02/16/2002 1:00AM

Take Charge Lady takes charge


NEW ORLEANS - There were obstacles for Take Charge Lady to overcome in the Silverbulletday Stakes. The race was her first in three months, and she had flown from her home base at Gulfstream Park to Fair Grounds earlier in the week.

Saturday, Take Charge Lady sprouted her own wings, crushing five opponents in the Grade 3, $150,000 Silverbulletday while running an exceptionally fast race. Her time of 1:42.09 for 1 1/16 miles officially equaled the track record for the distance, which is recorded in fifths of a second, and broke the stakes record by more than a second. The Equibase data service lists the track record as 1:42.02.

In the end the matter is a quibble. Take Charge Lady, a Dehere filly owned by Select Stable and trained by Ken McPeek, ran very fast on a Fair Grounds surface that wasn't especially speedy, and she could have done more if needed. "I think she still had something in the tank," said Jon Court, who picked up the mount on Take Charge Lady when her regular rider, Tony D'Amico, stayed in Florida to ride Harlan's Holiday to a second place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.

Take Charge Lady, who won her debut last April in a 4 1/2-furlong race, scored her second graded stakes win. She won the Grade 2 Alcibiades last spring before finishing sixth in the Breeder' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Her task Saturday was made easier when Broad Harbor, the other clear pace horse in the race, was scratched sick, and the stretchout sprinter Chamrousse stumbled slightly leaving the gate. That left Take Charge Lady with a clear early edge, and she coasted through an easy quarter-mile in 24.15 seconds, a slower split than Take Charge Lady would run during the fourth quarter-mile of her race.

Running easily down the backstretch and around the far turn, Take Charge Lady never was threatened. Court said he smooched to her turning for home and Take Charge Lady accelerated, widening her lead through the stretch. She won by 8 1/2 lengths.

The race was a disappointment for Lake Lady, who was favored after winning her last four starts. Lake Lady stalked the pace and made a mild bid turning for home, but flattened out late. Charmed Gift edged Chamrousse for second by a half-length. Take Charge Lady paid $5.20 to win.

She and her stablemate, Repent, who was to run Sunday in the Risen Star Stakes, will head back to Florida early next week, said Helen Pitts, McPeek's assistant. A return for the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks is a strong possibility.

"She was completely relaxed today," Pitts said. "She's grown up a lot mentally and physically since she was a 2-year-old."