07/23/2001 11:00PM

Ask the Lord a hot horse to fear


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The stakes aren't nearly as high as last time, but trainers Niall O'Callaghan and Pat Byrne saddle two of the favorites in Arlington's Thursday feature.

O'Callaghan and Byrne, who are both based at Churchill Downs, butted heads here last Saturday when the O'Callaghan-trained Guided Tour got the best of favored Duckhorn, trained by Byrne, in the $400,000 Washington Park Handicap.

Thursday, it is Kick Boxer who starts for O'Callaghan and Conscience Clear for Byrne. They are two of 12 horses entered in the seventh race, a third-level turf allowance to be contested at about one mile.

Kick Boxer, a French import who has won 2 of 4 U.S. starts for Evergreen Thoroughbreds Inc., hasn't raced since narrowly winning an allowance race Feb. 1 at Fair Grounds. In the interim, he has put in a series of solid workouts at Churchill, including what appears to be a major six-furlong breeze July 13 in 1:13. Kick Boxer, a stretch runner, worked at Churchill on Saturday and ships in for the race. Ray Sibille rides for the first time.

Like Duckhorn, Conscience Clear is a front-runner, though the 4-year-old colt actually settled behind the pace in his most recent start at Churchill. Since he tired to finish fourth that day, a return to his previous tactics may be forthcoming Thursday. Conscience Clear, a Relaunch colt owned by Ed Martin, won a first-level allowance on this course last summer by more than four lengths.

Both Kick Boxer and Conscience Clear could be battling for second, however, if the rapid development of Ask the Lord continues.

Ask the Lord, 2 for 2 this season, ranks as the hot horse, and trainer Al Stall said Tuesday that "he trains like he could be any kind." Ask the Lord's recent races at Lone Star Park, a three-length win in an entry-level allowance and a six-length win in his last start, support that position. "He did it all pretty easily," Stall said. "He doesn't know how to run that much yet. [Jockey] Curt [Bourque] hit him a couple times in the stretch last time trying to teach him to run to the wire."

Ask the Lord's current form stands in start contrast to his races last year, when he finished sixth and 10th at Saratoga to conclude his campaign. Stall said he turned the colt out at that point and had him gelded. "He came back completely different," he said. Now 4, Ask the Lord, by top grass sire Lord at War, is just reaching maturity. "He's good and fresh," said Stall. "He's ready to go."

Ask the Lord, who has tactical speed, must overcome the 12 post to continue his winning streak. Robby Albarado, who rode well in his first weekend at Arlington, has the call.

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