04/06/2002 12:00AM

Take Charge Lady dominates

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Take Charge Lady confirmed her status as one of the favorites for the May 3 Kentucky Oaks by racing to an impressive victory Saturday in the 65th running of the Grade 1, $557,750 at Keeneland.

Take Charge Lady, the heavy favorite under Tony D'Amico, easily disposed of front-running Colonial Glitter entering the far turn of the 1 1/16-mile Ashland and finished 4 1/4 lengths ahead of Take the Cake in a field of eight 3-year-old fillies. Belterra rallied to finish third, another 2 1/2 lengths back.

Take Charge Lady, an easy winner of all three starts this year for the Select Stable of Jerry and Feye Bach, returned $3.20 to win after finishing in 1:43.29 over a fast track.

The Ashland was run about 30 minutes before Take Charge Lady's trainer, Ken McPeek, sent out Repent in the Illinois Derby at Sportsman's Park. He finished second. McPeek, speaking by phone from Chicago, called Take Charge Lady "pretty awesome," and said that although she is nominated to the Triple Crown, it is far more likely that she will run in the Oaks instead of the Kentucky Derby the following day.

McPeek already has Repent and Harlan's Holiday as major Derby contenders.

On a sunny but unseasonably cool afternoon, Colonial Glitter, the 5-1 third choice in the Ashland, broke well from the rail to outrun Take Charge Lady early, setting fractions of 22.97 seconds and 46.44. But into the turn, Take Charge Lady loped past and opened an insurmountable lead.

"I was content to sit second," said D'Amico. "This filly has really developed. She's incredible. I don't think we'll have any problem with a mile and an eighth in the Kentucky Oaks."

Both Take the Cake and Belterra, the 5-2 second choice, will run back in the Oaks at Churchill Downs, said trainer Carl Nafzger, who had a third filly in the Ashland, Cordoba, who finished fifth.

"That other filly flat outran us all," said Nafzger, referring to Take Charge Lady. "I'm proud of all three of my fillies. They ran great races. Now we'll have to see what happens that Friday before the Derby. We did what we were supposed to do here today."

Take Charge Lady, a Dehere filly bred in Kentucky by William Schettine, has won six of eight starts overall. The Ashland was her first Grade 1 victory and was worth $345,805, boosting her career bankroll to $716,521.