03/31/2005 12:00AM

Ask the Lord reverses deep slide


CHICAGO - In a 48-start career dating back five years, the 8-year-old gelding Ask the Lord has raced at 15 different tracks, blazing a trail from Texas to Chicago to New York, with stops in between. Saturday, the show comes to Hawthorne, where Ask the Lord faces six opponents in the Sarco Stakes.

He has won at seven venues, and rarely has Ask the Lord missed a dance, averaging nine starts a year since he made the races at age 3. In fact, with 13 trips to the post last year, Ask the Lord ran more than in any other previous season. He is by Lord at War, whose offspring, many horsemen suggest, are built of hickory.

But for the final third of 2004, Ask the Lord was traveling in a new, unfortunate direction - straight down. He was beaten 12 lengths last August at Ellis Park, an uncharacteristically lackluster race, and after rebounding slightly in his next two starts, Ask the Lord completely lost his form, losing by nine, 14, and 21 lengths at Turfway Park, which had seemed to be among his favorite tracks. Trainer Bernie Flint had claimed the horse for $62,500 in October 2003, and had won six races with Ask the Lord, several of them stakes. They had had their run. And it was over.

That was how things looked until two weeks ago, when Ask the Lord came to Hawthorne and won a high-end allowance race by a neck. He was back.

Ask the Lord is back again Saturday in the $40,000 Sarco, an overnight stakes at 1 1/16 miles. There are six others in the Sarco, including Stormy Impact, the horse Ask the Lord narrowly beat here March 18.

In fact, four out of the five horses that ran that day return for the Sarco, though Ask the Lord and Stormy Impact finished about a mile ahead of the others. Both had some trouble, too: Ask the Lord was steadied early in the race, while on the first turn Stormy Impact somehow managed to wind up four wide in a five-horse field. The pace of the race turned out slow, and Stormy Impact has more speed than he showed in that start. If jockey Tim Thornton uses it to better advantage Saturday, Stormy Impact might be able to open a clear lead and hold off Ask the Lord.

The Kentucky-based Cat Tracker will race closest to Stormy Impact, and also has a legitimate chance to win. He beat a lesser class of horse here March 4, but won comfortably that day, affirming his fondness for the sometimes-tricky Hawthorne racing surface.