05/24/2002 11:00PM

Take Charge Lady back in charge in Dogwood

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Cast all those doubts aside. Take Charge Lady, showing no effects from a lung infection that kept her out of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, loped home a 1 3/4-length winner Saturday in the 28th running of the $109,500 Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

Take Charge Lady, ridden by Tony D'Amico, took over for French Satin on the far turn of the 1 1/16-mile Dogwood, then easily turned back Charmed Gift, the 3-1 second choice in a field of seven 3-year-old fillies. The winner returned $2.60 as the huge favorite, and her time of 1:42.73 set a stakes record.

Take Charge Lady had run second as the favorite in her previous start, the May 3 Kentucky Oaks, then was set to contest the May 17 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico before being diagnosed with a minor lung infection three days before the race.

"That was so minor," trainer Ken McPeek said. "She's still doing good." For her next start, "we're tentatively looking at the Mother Goose," a Grade 1 race at Belmont Park June 29.

On a beautiful day, before a crowd of 9,985, Take Charge Lady was kept just off the pace before sweeping to command leaving the half-mile pole. Charmed Gift raced up to her flank at the quarter pole, but Take Charge Lady immediately spurted away under mild urging.

The victory was the seventh in 10 starts for Take Charge Lady, a Dehere filly owned by the Select Stable of Jerry and Faye Bach. She now has earned nearly $1.2 million.

The $2 exacta paid $4.60. Allamerican Bertie, the 9-1 third choice, ended a $2 trifecta worth $12.20.

In earlier action on a terrific Saturday card:

* Sky Terrace ($6.40) won his first race since the April 27 Derby Trial, holding off a late bid from 4-5 favorite Stephentown in a $65,000 prep for the June 15 Northern Dancer Stakes.

Sky Terrace, ridden by Craig Perret, was always prominent in the one-mile race. In midstretch, he edged away from Clergy before Stephentown, who had been in traffic much of the way, closed the final margin to a half-length. Sky Terrace is owned by a group of around 200 people, headed by Tom Thieneman and trainer Vickie Foley.

* Slider ($3.80), whose 120 Beyer Speed Figure in his last start at Keeneland is the highest earned by any horse this year, gamely turned back the stretch run of Connected to win a $59,520 allowance under Pat Day. Only two other horses started in the 1 1/16-mile race, designed as a possible prep for the June 15 Stephen Foster.

* For all their separate successes, Day and trainer Bob Baffert had never won a race together. That drought ended when Day rode heavily favored Big Apple ($2.80) to win a maiden race for Baffert.

* Binthebest ($4.40) came from well back to defeat five other older horses in a $57,200 allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs under Jon Court. Traci's Wild ($7.60), Day up, rallied to win a $63,500 prep for the June 15 Regret Stakes.