02/17/2011 2:45PM

Kathmanblu invokes deja vu at Fair Grounds


NEW ORLEANS – The inclination toward Kathmanblu’s presence in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds is to hark back to Take Charge Lady.

Ken McPeek trains Kathmanblu, and he trained Take Charge Lady, who invaded Fair Grounds for her first start of 2002 and annihilated four foes in the Silverbulletday Stakes, what the Rachel Alexandra was called before 2011. But Take Charge Lady went on to finish second in the Kentucky Oaks and earn more than $2.4 million in her career, and actually, it would be getting ahead of oneself to put Kathmanblu anywhere near that league – yet.

Take Charge Lady started her career with a brilliant short-sprint victory, while Kathmanblu finished eighth at 58-1 first time out. She managed to win her second start, but that victory came by a half-length over the Ellis Park turf course. It’s not easy to square that form with a filly who looks like an odds-on favorite in the Grade 3, $125,000 Rachel Alexandra, but Kathmanblu ended her 2-year-old season on a high note, capturing the Golden Rod Stakes (a race in which Take Charge Lady finished second) by eight lengths, then ground out a yielding-turf win Jan. 22 at Gulfstream in her first start at age 3. Kathmanblu has won 3 of 5 on grass and only once on dirt, but McPeek is enthused about a return to the main track Saturday.

“We’re excited to have her back on dirt,” he said.

Kathmanblu, with Julien Leparoux to ride for the fifth straight time, ran faster in the Golden Rod than the winning colt in the Kentucky Jockey Club the same day, but that might say more about the boys’ race. The two fillies closest to her at Churchill are relatively undistinguished, and one might even suggest Kathmanblu, who arrived here Wednesday and was out for a gallop Thursday, could be vulnerable in the 1 1/16-mile Rachel Alexandra. But who might take her down?

Gran Lioness finished 14 lengths behind Kathmablu in the Golden Rod, but rebounded with a sharp Jan. 14 victory in a rich Delta Downs stakes. Gran Lioness led all the way that night, and looks like cthe ontrolling speed from post 1 Saturday.

“She came out of that last race really, really well,” trainer Bret Calhoun said.

Bouquet Booth captured the Grade 3 Delta Princess in her final start at 2 and won the Jan. 22 Silverbulletday here in her 3-year-old debut, but unheralded Daisy Devine was closing in on her late in that Fair Grounds race.

“To run against Kentucky Oaks kind of fillies, she probably needs to be a little faster,” said trainer Steve Margolis, while suggesting that improvement was possible.

Inglorious was 2 for 2 last year facing Ontario-breds over Woodbine’s Polytrack, and has been working lights-out on Fair Grounds dirt. Chloe Kate has gone 2 for 2 in dirt-route races this Fair Grounds meet, and could come forward as distances lengthen, trainer Neil Howard said.

“If she finished a closing third, galloped out good, I wouldn’t be unhappy,” Howard said.

For Kathmanblu, the bar has been set higher.