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Breeders Cup 2015

Lovely Lil Captures Union Avenue

Trainer Michael Hushion always has believed Barry K. Schwartz’ Lovely Lil was a graded stakes kind of horse. On Monday, the 4-year-old Tiznow filly took the next step to reaching that goal, coming from off the pace to win the $75,000 Union Avenue at Saratoga Race Course.


Ridden by Ramon Dominguez and sent off as the 4-5 favorite in the field of seven New York-bred fillies and mares, Lovely Lil broke a step slow, comfortably tracked the pace-setters on the inside and took off in the lane to win by 1 ¾ lengths.


Nicole’s Miss El, who put away pace-setter My Sire’s Fire and briefly gained the lead at the three-sixteenths pole, finished second, 2 ¾ lengths ahead of Lady Gracenote. The winner ran the six-furlong race in 1:10.59.


A $2 win bet returned $3.80.


The victory was the second in two starts this year for the homebred Lovely Lil, who returned from a nine-month layoff on July 27 to take an optional claiming race in a hard speed duel.


Five of the seven runners in the Union Avenue liked to lead, and Dominguez eased back off the pace.


“We were aware that there was some other speed, and I wasn’t going to discourage her one way or another,” Dominguez said. “She broke a little flat, and I had no other option other than to sit back. She was very relaxed and comfortable. I never really had to ask her, just tapped her on the shoulder a couple times.”


Last year, after Lovely Lil had won her first two starts by a combined 15 lengths, Hushion sent her into the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga, where she lost all hope at the start when forced to take up sharply. She still managed to run fourth, 5 ½ lengths behind winner Champagne d’Oro.


She encountered trouble in two of her next three starts, and Hushion chose to give her a long layoff to overcome ankle and shoulder issues. When she returned, she was bumped yet again, but still won.  


This time, the trip was perfectly smooth.


“We’ve always tried to keep her relaxed and then let Ramon do it,” Hushion said in the winner’s circle. “Why try to tell Ramon what to do? The speed broke very sharp. It’s always nice to have the fastest horse.”


Hushion said he had no next race picked out. The victory was Lovely Lil’s fourth in eight career starts. She raised her lifetime earnings to $154,890.


Completing the field were Bailzee, Sentimental Lass, Gold for the Queen and My Sire’s Fire


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