the Delaware Handicap, the premier race of the meet.

In her only start this season, the six-furlong Primonetta at Pimlico on April 8, Sincerely ran second, beaten only a length, after enduring a wide trip.

"She was really getting to the winner at the end, but just ran out of room," Motion said of the filly's effort in the Primonetta.

"I was really pleased with her effort and number-wise, it was one of her better races."

Sincerely earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure in the Primonetta, two points off the career best she ran in the Delaware Oaks.

A pair of 5-year-old mares could provide the keenest competition for Sincerely. Flirtacious Girl ran back to her good northern California form in her first start at Delaware, posting a winning Beyer Figure of 95.

Shag is 5 for 6 lifetime at Delaware, including one stakes victory. Her only loss came when she was bumped around near the seven-furlong pole in the race won by Flirtacious Girl on April 24. Despite the trouble she encountered, Shag was beaten just 2 1/2 lengths.