05/20/2004 12:00AM

Momentum back on Lady Tak's side


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Winning Colors was never considered a sprinter, but pretty much anyone who ever saw her in action would acknowledge how fast she was. While her most notable victory came in the 1988 Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles, there seems to be little doubt that she could have beaten top-class company, even at half that distance.

On Saturday, Churchill Downs inaugurates the Winning Colors Handicap at six furlongs, and, not surprisingly, some extremely quick fillies have passed the entry box for the race. Foremost among them is Lady Tak, who was good enough to win the Grade 1 Test Stakes by 4 1/2 lengths last summer.

"Unfortunately, she ran in some good races after the Test but didn't have any wins," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Lady Tak for Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt. "We had to get back to winning."

Asmussen found an allowance sprint with cozy conditions on opening day of the Churchill spring meet, and now Lady Tak seems back to her old self, having dominated that April 24 race from the start. Off that effort, which moved her Churchill record to 3 for 4, Lady Tak is a deserving favorite in the $100,000 Winning Colors, although Asmussen is taking nothing for granted.

"There's no such thing as a pushover race any more," he said. "Her last race was very encouraging, just what we were hoping for. Now we're back on the upswing."

, with Shane Sellers to ride, will break from post 3 in a field of seven. Her most serious challenge may come from Ebony Breeze, a 4-year-old filly trained by Bill Mott.

, bred and owned by George Steinbrenner's Kinsman Stable, ran her best race last summer, when she won the Grade 3 Azalea Breeders' Cup at Calder. Since then, she has gone winless in four starts, but all of those efforts have been respectable, and it would not be shocking if she got past Lady Tak in the final furlong to capture this race.

At least one other capable opponent is Surf N Sand, a Bob Baffert-trained mare who has won seven of 10 career starts.

The rest of the Winning Colors field is Put Me In, Halory Leigh, My Trusty Cat, and Vicki Vallencourt.

The Winning Colors, the lone stakes here this weekend, is the ninth of 10 races on a Saturday card that starts at 1:15 p.m. Three allowance races also are on tap.