10/05/2001 11:00PM

Spook Express rolls to opening-day victory

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Spook Express made a bold move to win the $563,500 WinStar Galaxy at Keeneland Friday, charging from last place to take the opening-day feature by 1 1/4 lengths over Solvig.

But trainer Tom Skiffington probably made the smartest move a few days earlier, scratching Spook Express from the ultra-tough Flower Bowl to await the Grade 2 Galaxy. The turn of events may have earned Spook Express a spot in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf and a belated try against the one-two finishers in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl, Lailani and England's Legend.

"I actually thought about running her in the Yellow Ribbon, too, but I went ahead with this plan," Skiffington said.

Spook Express, ridden by Mike Smith, trail ed most of way in the

Galaxy, before picking up momentum in the final turn of the 1 3/16-mile turf race. As early leader Crystal Sea faded, Megans Bluff took a short-lived lead, after which several other fillies and mares, including Tout Charmant, took their best shots.

But Spook Express had the most run, down the middle of the course, finishing in 1:54.24 over firm going and returning $11.40 as third choice.

Veil of Avalon was third, a neck behind Solvig and a head in front of Tout Charmant, the defending champion and 11-10 favorite.

The Galaxy marked the 11th victory in 20 career starts for Spook

Express, a 7-year-old South African-bred mare. The winner's share of $349,370 nearly doubling her bankroll.

Skiffington said Spook Express might run in the Breeders' Cup, even at a $200,000 supplementary cost to owners Janice and Robert Aron.

Amid cloudy but mild conditions, on-track attendance on the first of 17 days at the meet was 12,467.

In other opening-day action:

*Trainer Ken McPeek gave clear warning before the Grade 2 Walmac

International Alcibiades Stakes. His filly in the Grade 2 race, Take Charge Lady, "is special," he said several days beforehand.

Take Charge Lady, owned by the Select Stable of Feye and Jerry Bach, proved that she is indeed special on Friday. Always prominent under Tony D'Amico, she wore down front-running Never Out for a one-length victory

in the 50th running of the $452,800 race, giving McPeek an added

prospect for the Breeders' Cup, this one for the Juvenile Fillies race.

Take Charge Lady, a Kentucky-bred Dehere filly, paid $1360, and won for the third time in as many starts. She ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.23 over a fast track.

Cunning Play, a 17-1 shot, made a sustained run to finish third in the field of 11, a neck behind Never Out, the 3-1 favorite. It was another 12 1/4 lengths back to Daisyago. Smok'n Frolic, the 7-2 second choice, finished fifth.

McPeek said he knew Take Charge Lady "had a lot of talent this spring, but we had to get a couple of races under her belt before we could take her to the Breeders' Cup. She'll be even better after this."

McPeek also has Repent and Harlan's Holiday as potential starters in the Juvenile.

*Morluc ($7.40), the defending champion, was never seriously

threatened in winning the $83,025 Nureyev Stakes, despite jockey Robby Albarado momentarily losing an iron after an awkward start.

Grangeville, also was away poorly in the 5 1/2-furlong turf race, recovered quickly to chase Morluc most of the way and finish second by 1 3/4 lengths. Texas Glitter, the 3-2 favorite in a field of seven, faded to fourth.

Morluc, trained by Randy Morse, finished second in the Hong Kong Sprint last December, but had not started since July 14.

*Longshots wasted little time in making their presence felt at the meet. The meet opener, for maiden fillies, was won by Mountain Melody, who rallied from mid-pack to win easily at a $103.40 mutuel. Albarado was aboard for his first of three winners on the day.

"I rode her like she was 8-5," said Albarado, who picked up the winner when Punchie Goberdhan chose not to fulfill his only mount of the day.

The second race was won by Holy Run, a first-time starter who returned $61.60 for trainer Diane Perkins.

The daily double paid $1,101.40. Perkins also sent out the third-race winner, Right Spice ($11.80), leading to no winning tickets in the opening pick three. Two of three winners returned $204.40.

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