05/05/2003 11:00PM

Take Charge Lady back in easy jogs


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Take Charge Lady, the standout filly who suffered an ill-timed bruise of her left front foot and missed the Louisville Breeders' Cup last Friday, is back in light training and could race in any of a handful of upcoming races if she continues to progress, trainer Ken McPeek said Tuesday at Churchill Downs.

Take Charge Lady went to the track Monday and Tuesday, "both times for real easy jogs around the track," said McPeek. "She's still not 100 percent, but the foot is getting better. It wasn't serious enough that we had to put a bar shoe on it, but there's still a bit of tenderness underneath the sole."

McPeek said the preferred option for Take Charge Lady's next race would be the May 17 Shuvee at Belmont Park. The May 16 Pimlico Distaff and the May 24 Milady BC at Hollywood are other possibilities, he said.

"It's all a matter of how the foot does," he said. "If she comes around like we hope, then we could probably go on and run within the next couple of weeks. If not, then we'll have to look a little farther down the road."

McPeek said Take Charge Lady was originally scheduled to leave for New York on Tuesday morning, "but I wanted to keep her here a little longer to see how she does."

Take Charge Lady was an odds-on morning-line favorite in the Grade 2 Louisville BC but was scratched the morning of the race after showing signs of the bruise following Thursday training hours. "That was the first time she'd shown anything," said McPeek.

You, the Bobby Frankel star, wound up as the heavy favorite - and a fairly easy winner - of the Louisville BC. McPeek said he believes Take Charge Lady would have won if she had run, although he said he hasn't tortured himself by playing the race over and over in his mind. "I just think it would have been a great race," he said.

Take Charge Lady, owned by the Select Stable of Jerry and Feye Bach, was one of North America's top 3-year-old fillies of last year. In her only race at 4, the April 5 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn, she was narrowly beaten by Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year.

McPeek said the prognosis for another of his stable stars, White Cat, is not as optimistic. He said White Cat suffered a severely strained suspensory ligament last week and has been under the recent care of veterinarians at the Rood and Riddle clinic in Lexington, Ky. "He has a chance to race again, but that's pretty far off," he said.

White Cat, winner of the Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland in his previous start, had been one of the likely favorites for the Crown Royal American Turf on Friday.

Derby week was a rough one for McPeek. Not only were Take Charge Lady and White Cat injured, but his top 3-year-old filly, Midnight Cry, had to be euthanized on April 26 after breaking down during a routine breeze.

McPeek said he is not prepared to blame the Churchill racing surface for his misfortune. At least five other horses were euthanized during Derby week because of breakdowns, including Quick Draw, Svenson, Triple Aught, and Blow a Kiss.

McPeek said he and several other trainers are considering a meeting of "cooler heads" with track superintendent Butch Lehr sometime in the near future. "It'd be a knee-jerk reaction to automatically blame what's happened on the track," he said. "Maybe it's been too hard, and maybe it hasn't. I think some of us would like to get all the facts before we really say anything about it."