05/10/2002 11:00PM

Talknow just loves this game


CICERO, Ill. - If you talk about consistency, about an animal that wants to be a racehorse, you had better talk about Talknow.

A 5-year-old horse owned by Emilio and Tom Tomillo, who also trains him, Talknow has made 22 starts in three years of racing. Only four times has he failed to finish in the top three, and on 16 occasions Talknow has finished first or second.

After struggling in the lower-level claiming ranks for much of the early part of his career, Talknow has emerged as one of the toughest starter allowance horses on this circuit. Monday, in Hawthorne's featured eighth race, he tries for the second straight start to win a second-level allowance race.

It's a tall task. Despite all his heart, Talknow is no standout against allowance-type horses, and when he last raced, on April 21 at Sportsman's, he finished second as an odds-on favorite. Still, the horse that beat him that day, Devil's Domain, has back class and early speed, a combination that mixed well on the Sportsman's surface, and Talknow is a legitimate contender again Monday.

The amazing thing about Talknow is the way he holds his form. Many lower-level claiming horses get good for a short period. They'll win a couple of starter-allowance races, then tail off and fall back to the form that sent them into low-level claimers to begin with. Not Talknow. Since Tomillo claimed him for $5,000 last October at Arlington, Talknow has started eight times, has never run against claimers, yet has never finished worse than second.

His main competition might come from two other horses that, like Talknow, spent the winter at Fair Grounds - Golden Arm and Extra Heavenly.

Golden Arm has come to Monday's race on a far different path than Talknow. An expensive yearling purchase in 1999, Golden Arm began his career on the New York circuit, where he dropped into high-level 3-year-old claiming races when he failed to pan out as an allowance horse. Golden Arm twice was claimed last year, once for $65,000, then two starts later for $75,000, by owner-trainer Louie Roussel.

Golden Arm ran well all winter in New Orleans, and a sub-par race last out at Sportsman's can be forgiven, since Golden Arm broke last and raced well behind the pace on a sloppy racetrack.

Extra Heavenly nearly held off Talknow for the place in his last race.