He may be an elder statesmen at 10-years-old and counting, but fan favorite Better Talk Now might have just enough left in those wise old legs of his to kick on home in the stretch of Saturday’s Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga. The former turf champion may have his work cut out for him, but if he can rekindle some of that magic that saw him pull the upset in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf, this just might be the day his fans have been waiting years to see.
To do so, he’ll need to be able to prevail against the likes of Grand Couturier, and the sneakily dangerous Lauro, as well as a host of other contenders including Telling, American, Gentleman Chester, Quijano, Rising Moon, Americain, and Brass Hat. The field sets up like this:
- Grand Couturier (GB) – Alan Garcia/ R. Ribaudo (3/1*)
- Gentlemen Chester – Julien Leparoux/ R.E. Nicks (15/1)
- Lauro (GER) – J.F. Chavez/ A. Wohler (10/1)
- Better Talk Now – R. Dominguez/ G. Motion (5/1)
- Rising Moon – Kent Desormeaux/ R. Dutrow Jr. (12/1)
- Americain – J.R. Velazquez/ Todd Pletcher ( 9/2)
- Telling – Javier Castellano/ S. Hobby (20/1)
- Quijano (GER) - A. Starke/ P. Schiergen (5/1)
- Brass Hat – Calvin Borel/ W. Bradley (12/1)
- Musketier (GER) – J.C. Jones/ R.L. Attfield (6/1)
First things first – I’ve got to confess that Better Talk Now is one of my favorite horses of all time. I know he’s not quite the same runner who triumphed in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf, but there’s simply so much to love about this horse. Amy and I had the pleasure of meeting him several weeks ago when photographer Julie Ziek invited us to visit Graham Motion’s Herringswell Stables at Fair Hill, MD. “Blackie” was as advertised – hamming it up for the cameras following a light workout and being his usual frisky self while folks attempted to give him a bath.
I guess that’s why he has such a high volume of admirers. No matter where you turn in the world of horse racing, from the folks on Cindy Dulay’s horse-races.net forums, to the folks on the new TVG Community site - you’re bound to run into diehard Better Talk Now fans. He might not get the headlines of runners like Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta, but he’s got an army of fans amongst those who appreciate what it takes to be competing at a Grade 1 level at 10-years-old.
And who better for Better Talk Now to be in the care of than Graham Motion? I can honestly say that for horse lovers out there, do yourself a favor and take a visit to his stable – it will do your soul good. With all of the press that the bad elements of the game like Paragallo have received in recent months, it’s comforting to know that there are folks out there who put the care of their horses first and foremost. I feel horrible even uttering the name Paragallo in the same sentence as Motion. The two could not be more opposite; the proverbial “night and day.”
Looking over the race, I really do think he’s got a big shot here. He’s been knocking on the door, and you just have this feeling building up inside of you that he’s going to deliver one more great memory to his fans. I haven’t felt strongly that he had a chance to win any of his previous 2009 efforts, but he’s run very well in each of them, including over softer footing. Call it a hunch or whatever you will – my gut tells me today will be Blackie’s day.
As for the rest of the field, there’s much to like about both Lauro and Quijano as well. Lauro had the misfortune of having to zero in on Presious Passion when that runner ran away with the United Nations. While folks tend to remember the 20 length lead early on, remember that it was Lauro running well late who finished second. I’d expect Lauro to be more forwardly placed in the Sword Dancer. I’m not sure if he’ll be on the lead, but he’ll probably be close, which could set him up for a nice trip.
Quijano is a multiple Group One winner in his own right, and if you’re like me you always give a little added dose of respect to the European bred runners in turf events. Quijano and Musketier both chased Gio Ponti (whom I contend at least belongs in the discussion for Horse of the Year, provided he wins out through the Breeders’ Cup Turf this fall) last time out and ran respectably, so look for them to make some noise in the Sword Dancer as well. I look for Musketier and Lauro to be involved early on, with Quijano and Americain putting in their runs followed by Grand Couturier and Better Talk Now.
I’m playing my heart in this one. I know that’s not a smart thing to do from a “handicapping” pespective, but when you’ve got one of your favorite horses running for one of your favorite horsemen, you’ve just got to beleive it’s possible. I’m guessing that Better Talk Now will out finish Lauro and Quijano in the stretch and send his fans into shrieking fits of euphoria. It’s been a long time since the 2007 Manhattan when he last found the winner’s cirlce. A victory today would be a highlight of the summer for yours truly even (if this is at all possible) rivalling for me the victories of Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness and Haskell.
It’s not like you can count Graham Motion out up at Saratoga either…Bullsbay, anyone?
I’ll go 4/3,8/ 1,3,6,7,8,10 on the $1 trifecta for a total cost of $10.
Obviously then I’m using Lauro and Quijano in the place position, and adding in Grand Couturier, Americain, Musketier, and the longshot Telling to round out the superfecta.
That being said, there’s only one horse I’ll be rooting for.
Go Blackie, go!