11/18/2003 1:00AM

D'Amico reunited with his Lady


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Jockey Tony D'Amico was the rider of Take Charge Lady when she began her career. On Thanksgiving Day he will be back aboard when she makes what will likely be her final start, in the Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs. Plans call for her to be retired after the race and bred next year.

On Tuesday the two reacquainted themselves, with D'Amico breezing Take Charge Lady five furlongs in 1:00.20 over a fast track at Churchill Downs. Starting several lengths behind Tiger Heart, a 2-year-old maiden winner, Take Charge Lady settled comfortably for the opening quarter-mile. She pulled on even terms with Tiger Heart on the turn, and easily accelerated away in the stretch. Tiger Heart was timed in 1:02.

"She was very relaxed," said D'Amico. "She finished good and she did it easy."

The Falls City will mark the first time since last spring that he rides Take Charge Lady in a race. He was her rider for her entire 2-year-old year and throughout most of the first half of her 3-year-old season. Over that stretch, he rode her to four graded stakes victories, including the Grade 1 Ashland in 2002.

After guiding her to victory in the Dogwood Stakes in May of last year, he lost the mount. Edgar Prado or Shane Sellers has been aboard all of her races since.

"She's been responsible for some of my biggest thrills in racing," said D'Amico. "She's one of the best fillies I have ever sat on in my life."

His presence aboard Take Charge Lady did not go unnoticed on the backstretch Tuesday morning. Trainer Steve Flint, watching D'Amico head onto the track aboard Take Charge Lady, shouted, "Hey, you're back in the mix, boy?"

D'Amico smiled as he and Take Charge Lady trotted past. "It means a lot to me to ride her in what could be her last race," he said later.

She is expected to face a short field in the Falls City. Sightseek, the beaten favorite in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, is expected to race and would be the likely favorite. Take Charge Lady, coming off a sixth-place finish in the Distaff, would be the second wagering choice.

McPeek scouts Brazil

One person who had to miss Take Charge Lady's work Tuesday morning was her trainer, Ken McPeek. He left for Brazil on Monday, looking for more South American horses to join his stable.

McPeek has had quite a bit of success this year with Brazilian horses. One of them, Hard Buck, won the River City Handicap at Churchill Downs Sunday.

Another Brazilian horse, Prodigus, was a close third in an allowance at Churchill Downs Nov. 8. Naraingang won the Yaqthan Stakes at Kentucky Downs in September. And Art Variety was first across the wire in the Kentucky Cup Turf, but was disqualified from first to third for interference.

Most recently, Art Variety finished ninth in the Canadian International over yielding ground, a surface McPeek said the horse disliked. Art Variety is being considered for the Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder Dec. 27.

Another Brazilian horse likely to run in Florida for McPeek is Be Happy, a Group 1-winning filly who raced competitively against males in Brazil earlier this year.

Cardinal likely Quick Tip's final race

Like Take Charge Lady in the Falls City, Quick Tip could be making her final start before becoming a broodmare when she races in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Cardinal Handicap.

The race's defending champion, she trained quickly over the Churchill Downs turf course Tuesday morning. After an easy opening quarter-mile, she picked up the pace through the stretch to complete a half-mile around the dogs in 50.60 seconds. Daily Racing Form timed her final quarter in less than 23 seconds.

Shane Sellers will likely ride Quick Tip, who won the allowance prep for the Cardinal Oct. 31.

Sellers, who fractured his tailbone in a paddock accident early this month, will resume riding Saturday if he feels well after breezing horses on Thursday, agent Fred Aime said. Aime expects Sellers to ride in three or four races on both Saturday and Sunday.

A large, accomplished field is likely for the Cardinal, a 1 1/8-mile grass race and the lone stakes at Churchill Downs this weekend. Expected to join Quick Tip are Bien Nicole, Riskaverse, Janeian, Diadella, Dyna Da Wyna, San Dare, Delmonico Cat, Dick's Chick, Firth of Lorne, and Ilha Grande.

Trainer Christophe Clement also intends to start at least one of his nominated fillies - Dress to Thrill, Sixty Seconds, Madeira Mist, and Love N' Kiss S. - but will wait until later in the week to make a decision regarding which one will compete.

Grade 1 winner Megahertz, who had been considered a probable starter a few days ago, will run instead against males in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup Saturday.

WinStar Galaxy winner Bien Nicole may start as the favorite in the Cardinal, depending on which filly Clement races. Ninth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Bien Nicole breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60 over a "good" track Monday at Churchill Downs Trackside.