07/22/2005 12:00AM

Round two: Ask Kathy vs. Secret Flame


AUBURN, Wash. - Most fans will see Sunday's six-furlong Angie C. Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Emerald Downs as a rematch between Ask Kathy and Secret Flame, and for good reason.

Ask Kathy, a daughter of Preakness winner Louis Quatorze from the barn of trainer Steve Bullock, won the fastest five-furlong race for 2-year-olds at the meeting on June 4, getting the distance in 57.40 seconds to prevail by 2 3/4 lengths over Secret Flame and five other maiden special weight runners. The winning Beyer Speed Figure was a 59.

That was Ask Kathy's second start, following an even fifth as the favorite in her May 14 debut.

"She reared in the gate and got left that day, then she didn't like the dirt in her face," said Bullock. "It was a good learning experience all around. We learned some things about her, and she learned something about racing. She ran the way we thought she could in her second start. We've been high on her all along."

Secret Flame, a daughter of General Meeting trained by Aubrey Villyard, also took a strong step forward in her second outing. Coming back in another five-furlong maiden special weight race on June 26, she went to the front at the start and prevailed by a length in 58.60, earning a 55 Beyer.

"She broke a little slowly in her first start and got trapped on the rail, but she came flying at the end," said Villyard. "She did everything right in her second race, and now she is on an even footing with Ask Kathy. They will both be making their third starts, so we should find out which one is best."

Villyard noted that Secret Flame has the same human connections as Charming Colleen, who won last year's Angie C. and ran second in the Gottstein Futurity before being sold for a reported $650,000. Secret Flame is owned by Frank Gaunt, who purchased her for a sales-topping $40,000 at last December's WTBA winter sale. She is groomed by the trainer's wife, Sue, and is galloped by exercise rider Brennan Shapiro. Villyard was reluctant to take the comparison between the two fillies much further.

"Charming Colleen was one of a kind, as far as I'm concerned," Villyard said. "Secret Flame is not really comparable at this point, but she is a very nice filly. She is a smart filly, and she is very manageable. I think we will be able to do whatever we want with her on Sunday."

Bullock, incidentally, reported that Ask Kathy will race for new connections on Sunday. She was purchased privately last week by Ross McLeod from former owner Rodney Orr. McLeod, who is the CEO of the company that owns Hastings in Vancouver, purchased Positive Prize in a private transaction here last season before he won the Gottstein Futurity, defeating Charming Colleen.

"Mr. McLeod plans to keep her here, and I'm all for that," said Bullock. "I would have hated to lose her."

Celtic Crown possible spoiler

Given the improvement that Ask Kathy and Secret Flame showed between their first and second starts, handicappers might want to take a long look at Celtic Crown in the Angie C.

Celtic Crown, a Howard Belvoir-trained daughter of Doneraile Court, ran second in Secret Flame's maiden win, and the Beyer she earned, a 52, was higher than those earned by both of her more accomplished rivals in their debuts. Like Ask Kathy and Secret Flame, Celtic Crown had a less than ideal trip.

"She hopped at the start and went wide around the turn," said Belvoir. "I know she can do better, and I think she will show speed with a better break."

Belvoir's best 2-year-old colt, the undefeated Courting Seattle, is also by Doneraile Court.

"He's a young son of Seattle Slew, and I'm very impressed with his offspring," said Belvoir. "Both of mine have good attitudes and good minds, as well as talent. That makes my job a lot easier."