03/31/2006 12:00AM

Clean start all Hot Talk needs to win

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CALGARY, Alberta - Hot Talk heads a field of seven older runners in a $40,000 optional claimer, which runs as the featured eighth race at Stampede Park on Sunday afternoon.

The race is named the Jim Sumner Memorial Feature, in memory of the longtime custodian of the jockeys' room here who died in February.

Hot Talk is a rapid 5-year-old son of Esteem, whose progeny generally display speed. Hot Talk prepped for Sunday's headliner with a bullet three-furlong move in 34.80 seconds last Tuesday. The work was one of the quickest at the distance since March 1, and it should have Hot Talk on his toes for his seasonal debut.

Hot Talk won just one race last year but was beaten only a head by Sixthirtyjoe in the Journal Handicap last June after pressing the pace throughout. If he breaks cleanly Sunday - he reared at the start in a similar race here a year ago - Hot Talk can likely cross over on his rivals and be long gone.

Hot Talk, a gelding, drew post 6 and will be ridden by Quincy Welch, Alberta's leading rider in 2005.

Hot Talk's stiffest opposition could be Smooth Cruiser, a 7-year-old gelding who is stakes-placed and has a history of running well fresh at this meeting.

Storm Cruiser was second to Boldanzar here last April in the race in which Hot Talk acted up at the start.