03/18/2002 1:00AM

Ask Me No Secrets is a late bloomer

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Ask Me No Secrets was worth waiting for. The filly, who did not make it to the races until late last year because of physical setbacks, rewarded the patience of her owner and breeder, Earl Shultz, by winning the Grade 3, $200,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup last Saturday in just her fifth career start.

The victory was her first in a stakes, and her third overall, and it enhanced her already significant residual value as a daughter of Seattle Slew and the Secretariat mare In On the Secret.

Ask Me No Secrets's training was interrupted at 2 and again at 3 because of a mysterious "soreness," said Shultz. The source of her discomfort was never detected, and she resumed training after she was given time to get over the growing pains, and after she cleared a physical inspection.

"We scanned her and it turned out [clean]," he said. "And we haven't had any problems since."

It has been smooth sailing for Ask Me No Secrets. She won her maiden in turf sprint last October at Santa Anita, and by February was ready for stakes company, finishing third to Summer Colony in the Grade 2 La Canada. The second-place finisher from the race, Azeri, went on to win the Grade 1 Santa Margarita in her next start, while Ask Me No Secrets subsequently won the Oaklawn BC.

Shultz said trainer David Hofmans brought Ask Me No Secrets to Oaklawn because he felt she would adapt well to the racing surface, which he likened to her Hollywood Park base. Ask Me No Secrets was to fly home Tuesday, and will likely return for the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom on April 6.

Age-defying racehorses

Mr Ross, who is 7, and Remington Rock, an 8-year-old, made for a geriatric exacta in the Grade 3, $100,000 Razorback Handicap last Saturday. The race is a local prep for the Grade 1, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 6, a race both are pointing for after finishing a neck apart in the Razorback.

The two horses have been a part of the region's handicap division for years, and a conservative racing schedule is one of the reasons Mr Ross is still going strong, with 17 wins in 40 career starts. "I don't think he's started eight or 10 times in any one year," said trainer Donnie Von Hemel.

Remington Rock has been preserved by a lighter training regimen. "I don't hang him on the fence for a lot for hard works," said trainer Richard Jackson. "And, he loves the game. Every time when he looks like he's overmatched, he just steps up to the plate."

Mr Ross's win underscored the strong meet Von Hemel is having at Oaklawn, where he is tied for second place in the standings with 15 wins from 55 starts.

Crafty Shaw to Oaklawn Handicap

Crafty Shaw, fourth as the favorite in the Razorback, came out of the race in good order and will be pointed for the Oaklawn Handicap.

"He didn't run his race, and I'm not sure why," said trainer Pete Vestal. "He came back bucking and playing. I haven't lost any confidence in the horse. I was disappointed in the race, but I think he's still that type of horse. I know he is."

Crafty Shaw had won four straight going into the Razorback, his last win coming in the Grade 3, $75,000 Essex Handicap. For his effort in that race, he earned a 113 Beyer Speed Figure.

More ground for U.S. Jets

U.S. Jets, second to the stakes-bound Beau's Town over six furlongs last out, stretches out to a mile Wednesday in the ninth race, a $60,000 optional claimer for 4-year-olds and up worth $36,000.

U.S. Jets was making his first start back from a two -month freshening last out. He has worked well since, and should benefit from the added distance as some of his best races have come at a mile. Leading rider James Lopez will be aboard for trainer Bob Holthus.

* Ocean Sound, fourth last out to Came Home in the Grade 2 San Rafael, and stakes winners Jeremiah Jack and Private Emblem, head the list of eight probables officials are expecting for the Grade 3, $100,000 Rebel for 3-year-olds Saturday.