09/02/2003 12:00AM

Sellers smitten with 'Lady'


CHICAGO - Take Charge Lady, smashing winner of the Arlington Matron Handicap here Monday, was due to head back to trainer Kenny McPeek's home base at Churchill Downs on Wednesday.

Tuesday, Take Charge Lady could take things easy in McPeek's Arlington barn - not that she really needed much rest. Take Charge Lady won the Grade 3 Matron by more than 10 lengths, and only rarely does a horse win so easily.

What's more, jockey Shane Sellers said Take Charge Lady won despite disliking Arlington's muddy main track.

"Honestly, she wasn't taking to the track at all," Sellers said. "I mean, the pace was pretty slow, and she was sitting off of it, and that's not really her. You can get her back, even when she's strong, but usually you'll have to work at it. I actually was a little concerned at first. When a horse ran up outside her, I gave her a little tap, and she took me right up there. I said, 'Okay, mama, I know you're there for me.' "

Sellers has ridden Take Charge Lady just three times, but said he has fallen in love with her. "She's such a treat to ride," he said. "I've been riding horses 21 years, and she's one of the special ones."

Take Charge Lady is scheduled to race next in the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland, a race she impressively won last season before heading on to the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Bien Nicole's plans uncertain

Bien Nicole, second in the Grade 1 Beverly D. in her last race Aug. 16, worked a strong five furlongs here Sunday, but plans for her fall campaign remain fluid, trainer Donnie Von Hemel said Tuesday.

"We haven't really decided anything," Von Hemel said.

Von Hemel said he is looking at races around the country for Bien Nicole, including the Grade 2, $500,000 WinStar Galaxy at Keeneland on Oct. 5, which would give Bien Nicole about seven weeks between starts.

Her work here Sunday suggested that Bien Nicole has retained her edge after her strong showing in the Beverly D. Working on dirt, Bien Nicole was timed in 1:00, the fastest work of the day at the distance.

"She had a good work and cooled out well," Von Hemel said. "Everything went well."

Shipper with a mission

Say this about the trainer Wally Dollase: He does not fear flying. Dollase put Sharbayan on a plane from Los Angeles to Chicago last week just so Sharbayan could run in a $45,000 overnight handicap here Saturday. Sharbayan won by three-quarters of a length, but winning wasn't the entire point of the trip. Sharbayan needs 11 or 12 furlongs for his best race, and he doesn't care for the harder grass courses on the West Coast. Thus, Saturday's 1 1/2-mile turf race here served to prep Sharbayan for the Sycamore Breeders' Cup Stakes, another 12-furlong grass race, this one Oct. 4 at Keeneland.

In Saturday's race, Captain Nicolas opened up a huge early lead, but jockey Carlos Marquez Jr. sat patiently on Sharbayan, waiting to move until the stretch run. Sharbayan came home strongly, beating the listed-stakes type Roxinho by three-quarters of a length.

"Del Mar isn't the track for him, and he needs at least a mile and three-eighths, which is the reason we shipped out there," Dollase said Tuesday. "He's going to be a good horse."

Sharbayan, an Irish-bred 5-year-old, has won all three of his starts this year, though he has yet to try an open stakes race.

Savorthetime ready to step up

Savorthetime went through an easy half-mile breeze at Arlington on Monday morning, but more will be asked of her next month when she steps into graded stakes competition for the first time. Savorthetime, who has won three races in a row, is scheduled to make her next start Oct. 12 in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland.

Savorthetime, a 4-year-old filly owned by Brenda and Philip Robertson, began her career 16 months ago with a pair of wins, but then lost seven races as her form deteriorated through 2002. Given a long rest, she has returned to racing in top form, easily winning her three starts at Arlington this summer, the last of which was a three-length victory in the $50,000 Safely Kept Handicap on Arlington Million Day.

"She deserves a shot with better horses," her trainer, Al Stall, said. "She's good right now, and the race at Keeneland gives her a little break after running three races right in a row. Sprinters tend to do a lot better fresh, and she should be double-sharp for the next one."