11/24/2003 12:00AM

'Lady' takes charge as new favorite

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Few people were happier to hear the news that Sightseek will not race in the Falls City Handicap than trainer Ken McPeek, whose stable star, Take Charge Lady, has become a strong favorite for the Thanksgiving Day fixture.

"Of course we're glad she's not coming," said McPeek. "It's one less bear we'll have to wrestle."

Take Charge Lady, an earner of more than $2.47 million for the Select Stable of Jerry and Feye Bach, will carry high weight of 123 pounds in the 1 1/8-mile Falls City. Tony D'Amico, who was the 4-year-old filly's regular rider during the early part of her career, is being reunited with Take Charge Lady for the Grade 3 Falls City, which McPeek said may be the final race of the filly's career.

"There are leanings that way, but nothing's set in stone," said McPeek. "Mr. Bach will decide that later."

With D'Amico aboard, Take Charge Lady went through what McPeek called "a little blowout" Monday morning at Churchill when she breezed three furlongs in 37.20 seconds over a good track. "She's ready," McPeek said.

At least seven other fillies and mares are likely for the 88th Falls City: Miss Terrible, 117 pounds; Awesome Humor, 116; Lead Story, 116; Mayo on the Side, 114; Rhiana, 114; Angel Gift, 113; and Fircroft, 112.

Large field takes shape for Clark

Even before Medaglia d'Oro defected from the Grade 2 Clark Handicap, the prospective field for the $500,000 race was a big one. And now that trainer Bobby Frankel has decided not to send Medaglia d'Oro from California, the cast for the Friday showcase sure doesn't figure to get any smaller.

At least 13 3-year-olds and upward are considered likely to run in the 1 1/8-mile Clark, led by Tenpins, Evening Attire, and During. Other probables are Crafty Shaw, M B Sea, Snake Mountain, Quest Star, Aeneas, Devil Time, Quest, Request for Parole, Seattle Fitz, and Sonic West.

Be Gentle may run in Golden Rod

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has sent out the winner of the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes a record four times, on Monday was still trying to decide whether to run Be Gentle in the Golden Rod, Saturday's closing-day co-feature.

Lukas already has one of the Golden Rod favorites in Stellar Jayne, the last-to-first winner of the Pocahontas Stakes this month. Be Gentle was tentatively booked on a Tuesday flight from California.

Other probables for the Golden Rod are Galloping Gal, Sister Star, America America, Lotta Kim, Birthday Song, Penny's Fortune, and Sheer Luck.

The other 2-year-old stakes on the closing-day card, the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, is shaping up with a prospective field of at least nine colts and geldings, led by The Cliff's Edge. The others are Commendation, Gran Prospect, Proper Prado, Mach Speed, Saltire, Scat Sam Man, Jamian, and Suave.

The Golden Rod and KJC are both Grade 2, $200,000 races at 1 1/16 miles.

Bien Nicole will likely be retired

Bien Nicole, the speedy turf mare who ran a game second to Riskaverse in the Cardinal Handicap on Saturday, is probably through racing after exiting the race with a condylar fracture that required surgery.

Bien Nicole, a 5-year-old mare, "may very well be retired," said trainer Donnie Von Hemel. "But the injury is such that she should return at 100 percent. We're just happy that the injury wasn't any worse than it was and for all the good she has done for us."

Bien Nicole suffered the injury in her left hind leg and underwent surgery at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington on Sunday. Owned by John and Kristine Richter, Bien Nicole has won 12 of 26 starts and $1,074,620. Her most notable victory came last month in the Grade 2 WinStar Galaxy at Keeneland.

From Churchill to Malibu

Three Churchill-based horses are tentatively scheduled to run in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26: Cajun Beat, Posse, and Eugene's Third Son.

Trainer Pat Byrne said that Eugene's Third Son, a sharp winner of an allowance race here Saturday, will join Cajun Beat on a Dec. 3 charter flight to south Florida. "He came out of the race real well," Byrne said. "He'll be on the same flight as Cajun Beat when the horses leave for California, too."

* Jockey Dean Butler is building momentum for the four-month Turfway meet that begins Sunday. After starting the Churchill meet 0 for 42, Butler has won with seven of his last 41 mounts, restoring his record to respectability.

* Jockey Craig Perret, a former leading rider at Gulfstream, is planning to return to the south Florida track this winter. Perret, who by choice has ridden sparingly this year, was the leading rider in 1968 at Gulfstream, which begins its 2004 meet on Jan. 3. Terry Miller will continue to work as Perret's agent.