01/25/2002 1:00AM

Lake Lady well prepped for mile run


NEW ORLEANS - Everyone wants to know if Lake Lady can race as effectively at two turns as she has at one. She starts Sunday in the one-mile Tiffany Lass Stakes, yet win or lose, questions about her distance limitations might still persist.

On paper, Lake Lady outclasses the six other fillies entered in the $100,000 Tiffany Lass, Fair Grounds' first route race for

3-year-old fillies. It's followed on the stakes schedule by the Grade 3 Silverbulletday and the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks.

As a stepping-stone to those races, and with a short stretch run, the Tiffany Lass presents a great spot for a stretch-out sprinter like Lake Lady to make her two-turn debut. At one turn, she has been nothing short of sensational for owner Robert Beck and trainer Steve Asmussen.

Lake Lady lost her debut last fall at Keeneland when she raced without Lasix and got a wide trip, but has won her three starts since by a combined 21 1/4 lengths. Coming off back-to-back blowout wins at Churchill, Lake Lady won the Jan. 6 Thelma Stakes here by 1 1/4 lengths.

Her winning margin in the Thelma would have been much greater had Asmussen not used the race as a schooling race for the Tiffany Lass. "Steve did a smart thing there," said trainer Neil Howard, who will saddle the likely second choice, Charmed Gift.

Knowing that Lake Lady had enjoyed ideal trips in her Churchill wins, Asmussen instructed jockey Donnie Meche to take the filly back in the early going and to put her in traffic. Meche did just that, steering Lake Lady to the inside and behind horses on the far turn. It didn't faze the filly a bit, as she unleashed a quick turn of foot that propelled her to the lead coming off the turn. Meche merely kept her mind on business in the stretch.

Her race there and the lack of proven route stakes talent Sunday mitigates Lake Lady's sprint pedigree: She is by Salt Lake out of Slinkylady, a mare whose sire, What a Hoist, won one start in a sprint career.

Charmed Gift also ran in the Thelma, but her sixth-place finish can't be held against her. She has won twice at routes and is no sprinter, and she ran in the Thelma as a prep for the Tiffany Lass. Howard said Charmed Gift "trickled" a bit of blood after the Thelma and will race on Lasix for the first time.

The improving Haylie's Dawn and comebacking Emeraldforajudge appear to be the other contenders.

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