You might call him the Rodney Dangerfield of turf horses.
Three years ago Better Talk Now was sent off as a 27-1 longshot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. In a scintillating performance at Lone Star racetrack, the jet-black horse ran down favorites Kitten’s Joy and the Irish invader Powerscout to snatch the $2 million race.
Pegged at 15-1 in last year’s BC Turf, Better Talk Now came flying again, winding up a close second behind Red Rocks.
“The lack of respect used to really irritate me,” confessed trainer Graham Motion who is based at Fair Hill Training Center. “But I’ve gotten over it. He is second in turf earnings behind John Henry. If he wins another Breeders’ Cup, they’ll have to rate him as one of the best all-time turf horses.”
Owned by Virginia-based Bushwood Stables, Better Talk Now has five career Grade 1 wins and is the 2007 field’s leading earner at $3,579,788. The eight-year-old Talkin Man gelding is making his fourth start of the season in the $3 million race on Saturday.
The biggest turf star at Monmouth is Dylan Thomas. He has scored victories in Europe's two most prestigious 1 1/2-mile races, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He should go off as a strong favorite in the BC Turf.
He was bred at the legendary Ballydoyle Training Center in County Tipperarry. This year Dylan Thomas has captured four of his seven group I races, finishing second in all three losses. Racing in Ireland, Great Britain and France, the son of Danehill (a son of Chester County-bred Danzig) has dazzled the racing world.
“He’s a very nice horse, but It will be tough for him to come back three weeks after the Arc and competing after the trans-Atlantic ship,” said Motion.
Other top challengers include Honey Ryder, Icy Atlantic and English Channel – all trained by America’s leading trainer, Todd Pletcher, as well as European rivals Grand Couturier and Red Rocks.
The “horses-for-courses” angle plays out at Monmouth. Both English Channel and Better Talk Now have won the United Nation’s Handicap at the north Jersey track. They should feel right at home navigating the tight turns and short straight-aways.
Better Talk Now’s last race came on July 7, when he closed for third behind English Channel in the U. N. An ongoing problem for Better Talk Now is his tendency to clip the back of his front legs with his hind hoofs while racing. He whacked himself pretty good in the U. N.
“He has an extraordinary overreach,” the trainer explained. “It’s why he runs in heavy front wraps—almost like felt. When we work in the mornings he wears those big, thick boots that show horses wear.”
“He rapped the heck of out of his right front ankle, and that caused a pretty nasty wound. It seemed to heal just fine, but the week of the [Aug. 11] Sword Dancer, it became this raging infection."
Motion sent the horse to the Saratoga Equine Spa where he was treated for several days with cold (33 degrees) saltwater hydrotherapy to promote healing.
The leg responded well and Better Talk Now was back in business at Fair Hill. But then the horse suffered another minor setback.
"We walked him, then galloped him, but the first time I breezed him, I think he just overdid it," Motion said. "The next week, he was so stiff. He's just an old guy. I had to regroup and start over again."
Matching El Senor’s record of four appearances in the Turf, Better Talk now is as fresh as he’s ever been heading into the Breeders’ Cup. While not the way Motion planned it, he seems confident.
Another plus is showers are forecast throughout the week.
“The more give the course has the more it helps my horse,” he said.
In the past Motion often used a “rabbit” from his stable to establish a fast pace to maximize Better Talk Now’s fast closing style.
”I’m not as worried as I used to be,” he said. “He clearly needs an honest pace. If we get it, I think we’ll be right there at the end.