02/14/2002 1:00AM

The meat of this meet begins now


NEW ORLEANS - Welcome to the meat of the Fair Grounds meet. In three months of racing here fans have yet to taste a graded stakes, but during the next six weeks, beginning with Saturday's Grade 3 Silverbulletday, there will be six of them.

The Silverbulletday, which drew a competitive field of six, leads into the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 9. It also could lead to a big weekend for trainers Steve Asmussen and Ken McPeek. Both have a filly for the Silverbulletday and a colt for Sunday's Grade 3 Risen Star. "We're not going to sleep through the weekend," Asmussen said.

Lake Lady is reason enough to get up. Lake Lady has reeled off four straight wins, including 1 1/4-length scores in the Thelma and Tiffany Lass Stakes here. The Thelma was a practice race, teaching Lake Lady to run in traffic and come from behind. She learned well, and in winning the one-mile Tiffany Lass, her first start around two turns, quieted some doubts about her distance ability.

Lake Lady is by a sprint sire and has little pedigree power, but that doesn't stop Asmussen and jockey Donnie Meche from believing in her. Lake Lady, the theory goes, is a freak, an individual with talent to transcend her breeding. It may be true. The Silverbulletday is her toughest test.

The McPeek-trained Take Charge Lady, who shipped here from Gulfstream Tuesday, is the only graded stakes winner in the field. She won the Grade 2 Alcibiades in October before finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Take Charge Lady, to be ridden for the first time by Jon Court, is a front-runner and with post 1 figures to be on the early pace. Recent maiden winner Broad Harbor, Lake Lady, and the unbeaten Chamrousse won't be far behind, with Academic Angel and Charmed Gift the likely closers.

Charmed Gift, two times a winner at this distance, was running at Lake Lady late in the Tiffany Lass and, with jockey Craig Perret riding past the wire, galloped out in front of her. With a big-time pedigree, Charmed Gift can win her first stakes.

So too can Chamrousse, winner of two sprints for trainer Niall O'Callaghan. Chamrousse is bred to run long, and O'Callaghan does not push horses to win early, suggesting that Chamrousse might be up to the tall task of making her stakes and two-turn debut the same afternoon.

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