08/25/2003 12:00AM

Patience can still pay with Ethan Man


CHICAGO - The grind of the Triple Crown can wear out a developing 3-year-old. Witness Funny Cide, who won the Kentucky Derby but finished a distant third in the Haskell and was a no-show last weekend for the Travers.

But the mere existence of the Triple Crown takes its toll on the 3-year-old population. Hundreds of young horses are the subject of dreams each spring, whether or not they are truly cut out to be Triple Crown horses. Take Ethan Man, who two springs ago won the Grade 3 Swale Stakes by three lengths, and became a Triple Crown hopeful.

But the Swale is a 16-furlong race, and Ethan Man is by Glitterman, mainly a sire of sprinters and milers. "We tried to stretch him out in the Lexington, thinking about the Kentucky Derby and everything that time of year, and he didn't come back from the race too good," trainer Pat Byrne said.

In fact, it has taken Ethan Man seven months to come back at all. In the interim he has undergone two surgeries, the first to remove bone chips from his left front ankle, the second to geld him. Wednesday at Arlington, Ethan Man resumes his career for Byrne and West Point Thoroughbreds, facing six rivals in a third-level allowance race at six furlongs.

"He's been ready to run for a while now," Byrne said. "We entered him a couple times at Ellis in races that didn't fill. This race came up and looked like a good opportunity."

Bone-chip surgery typically keeps a horse out of action a matter of months, not a year and change. But Ethan Man's connections, on the advice of veterinarians, gave him extra time.

"We did the right thing by the horse," Byrne said. "It was more time than the usual, but they said in this case the more time the better. It's hard to find out what talent level they'll come back at until you start racing. His next couple races should tell us how good he can be."

This time around, Byrne said, there will be no route experiments. Byrne believes Ethan Man can be a fine sprinter, and he should begin his campaign on a winning note here Wednesday. There are solid horses in the race, like Man O'Rhythm, Noon Affair, Tic N Tin, and King Cielo, but none of them have the natural ability of Ethan Man.

"Take nothing away from the other horses there, but this seems like a good spot to get him going," Byrne said.

Take Charge Lady shipping here

Trainer Kenny McPeek confirmed Monday morning that Take Charge Lady will start here Labor Day in the Grade 3 Matron Handicap.

It will be Take Charge Lady's first visit to Arlington since a disastrous run in the Breeders' Cup Distaff last fall, and this time, Take Charge Lady will be the star of the show.

Take Charge Lady is currently at McPeek's barn in Saratoga, where she worked five furlongs in 59.80 seconds Sunday morning. To get to Arlington, she will be flown to Kentucky on Tuesday and base at Churchill Downs until shipping to Arlington by van either Saturday or Sunday, McPeek said.

Take Charge Lady is one of the best older mares in the nation, yet she has gone winless in three starts this year. She began her career with a head loss to Azeri in the Apple Blossom, then ran second to Sightseek in the Ogden Phipps and second to Wild Spirit in the Delaware Handicap.

No such rival is expected to oppose her here Monday, and Take Charge Lady should be a prohibitive favorite in a short field.

"She's hooked three monsters in a row now," McPeek said. "This race should set her up well for the fall."

Ajedrez aimed at bigger races

Ajedrez, the Argentine import who has gone 3 for 3 since coming to the U.S., may make his next start in the Grade 1 Vosburgh on Sept. 27 at Belmont Park. A backup plan, trainer Wayne Catalano said, is the Turfway Park Fall Championship the same day.

Ajedrez is the best horse going right now for Catalano and owner Frank Calabrese. He has sliced through his allowance conditions at Arlington, winning each time with ease, and Catalano feels he has not yet gotten to the bottom of the colt.

"If he's going to step up and run a monster race, he should do it in a Grade 1," Catalano said.

Options for Out of My Way

The Illinois-bred horse Out of My Way established himself as Chicago's top sprinter with an easy win Saturday in the $100,000 Arlington Sprint Handicap. Monday, trainer Gene Cilio left open several options for Out of My Way's next start.

"We'll give him a couple weeks and see how he's doing," Cilio said.

There is a statebred race for Out of My Way at Hawthorne in November, but Cilio also mentioned the Phoenix Breeders' Cup Handicap at Keeneand as a possibility.

* Jockey Marlon St. Julien, sixth in Arlington's rider standings, has stopped accepting mounts here. St. Julien hasn't ridden at Arlington since Aug. 17, and was not named on any mounts Wednesday. His agent, Penny Ffitch-Heyes, was not available to comment Monday, and details concerning St. Julien's departure were sketchy.