The 123-pound high weight Lady Tak brings back-to-back wins in the Ballerina (gr. I) at Saratoga -- her major objective on the year -- and the Gallant Bloom (gr. II) at Belmont Park into the Distaff.
Trainer Steve Asmussen, the leader in wins by U.S. trainers in 2004, is bearing down on 500 wins on the year by members his sprawling stable. But it's clear that, of all his horses, the 4-year-old daughter of Mutakddim is the teacher's pet.
"She's a great story in racing," he said. "Everybody who has ever touched her has been extremely rewarded by her. She's got a great personality. There are a lot of horses -- but there's only one Lady Tak. It hasn't always gone her way, but she has continuously showed up and performed. Her attitude off of races that haven't gone her way is what has made her so special to me."
Lady Tak, winner of Saratoga's Test (gr. I) in 2003, lost her first race at 4 in a disappointing sixth-place finish behind Ema Bovary in the Madison at Keeneland -- an effort that Asmussen has insisted should be placed squarely on his shoulders for not having her ready for her best effort. Since then, she has reeled off four wins in five races that include the Winning Colors at Churchill Downs and her wins in New York. The Gallant Bloom victory improved Lady Tak's record to 10-3-1 in 17 races and pushed her earnings to $1,109,602. David Vance will saddle Carl Pollard's My Trusty Cat and K & K Racing's La Reason, both major stakes winners in 2004.
It will be the season finale for My Trusty Cat, winner of the Honorable Miss (gr. II) and a narrow loser to Lady Tak in the Ballerina. The daughter of Tale of the Cat, who has six wins in 23 races, is scheduled to race again next year.
"She's learned to settle and not get into the race too early," Vance said. "She loves Saratoga and has run two superb races there -- but this mare has never won a race here."
My Trusty Cat is 0-for-8 at Churchill Downs, but was second to Molto Vita in Keeneland's Thoroughbred Club of America (gr. III) last time out.
La Reason, on the other hand, is 3-0-1 in eight races at Churchill Downs -- including a third-place finish to Adoration in the Fleur de Lis (gr. II). Her season's highlight was a win in Monmouth Park's Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup (gr. II). The field for Sunday's $200,000 Churchill Downs Distaff (gr. II) includes:
1 -- Susan's Angel (Rafael Bejarano, 115)
2 -- My Boston Gal (Calvin Borel, 116)
3 -- Lady Tak (John Velazquez, 123)
4 -- Revolutionary Act (Brice Blanc, 111)
5 -- Wildwood Royal (Mark Guidry, 115)
6 -- My Trusty Cat (Pat Day, 118)
7 -- Miss Fortunate (Brian Peck, 115)
8 -- There Runs Hattie (Willie Martinez, 113)
9 -- La Reason (Larry Melancon, 114)
10 -- Mayo on the Side (Robby Albarado, 118)
11 -- Halory Leigh (Craig Perret, 115)
12 -- Island Sand (Justin Shepard, 119)