01/04/2003 12:00AM

Lady Tak hardly has to break a sweat


NEW ORLEANS - Lady Tak ran so easily Saturday at Fair Grounds that her name should show up on the list of daily workouts rather than race results.

Lady Tak turned the $75,000 Thelma into little more than an exhibition, running away from three overmatched rivals with a quick burst turning for home. Lady Tak beat Allspice by five lengths, but the margin could have been much greater. With his mount racing alone in the stretch, jockey Donnie Meche did little besides keep Lady Tak focused on the wire, and she increased her lead while being ridden out to the finish. Though she ran well within herself, Lady Tak was timed in a swift 1:10.16 for six furlongs.

Things were more eventful behind her. Allspice leaned into Buffalo Jump at about the eighth pole, and was disqualified from second to third for knocking Buffalo Jump off stride. "When I hit her with the left whip it surprised the heck out of her," said Robby Albarado, Allspice's jockey.

The disqualification was the most eventful thing about the Thelma. Trainer Steve Asmussen entered three horses in the race, but scratched Souris and Valid Pulpit, leaving undefeated Lady Tak with the outside post in a four-horse field. A sharp winner of both of her career starts at the Churchill Downs meet, Lady Tak had never faced stakes company, but she went off at 1-5 and since show betting was canceled on the Thelma, she was the subject of heavy place wagering.

Meche let Lady Tak settle into an easy stride outside Spring Rush through a quarter-mile in 21.99 seconds, knowing he could take control with a shake of the reins. "It's unbelievable," Meche said. "I know we went 21 and change, but it felt like we weren't doing anything." When Meche let Lady Tak out a notch at the three-sixteenths pole, the race was over.

Now, as with last year's Asmussen-trained Thelma winner, Lake Lady, the question is how far Lady Tak will stretch her speed. Some part of the answer will be forthcoming in three weeks, provided Lady Tak makes a scheduled start in the one-mile Tiffany Lass.

"This is the beginning of a lot of questions that will be asked about a very fast filly whose pedigree leans towards sprints," Asmussen said.