04/03/2004 12:00AM

Janks pair tackling able foes


CHICAGO - Christine Janks trains two of the eight fillies and mares in Hawthorne's featured eighth race Monday. She wonders if even that is enough.

"One of the owners was talking about who would run first and who would run second," Janks said. "I'm just hoping either one of them can win."

Janks is taking nothing for granted - and she should not. This second-level allowance at one mile and 70 yards is far too competitive to make assumptions. Both the Janks-trained fillies, Sunset Kisses and Rocket Royale, appear to be contenders, but neither has raced since the fall-winter Hawthorne meet, and neither has enough raw talent to return with a sub-par effort and get the job done.

In fact, this is one of those races in which no horse can comfortably be eliminated. Sultry Interval needs a serious step up in form, and has shown no real liking for the Hawthorne surface, while Estrada makes a barn and circuit change, and might not be good enough. But all that does is get you down to six possibilities.

It's difficult to split the two Janks horses, even for the trainer. "I'm kind of curious to see how they run against each other myself," she said.

Both 4-year-old fillies finished 2003 in good form, Sunset Kisses with an entry-level allowance win on

Nov. 20, Rocket Royale with a second at this class level on Dec. 31. Rocket Royale's performance came 27 days after a solid entry-level allowance win, and only seven weeks after she had plunged all the way down to the $10,000 maiden-claiming level.

"We had a huge amount of problems with her. No one thought she would overcome them and get healthy. She was one of those good surprises: She got healthy and sound, and it was kind of amazing," Janks said.

Rocket Royale might have a touch more speed than Sunset Kisses, who also has won on grass, but both will be forwardly placed. Sunset Kisses, who has the rail, struggled to win her maiden last summer but appeared to get the hang of racing as the year progressed.

"I think she'll run a lot better this year than last," Janks said. "She's a Sky Classic, and they tend to get better at 4."

Rocket Royale and Sunset Kisses are two among several pace players in the race. Satin Storm came from behind to win going away in a sprint allowance the last time she raced, and her sharp current form can carry her a long way in this spot if she can transfer her ability to two turns.