04/22/2003 11:00PM

Bailey lands ride on Lady Tak for Oaks

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Steve Asmussen has named Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey to ride Lady Tak in the Kentucky Oaks next Friday at Churchill Downs, saying the circumstances involving the star filly's regular rider, Donnie Meche, forced him to seek another jockey.

Bailey replaces Corey Lanerie, who rode Lady Tak in her last start, the April 5 Ashland Stakes, the filly's first loss in six career starts. Lanerie was substituting in the Ashland for Meche, who rode Lady Tak in each of her five wins.

Asmussen said Meche would have ridden Lady Tak in the Oaks, but Meche is scheduled to appear Tuesday at a hearing of the Louisiana State Racing Commission regarding his appeal of a 180-day suspension, stemming from his ride in a futurity trial at Delta Downs on Jan. 23. Meche was suspended Feb. 8 by the Delta stewards for not persevering in that race with heavily favored Cleaning House, who finished third. Cleaning House is trained by Asmussen. Both Meche and Asmussen said that Cleaning House injured a hoof in that race.

Entries for the Oaks are to be drawn Tuesday, meaning that depending on what transpires at the Louisiana hearing, Asmussen might have had to conduct a last-minute search for a jockey that day.

"It's bad timing for Donnie," said Asmussen, who for the last several years has given Meche first call on many horses in his massive stable. "We felt like we had to go on and secure the best available rider to avoid that kind of situation."

Meche did not ride Lady Tak in the Ashland because he was still serving a 30-day suspension for a substance-abuse violation dating to last year. That suspension elapsed April 10, but for reasons that are not clear, Meche has ridden in races just once since then, on April 12, Arkansas Derby Day at Oaklawn Park.

Meanwhile, Churchill officials are expecting a field of about 12 3-year-old fillies for the 129th running of the Oaks. Lady Tak and the filly who beat her in the Ashland, Elloluv (with Robby Albarado to ride), are the likely favorites. Santa Catarina (Gary Stevens) and My Boston Gal (Pat Day) also will be well bet.

The other Oaks probables are Atlantic Ocean, Bird Town, Go for Glamour, Holiday Lady, In Case of Wind, Island Fashion, and Yell. Possible starters are My Trusty Cat and Tempus Fugit.

Elloluv, who had been stabled at Keeneland since her Ashland win, arrived Tuesday at Churchill and had her first gallop around the track the following morning. There were no Oaks workouts Wednesday.

Kim Loves Bucky wins Elkhorn again

For the second straight year, Kim Loves Bucky won the Elkhorn Stakes in an upset, this time wearing down the 7-5 favorite, Man From Wicklow, to win Wednesday's feature at 11-1.

Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Kim Loves Bucky stalked a moderate pace in the 1 1/2-mile turf race before moving to challenge Man From Wicklow leaving the final turn. At the end of a long duel, Kim Loves Bucky was best by a half-length, with Man From Wicklow was a nose in front of late-running Williams News for second place.

Kim Loves Bucky, a 6-year-old gelding by Green Dancer, is owned by his breeders, John and Kim Glenney. John Glenney, a retired biochemist, is the gelding's trainer.

Last year, Kim Loves Bucky won the Grade 3 Elkhorn at 12-1 under Jorge Chavez. Since then, Kim Loves Bucky had gone winless in six tries. The $150,000 Elkhorn was his first race in nearly six months.

"I was worried all spring that he was going to be a little short," said Glenney. "But between Bucky and Kent, they got the job done."

Kim Loves Bucky returned $25.80 after finishing in 2:29.39 on firm turf. The winner's share of $93,000 lifted his bankroll above $400,000.

Gritty Sandie rallied to be fourth in the field of 10 older horses. Quest Star, the pacesetter and 2-1 second choice, faded to eighth.

Champali ready for Derby Trial

Given the choice, Greg Foley would have preferred to run Champali last weekend in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. But a foot fungus led Foley to scratch the colt, and now he will clash with Midas Eyes in the $150,000 Derby Trial, a Grade 3 race that highlights the opening-day card at Churchill Downs Saturday.

"I actually thought we'd fit the Lexington pretty well," said Foley. "But he wasn't the way he should've been because of the fungus, so we had to wait. Now he's fine. He had a black-letter work [Tuesday], and that's the best I've seen him since before the Lane's End." That March 22 race is Champali's most recent start.

Champali was a terror at Turfway Park this winter, sweeping all three prep races there before finishing third in the Lane's End. Foley and the colt's owners, Lloyd Madison Farms, dreamed Kentucky Derby dreams for a while, but decided not to run him.

Nonetheless, Foley would gladly take an upset of Midas Eyes as a consolation for Champali missing both the Lexington and the Derby. Foley's sister, trainer Vickie Foley, won the Trial last year with Sky Terrace, and Foley, who is based year-round at Churchill, is always happy to win in front of the home fans.

Midas Eyes, the runaway winner of the March 15 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park for trainer Bobby Frankel, will be ridden by Bailey in the one-mile Trial. Midas Eyes "is all you hear about," said Foley, who will have Pat Day aboard Champali. "I'm sure he's a good horse. We'll go in there and find out all about it."

As of Wednesday, only three other 3-year-olds had been confirmed for the Trial: Cat Singer, Desert Warrior, and Private Gold.

Posse, winner of the April 6 Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland, will take a pass, said his trainer, Asmussen. "He ran three times in a six-week span, and that's enough," said Asmussen. "We're going to wait for the Matt Winn," a six-furlong race at Churchill on May 10.

Lukas 2-year-old impressive winner

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who appears headed for his 16th training title at Keeneland, unveiled a sensational prospect Wednesday in Renaissance Lady, who won the third race as the 5-2 favorite.

Renaissance Lady won the 4 1/2-furlong maiden race by two lengths despite breaking 11th and last in the field of 2-year-old fillies. Owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis and ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, Renaissance Lady is by A.P. Indy, out of the noted producer Storm Beauty.

For Lukas, the win was the eighth of the Keeneland spring meet, which ends Wednesday. No other trainer had more than five wins.