Churchill Downs Race Report: Belle of Louisville

Published in the June 1 issue of The Blood-Horse
Step aside, Miss Cleo, trainer Ken McPeek is predicting the future and sees an Eclipse Award and a Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) win in the cards for his 3-year-old filly Take Charge Lady.

"She has every reason to be champion 3-year-old filly," McPeek said following Take Charge Lady's 1 3/4-length win over Charmed Gift in the $109,500 Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) May 25 at Churchill Downs. "We've also got every reason to think we could win the Breeders' Cup Distaff with her. When you take 3-year-olds and run them against 4-year-old mares in the fall it's going to be a different game, but I think she'll be up to it."

While McPeek isn't about to start up a 1-900 psychic hotline like Miss Cleo, he's not just blowing hot air. Take Charge Lady can back up her trainer's talk. The bay daughter of Dehere has wins this year in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I), the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), the Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. III), and a runner-up finish to Farda Amiga in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Her only real blemish to date came in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) where she finished a dull sixth behind the late champion Tempera. Take Charge Lady has earned $1,197,831 in just 10 starts for owners Jerry and Feye Bach's Select Stable.

The Dogwood win, which came in stakes-record time, was equally as impressive as Take Charge Lady's earlier stakes-winning feats.

Take Charge Lady settled behind early leader French Satin through fractions of :23.80 and :47.21 for the 11?16-mile Dogwood. As the seven-horse field moved around the far turn, Take Charge Lady, under regular rider Tony D'Amico, pulled ahead, then easily coasted home for the victory while Charmed Gift and Allamerican Bertie battled for second.

The winner returned a scant $2.60, and her time of 1:42.73 topped Ginny Lynn's 1996 stakes mark of 1:43.22.

"She ran good," said trainer Neil Howard of runner-up Charmed Gift. "I hate to see them run that hard, but that's a top-notch filly that beat her and it's not like I didn't know that going in. She ran pretty hard to try to get to Take Charge Lady and she could have very easily got beat for second."
The Dogwood was the first effort for Take Charge Lady since scratching from the May 17 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) after an endoscopic exam revealed a trace of mucus that McPeek attributed to an allergy. "The timing of that problem was just an odd deal. When we found that, we just couldn't run her, but she's fine now."

The next one McPeek wants to win with Take Charge Lady is the June 29 Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park. "The Mother Goose will be ideal for her," the trainer said. "It's another mile and an eighth test for her and I'm not sure how she'll handle the Belmont surface, but she's good to go."

Posse Strikes Back
Trainer Steve Asmussen opted to travel to Kentucky May 27 to watch his Posse in the $160,000 Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) instead of staying at home in Texas to saddle his runners in the Texas Championship Day stakes at Lone Star Park. It's a good thing he did as his 2-year-old posted an impressive 31?2-length victory.

Posse, who was making his first start since finishing third as the favorite in the Three Chimneys Juvenile Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day, covered the 5 1/2-furlong distance in 1:03.73. Del Diablo was second, followed 21?2 lengths later by Blackjack Boy.

The Dale Romans-trained Vibs took the early lead while Posse sat just behind him through fractions of :21.74 and :45.10. As the field moved around the far turn, Posse swept to the lead while Del Diablo commenced his rally to take the runner-up spot in the stretch.

"This race was indicative of the type of 2-year-old that he is," said Asmussen, who conditions Posse for Heiligbrodt Racing Stable. "After that Derby Day race I was glad that he was able to come back today and show his true self."

Asmussen said Posse would next shoot for the July 7 Bashford Manor Stakes (gr. III).

William Schettine bred Take Charge Lady in Kentucky. (Chart, Equibase)