05/05/2002 11:00PM

Take Charge Lady may go in Black-Eyed Susan

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Ken McPeek said Monday he has several upcoming options for Take Charge Lady, the speedy filly who finished second Friday as the favorite to Farda Amiga in the Kentucky Oaks.

The May 17 Black-Eyed Susan at Churchill Downs "comes back quick, but she came out of the race no worse for wear," McPeek said Monday morning. The other options McPeek is considering for the filly are the Dogwood on May 25 at Churchill and the Acorn on June 7 at Belmont.

McPeek said the one-mile distance and Grade 1 ranking of the Acorn make a logical fit for Take Charge Lady, "but I probably won't decide on anything for another week or so. We've got the time to wait and see."

McPeek said Tony D'Amico, whom he replaced aboard Derby contenders Harlan's Holiday and Repent earlier this year, will retain the mount on Take Charge Lady.

Take the Cake out for year

Take the Cake, fifth in the Oaks after attending the early pace, exited the race with a bone chip in her front left knee and is finished for the year, said trainer Carl Nafzger.

"I was disappointed in the way she stopped," said Nafzger. "Now we know why she did."

Nafzger said he believes Take the Cake, owned by Elizabeth Valando, may have been injured midway in the first turn, when it appeared the filly may have hit the inside rail while running just behind the leader, Take Charge Lady.

"She'll have surgery, although I don't know when, where, or who," said Nafzger. "The injury is serious enough that we probably won't get her back until late in the year."

Mr. Mellon staying home

Mr. Mellon, who was expected to be among a handful of 3-year-olds leaving here Wednesday on a flight to Texas for Saturday's Lone Star Derby, was diagnosed with a temperature Monday morning and will not make the trip, said trainer Elliott Walden.

"It's disappointing, because I thought we could go down there and win," said Walden. "It doesn't seem to be serious but it's enough to keep him home for this one."

Stephentown gets solid victory

Trainer Tony Reinstedler took great interest in the Derby but was more directly involved in the race that followed. Reinstedler sent out Stephentown to win the 10th race of the Derby Day card, a second-level allowance sprint.

"I was pleased with the effort and pleased with the way he came out of it," said Reinstedler.

Stephentown earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 102 for his 4 1/4-length victory in the seven-furlong race, which went in 1:22.53. A Wild Again colt owned by Willmott Stables, Stephentown was taken off the Derby trail in early March after a slight shoulder injury during training for the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

Reinstedler said future options include the May 25 Peter Pan at Belmont and the June 15 Northern Dancer here.

Bad day for Holthus

Veteran trainer Bob Holthus said the breakdown and subsequent euthanization of one of his stable stars, Kings Command, obviously put a damper on his Derby Day experience.

"That was a tough loss," said Holthus.

Kings Command, a 5-year-old horse by Montbrook, was racing in mid-pack down the backstretch during the Churchill Downs Handicap when he suddenly took a bad step, breaking his right foreleg, and fell. Jockey Alex Solis was shaken up but able to fulfill the rest of his mounts.

Kings Command, owned by Eugene Grandon, earned just over $300,000 from 34 starts. His biggest win came in the King Cotton in February at Oaklawn Park.

Renovation set to start

Phase 1 of the massive renovation of Churchill Downs was scheduled to begin in earnest Monday.

Phase 1, which is expected to cost about $30 million and be completed by next summer, will result in the construction of about 70 new luxury suites atop what currently is the grandstand area. Demolition of the existing structures was scheduled to begin Monday.

The second and final phase of the project still has to be approved by the board of directors of Churchill Downs Inc. Officials said last fall that financing still must be secured for Phase 2, and that that issue would be addressed at a regularly scheduled board meeting in June.

The final price of the renovation is expected to be about $130 million. The entire project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2004.

Congaree nears return

Congaree, the third-place finisher in the Derby last year, drew closer to his 4-year-old debut by working seven furlongs in 1:26.60 Monday morning. The track was rated fast Monday morning before a major deluge hit the Louisville area shortly after training hours ended.

Congaree, trained by Bob Baffert, is expected to run in the May 27 Metropolitan Mile, then the Stephen Foster Handicap here June 15.

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