Take Charge Lady Will Have All She Can Handle

(from track report)
Take Charge Lady will make her first start since May 25, and she will have to do it against tough rivals like Bella Bellucci and Imperial Gesture, part of a strong field for the $250,000 Gazelle Handicap (gr. I) at 1 1/8 mile for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park.

From the fall of 2001 to the spring of this year, Select Stable's Take Charge Lady ran nine races, winning six times, including the Ashland (gr. I), without a significant break. Following her win in the Dogwood (gr. III) at Churchill May 25, trainer Ken McPeek gave the Dehere filly a break.

"I thought I saw her going in the wrong direction," McPeek said. "She was a little dehydrated towards the end of May and she was losing some weight."

Now the question is: will Take Charge Lady be fit and good enough to win off a 105-day layoff?

"She's ready to go," McPeek answered. "She's filled out quite a bit and she's stronger. It's not going to be her best race; it will be a good race out of her. I don't want the Gazelle to be her peak; I'd rather save that for a couple down the road. The tentative schedule is Gazelle, Spinster and Breeders' Cup Distaff (both gr.I)."

McPeek had Repent ready off a layoff. He did not run for four months, but was nearly able to nail Medaglia d'Oro in the Travers (gr. I) at Saratoga last month.

Godolphin's Imperial Gesture ran a huge race over this track last fall, a close second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Following two runaway victories in Dubai earlier this year, she was sent to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and received plenty of support, sent off at 7-2.

Imperial Gesture lost opportunity at the Oaks start when she was slammed and pinched back.

"She got banged up at the start of the Oaks and ran hard just trying to catch up through the race," conditioner Tom Albertrani said. "She didn't seem herself afterwards. She was dull in her training and lost a lot of weight."

Albertrani gave Imperial Gesture time to recover from her Dubai-to-Kentucky trip and her Oaks effort. The filly returned to the races impressively at Saratoga Aug. 23, outsprinting a field of older conditioned allowance rivals. That race served notice that Imperial Gesture may be back at the top of her game.

Michael Tabor's Bella Bellucci was scheduled to compete in the Aug. 17 Alabama (gr. I) at Saratoga, but a wet track led to being scratched. The Gazelle will be her first start since beating a field of lesser allowance foes here July 19.

Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale scratched the French Deputy filly out of the Alabama because the condition of the track was similar to one that she pulled a muscle over in June.

Drysdale has worked Bella Bellucci twice since the Alabama, both solid breezes at Aqueduct.

Joseph Platt Jr.'s Nonsuch Bay finished a non-threatening fifth in the Alabama, but she won the Mother Goose (gr. I) over this track in the spring.

$250,000 GAZELLE (gr. I, 1 1/8 mile, fillies, 3 years old)
PP Horse , Wt. (Jockey)
1 Bella Bellucci (L), 118 (Velazquez, John R)
2 Jaramar Rain (L), 113 (Luzzi
3 Spring Meadow (L), 114 (Chavez, Jorge F)
4 Nonsuch Bay (L), 117 (Castellano, Javier)
5 Imperial Gesture (L), 117 (Santos, Jose)
6 Take Charge Lady (L), 121 (Prado, Edgar)
7 Lost At Sea (L) 115 (Day, Pat )