04/07/2002 11:00PM

Take Charge Lady on course for Oaks


LEXINGTON, Ky. - His initial inclination, said Ken McPeek, is to resist temptation.

Repent was taken off the Kentucky Derby trail Monday because of an ankle chip, but that does not mean McPeek and owner Jerry Bach will decide to run Take Charge Lady in the Derby, even in the euphoria of the filly's extremely impressive victory Saturday in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.

"Jerry and I didn't even talk about that," McPeek said Monday afternoon, just hours after Repent's injury was diagnosed. "Obviously, we had some other things to get through."

McPeek said Take Charge Lady most likely will stay on course for the May 3 Kentucky Oaks, where she figures to be one of the favorites along with West Coast fillies You, Habibti, and Bella Bellucci.

"She's an Oaks filly, and I'm almost sure she'll stay an Oaks filly," McPeek said of Take Charge Lady.

A less definitive aspect of the Ashland was the performance of Belterra, who, after going 3 for 3 last year, now has lost her two starts at 3 by decisive margins. Allowed to drop far back in the field, Belterra was never a threat on the speed-favoring Keeneland surface. She mustered a mild rally to finish third, 6 3/4 lengths behind Take Charge Lady.

Nevertheless, trainer Carl Nafzger, was all smiles after the Ashland. Not only was he happy about how Take the Cake ran as the runner-up, but he also thought Belterra's race served a very useful purpose and was sufficient to keep her a major Oaks contender.

"It should be real interesting in the Oaks," said Nafzger. "There might be some other fillies in there to keep Take Charge Lady company. Plus we all know that the racetrack at Churchill won't play like it did here today."

Colonial Glitter, who set the pace to the far turn before fading to sixth, likely will turn back to seven furlongs in the May 2 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill, said trainer Paul McGee.

Big, expensive Ochoco

When Ochoco made the third start of his closely watched career in the fifth race here Sunday, his purchase price far exceeded the collective total of his nine opponents' price tags.

Ochoco, a 4-year-old colt by Mr. Prospector, was purchased for $3 million by Bob Baffert on behalf of Aaron and Marie Jones at the Saratoga yearling sales in 1999.

After Baffert and the Joneses parted ways, Elliott Walden was given the colt to train. An inordinately large colt, Ochoco finally made his career debut Jan. 21, finishing third at Gulfstream. He then wheeled back to win a March 15 maiden race, an effort that made him the 7-5 favorite Sunday in his first try in an allowance race.

Alas, Ochoco was caught five wide in the turn of the seven-furlong race, fading to finish sixth. The race was won by Ray's Treasure, a $42,000 purchase for owner Ray Cottrell Sr.

School for Scandal perfect

Cashel Castle, easy winner of the Lafayette Stakes on Sunday, wasn't the only 3-year-old sprinter to extend an unbeaten record at Keeneland this weekend.

School for Scandal, trained by Todd Pletcher, upped her career mark to 3 for 3 with a runaway victory in the sixth race Saturday, a two-other-than allowance at seven furlongs.

School for Scandal, an Is It True filly owned by Peachtree Stable, could run next in the La Troienne.

Lukas x 2!

D. Wayne Lukas, Keeneland's all-time winningest trainer in stakes and overall races, swept the early daily double here Sunday. Holiday Runner ($8), a 2-year-old Meadowlake filly owned by Steven Barberino Jr., led all the way to win the first race, while Table Limit ($13.60) pulled away to win the second. The double paid $84.20.

Jerry Bailey was aboard both winners for Lukas, who has won or tied for leading trainer at a Keeneland meet a record 13 times.