Sunday, April 07, 2002

Take Charge Lady wins Ashland Stakes

The Associated Press

Take Charge Lady, right, with Tony D'Amico aboard, pulls away from Take the Cake and Belterra to win the Ashland Stakes Saturday at Keeneland in Lexington.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        LEXINGTON, Ky. — Take Charge Lady came into the $500,000 Grade I Ashland Stakes for 3-year-old fillies with a reputation as a pacesetter.

        She trotted off the Keeneland track Saturday having proved she's just as tough down the stretch and the likely favorite for next month's Kentucky Oaks on Derby weekend at Churchill Downs.

        Take Charge Lady sat off the pace early, took the lead in the top of the far turn and easily held off Take the Cake and a charging Belterra to win for the sixth time in eight career starts.

        “She's incredible,” said jockey Tony D'Amico, who earned his first Grade I victory. “By far, the best filly I've ever saddled.”

        The heavily favored daughter of Dehere, trained by Ken McPeek, covered 1 1-16 miles on the fast track in 1:43 2-5 and finished 4 1/2 lengths in front of Take the Cake and nearly a full 7 lengths in front of Belterra.

        Take Charge Lady paid $3.20, $2.40 and $2.10 as the 3-5 favorite. Take the Cake, who went off at 13-1 with Rene Douglas aboard, paid $6.20 and $2.20 while Belterra, ridden by Jon Court, paid $2.10.

        McPeek missed the race because he was in Chicago to watch Repent in the Illinois Derby.

        Take Charge Lady owner Jerry Bach said he won't consider entering his horse in the Derby.

        “There's no reason to run her against the boys,” Bach said. “She was nominated (for the Kentucky Derby) because nobody has a crystal ball to predict the future. But she doesn't belong in that race.”

        An expected showdown between Take Charge Lady and rival Belterra never materialized.

        Belterra defeated Take Charge Lady by 4 lengths in the Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs last fall.

        But Take Charge Lady dominated all competition this year leading into the Ashland, winning the Fair Grounds Oaks and Silverbulletday Stakes in New Orleans by a combined 13 1/2 lengths.

        Belterra came into the Ashland with only one start this year, a third-place finish in the Bonnie Miss Stakes at Gulfstream Park last month.

        Take Charge Lady was bumped out of the gate Saturday but recovered to hold the lead with Colonial Glitter through the first turn while Belterra languished at the back of the eight-horse field.

        Colonial Glitter held a 2 1/2-length lead through most of the backstretch until Take Charge Lady made her move at the entrance of the far turn.

        “She's so much bigger and stronger now that I didn't even have to ask her for much,” D'Amico said.

        The lead only got wider as she moved down the stretch with Take the Cake struggling to hold on for second in front of a hard-charging Belterra, a Carl Nafzger-trained filly known as a strong finisher.

        “I thought all three of my fillies ran great races,” said Nafzger, who also trains Take the Cake and fifth-placer finisher Cordoba. “I was scared Cordoba would be a little green and she was. Belterra made a nice run and Take the Cake was outstanding.

        “You'll see both the second and third horses in the Oaks.”


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