03/13/2002 12:00AM

Any of McPeek trio able to win Derby


Philadelphia - When exactly did Ken McPeek become D. Wayne Lukas?

McPeek is threatening to bring three horses to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. And these are just not horses that will fill up a program page. These are horses with chances to win the race.

My advice to McPeek is just do it. Everybody knows about Repent and Harlan's Holiday. The filly Take Charge Lady is lesser known. In fact, she is not yet nominated to the Triple Crown.

By March 30, her owners must put up $6,000 to make her eligible. Just do it.

Could you imagine three horses from one barn with such talent and running styles that are so complimentary.

Repent is the one-run closer. Harlan's Holiday is the stalker. Take Charge Lady is the speed.

Everybody knows the case for Repent. The Derby almost always has a fast pace and a huge field that falls apart at some point. Closers have as good a chance in America's most important race as they do in any race anywhere. This is no longer a closers game, except in the one race that everybody watches.

Beyer-wise, Repent took a step backward in his Louisiana Derby win Sunday, getting just a 95 after earning a 102 in the Risen Star. That's a little confusing, but the colt's entire Louisiana Derby was an adventure. Horses obviously are not machines and, with the notable exception of Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont Stakes, 3-year-olds are even less machine-like. As long as Repent keeps passing horses and keeps winning or coming close, he is dangerous in the Derby.

Harlan's Holiday will once again try to get by Booklet in the Florida Derby on Saturday. He could not do it in the Holy Bull or Fountain of Youth. Perhaps, the colt will get there this time. His last three Beyers are ascending (99-100-104). This is good news. Edgar Prado now has the mount. This is also good news.

As for Take Charge Lady, the Beyers strongly suggest she is a contender in any 3-year-old race in America, regardless of sex. A daughter of 1993 2-year-old champion Dehere, she was a nice 2-year-old. She won the Alcibiades before getting cooked in a Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies speed duel. She ran second in the Golden Rod in late November to end her year. She looked promising, but there was nothing to suggest she was going to go off this year.

Her last four 2-year-old Beyers were 73, 91, 89, 80.

Her first 3-year-old Beyer was 109 when she wired the Silverbulletday Stakes at the Fair Grounds, winning by 8 1/2 lengths. Perhaps that was a fluke. Perhaps not.

Last Saturday, she wired the Fair Grounds Oaks by five lengths. She got a 107 Beyer. This is serious stuff.

What changed? Well, stuff happens with 3-year-olds. And her last two starts were the first two in which she got a clear early lead. Many horses thrive under those circumstances.

To review, McPeek is training one colt with three graded stakes wins, another colt who just missed in his last two starts against quality competition, and a filly that is running the best 3-year Beyers this side of Came Home. And they have running styles that are totally different.

With an apology to Nike, just do it.