12/04/2002 12:00AM

Lady Tak has speed, but for how far?


NEW ORLEANS - The similarities go way beyond their names. Last year Lake Lady won her maiden at Churchill Downs on the final weekend in October for trainer Steve Asmussen, and she came back to crush an allowance field there near the end of the meet. This year's model is Lady Tak, an Asmussen-trained filly who debuted at Churchill Oct. 29 with an 11 3/4-length maiden win. She returned last weekend at Churchill to win a tough allowance race by 3 1/4 lengths, running six furlongs in 1:09.40.

And as it was for Lake Lady last year, the question now for Lady Tak is how far can she carry her speed? Lake Lady failed in her first two-turn race, but returned to finish second in the Fair Grounds Oaks and the Fantasy Stakes. Lady Tak, Asmussen said, also will be pointed to 3-year-old filly route races at Fair Grounds, though he's not ready to commit to Lady Tak's next start.

Owned by Heiligbrodt Racing, Lady Tak is by the Seeking the Gold sire Mutakddim and was purchased for $75,000 at Keeneland's 2-year-olds in training sale in April. "She was wound for sound for the sale," Asmussen said. "She went straight to Brent Brinkman [at a farm] in Ocala. We just wanted to slow things down a little. She came back an absolute angel."

Asmussen said he picked out Lady Tak's debut race carefully because "she seemed so special, I didn't want to take any chances. She's got such a great disposition."

And great speed, too. In her allowance win, Lady Tak pressed a sizzling pace while still well in hand, and when jockey Donnie Meche let her out a notch she quickly opened a clear lead on a talented field and cruised through the stretch.

"I don't think she'll have any trouble getting a mile," Asmussen said. "After that, we'll have to see."

The first 3-year-old filly stakes at Fair Grounds is the Jan. 4 Thelma, but that race is at six furlongs. The first route stakes in Lady Tak's division is the one-mile Tiffany Lass on Jan. 26.

Lady Tak was part of a 16-win week for Asmussen, who through Monday had closed to within three victories of trainer Scott Lake, the nation's leading trainer by wins.

Parade Leader out for splint surgery

Parade Leader, winner of the New Orleans Handicap here last season, will have splint bones surgically removed from both of his front legs and will be out of action until sometime in late winter or early spring. Parade Leader finished fourth in the Stephen Foster on June 15, but didn't race again until Nov. 2, when he was second to Neon Shadow in a Churchill allowance race.

Trainer Neil Howard said Parade Leader, a Kingmambo horse owned by Will Farish and E. J. Hudson, had hairline fractures in the splint bones. Removal would prevent the splint bones from causing damage to ligaments in Parade Leader's legs.

"We decided to go ahead and take them out so he could come back and have another good season next year," Howard said.

Parade Leader, Howard said, can start jogging again 30 days after the surgery.

Meanwhile, the Howard-trained Midway Road, who finished seventh at 4-1 Saturday in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill, will undergo minor throat surgery to repair a breathing problem. The procedure, called a myectomy, can be performed without the horse leaving its stall, and Midway Road should miss only two days of training.

Midway Road tracked a very fast pace in the Jockey Club and actually took the lead turning into the stretch, but by the furlong pole he had been swallowed up. "He acted like a horse that had displaced his palate," Howard said.

Before the Jockey Club, Midway Road won a two-turn allowance race at Keeneland impressively, and Howard still believes the colt can be a stakes horse at age 3. "We don't think any less of him for that last race," Howard said.

Midway Road could surface again in the Lecomte Stakes here next month.

Tenacious comes up solid

Sunday's Tenacious Handicap will attract a field more than worthy of its $75,000 purse. About eight horses are expected, including solid stakes performers such as Neon Shadow and Connected. The field also features two horses trying to come back from multiple injuries, Valhol, who won the Whirlaway Handicap here last year, and Fifty Stars, the Louisiana Derby winner two seasons ago.

Both Neon Shadow and Connected ran well in a Churchill allowance race in their last start, though Neon Shadow won and Connected finished third. But trainer David Carroll pointed out that Connected was caught behind a slow pace, and indeed Connected may be the horse to beat in the Tenacious.

"He had two throat surgeries since he ran in the Stephen Foster [in June]," Carroll said. "He's doing very well right now."

Reflector shines in training race

There were six training races here Wednesday and the action carried on well into the early afternoon. All the five-furlong races were timed within a second of one another, on a track that wasn't producing fast times.

Among the most impressive runners was Reflector, who is bred along the lines of a turf route horse but still won the day's second race. A $140,000 yearling trained by Michael Dickinson, Reflector was under restraint from his rider through the stretch but still posted a nose win.

Audrey Hep, who is trained by Dallas Stewart, had the look of a precocious sprinter when she easily won the third race in 1:02.

Brill, who was seventh in the day's second race, probably will show up in a lower-level maiden race for trainer Delmar Caldwell, but gave hints of being poised for a decent debut effort.