10/07/2003 11:00PM

McPeek: Look for Take Charge Lady to improve off Spinster victory


Take Charge Lady might be the most unappreciated filly in this year's outstanding crop of older fillies and mares. Her victory in last Sunday's Spinster Stakes at Keeneland was her second straight in that Grade 1 race, her fifth in as many starts at Keeneland, and her 11th win in 20 lifetime starts. She has been remarkably consistent, having finished in the top two in 15 of her last 16 races.

But Take Charge Lady was not able to beat division leaders Azeri, Sightseek, and Wild Spirit earlier this year. She ran well against them, finishing second each time. Next, she must face all three, along with Santa Anita specialist Got Koko, in the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita. Take Charge Lady will be seeking to atone for a sixth-place finish in last year's Distaff.

Her trainer, Ken McPeek, thinks Take Charge Lady is capable of running far better this year. In the hope of having her peaking on Oct. 25, McPeek said he trained Take Charge Lady a little easier for this year's Spinster than he did last year. Take Charge Lady had just two workouts in five weeks. She won Sunday by a diminishing head from You.

"I was worried that I didn't have her fit enough," McPeek said Wednesday from Kentucky. "I didn't want to tap her out. Last year, she ran a great race in the Spinster, but she threw in a clunker in the Breeders' Cup. We wanted to win the Spinster again this year, but we didn't want to play all our best cards. It wasn't her best race, but I think she can come back and run significantly better in her next race."

She will have to. The Distaff is coming up one of the strongest Breeders' Cup races in terms of quality. In terms of quantity, however, it figures to have the smallest field. As of Wednesday, only eight runners - Adoration, Azeri, Elloluv, Got Koko, Lady Tak, Sightseek, Take Charge Lady, and Wild Spirit - were pointing for the Distaff.

Azeri, whose victory in last year's Distaff clinched the 2002 Horse of the Year title, is scheduled to work on Saturday for the first time since her 11-race win streak ended in the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap two weeks ago. Her trainer, Laura de Seroux, said Azeri had been a little quiet earlier this week, but she perked up Tuesday afternoon and "came out of her stall on her toes," de Seroux said, before a routine gallop on Wednesday at San Luis Rey Downs.

Sightseek and Wild Spirit were scheduled to be flown from New York to California on Wednesday, trainer Bobby Frankel said. Wild Spirit's owner, Oussama Abou-Ghazale, intends to pay the $400,000 supplemental fee to get Wild Spirit into the Distaff.

Elloluv, who crossed the wire second behind Got Koko in the Lady's Secret before being disqualified to fourth, has "put on weight since her last race, which is a pleasant surprise," trainer Craig Dollase said.

"It shows she's doing well," Dollase said.