07/01/2002 12:00AM

Talknow gets better and better


CHICAGO - With yet another win on Sunday at Arlington, the question about Talknow is: How good is this horse?

In just eight months, Talknow has gone from a $5,000 claimer to an overnight stakes winner. In 10 starts since trainer Tom Tomillo filed one of 29 claims on Talknow last October - winning the shake and the right to purchase the horse - Talknow has won eight times. Sunday, he won the $42,000 Dr. Fager Handicap by a nose, beating Secret Romeo and Chindi, both of whom have won multiple stakes.

The margin was small, but the details show more. Talknow set a blistering pace, 44.24 seconds for a half-mile, but was able to sustain it for seven furlongs, which he ran in an outstanding time of 1:21.80. Every time Talknow is asked to step his game up another level, as he was Sunday in his first race outside claiming or allowance company, he responds.

"He just keeps getting better," said Tom Tomillo, who trains Talknow for his son, Tom, and Emilio Geloso. "I guarantee you it's kind of scary."

The bettors have fallen in love, too. Talknow was favored for much of the betting and wound up going off at odds of 2-1, a solid second choice. "I couldn't believe it when I saw him at 7-5," Tomillo said. "He came up big on The Sheets, and when that happens, they get bet."

Talknow is made for the Claiming Crown, run this year at Philadelphia Park, but must wait until August for his race there. In the meantime, Talknow may run in a $5,000 starter race - which almost isn't fair.

"I guess it could kind of be like a paid workout," Tomillo said.

Fast Bold America

Talknow wasn't the only one to run very fast here last week.

Friday, the 2-year-old colt Bold America tied the track record for 4 1/2 furlongs when he won a maiden race by six lengths in 51.64 seconds. Breaking like a shot under jockey Carlos Silva, who is closing in on his 3,000th career win, Bold America opened up daylight on his rivals just steps out of the gate and was ridden out to his impressive victory.

It was the second start for Bold America, who finished second May 20 at Hawthorne but bled in the race. He raced with Lasix for the first time Friday. Richard Hazelton trains the colt for owner-breeder Ben Barnow.

"He looked like he was pretty quick right from the start," said Hazelton. "I don't know how far he'll go, but he's pretty settled, a real smart colt."

Hazelton said he plans to run Bold America back July 13 in the $50,000 Canterbury Juvenile Stakes.

Stidham: Not so many starters, plenty of winners

It's not like trainer Mike Stidham got nothing at this meet last year, but he never got on a roll as strong as the one he's on now. After winning a race on both Saturday and Sunday, Stidham has scored with six of his first 14 starters at the meet, ranking him as a top-five trainer here despite the small number of starters.

"A lot of it is the luck of the draw, and it's not like I planned for this," said Stidham. "But if you come with maidens and horses with conditions, and if they stay sound, you can do all right." Stidham has maidens, all right. Four of his six wins have come in maiden races, and on one card he swept both divisions of a maiden allowance race that had been split because of surplus entries. Saturday, he won with Cosmo, a first-time starter who somehow was able to win at nine furlongs on turf despite a wide trip, and Sunday he sent Leslie out to an impressive seven-length win in a first-level allowance.

Though Stidham trains for a wide range of clients, both Cosmo and Leslie are owned by Arthur Hancock, and Stidham hopes that the lightly raced Leslie, who was timed in a strong 1:36.05 for a mile, can develop into a stakes horse. "She's putting it together more now," he said. "[Sunday] she was running on at the end for the first time."

* The Grade 1 winner Cetewayo is expected to be the star of the show Saturday in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes Handicap. Other probables for the race are Bahroba, Classic Par, Pisces, Private Son, Red Antics, Red Mountain, Riddlesdown, and Two Point Two Mill.