04/22/2003 11:00PM

Hawthorne track report

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Handicappers studying Hawthorne's featured eighth race Friday have a dilemma. Every one of the seven horses entered in the $34,000 optional claiming race has a legitimate chance to be in the money, if not win.

Talknow, Devil's Domain, and Fighting Indians are the likely favorites in the 6 1/2-furlong race. All but Fighting Indians, who remains eligible for the four-other-than allowance condition, will run with for a $100,000 claiming price.

Talknow, a winner of six of seven starts at Hawthorne, has been rested since early February following mediocre attempts in his first two starts of the year, at Fair Grounds and Oaklawn. Talknow enjoyed a career-best year in 2002, winning 9 of 13 starts, including the Claiming Crown Express at Philadelphia Park and the Colonel Power at Hawthorne in his season finale.

Speed figure-conscious players will give Talknow the edge due to his four Beyer Speed Figures of 100 or higher last year. Shane Laviolette will ride for trainer Tom Tomillo.

Unless Talknow shows more early speed, Devil's Domain could prove the lone speed. Owned and trained by Louie Roussel, the 5-year-old Devil's Domain has won six of his last eight starts. Devil's Domain and Talknow each posted victories over the other last season.

Fighting Indians was scratched from last Saturday's National Jockey Club Handicap, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Fight for Ally, the winner of the NJC, had beaten Fighting Indians in his two previous starts. Fighting Indians faces a dilemma of his own Friday, running at a distance shorter than he's accustomed to. His last two wins were both around two turns.

My Extolled Honor, Bright Valor, Man o' Rhythm, and Meadowminer all placed in optional claiming races in their last starts. Meadowminer has shown early speed in his sprint attempts, but most of the others will need a fast pace up front to have a chance.