03/08/2008 12:00AM

Better Than Bonds liable to improve

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The work tabs were limited around south Florida on Saturday due to heavy, early morning rains. One of the few exceptions was Better Than Bonds, who went an easy five furlongs in 1:03 over a muddy strip at Palm Meadows in preparation for Saturday's Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

The last time he raced locally, Better Than Bonds ran on the turf, finishing a troubled eighth in the Grade 3 Appleton Handicap here one year ago. Ever since, he has run almost exclusively on dirt and at Delaware Park, where he won one stakes and was runner-up in four others during the remainder of his 2007 campaign.

Better Than Bonds enters the 1 1/8-mile Skip Away off a fourth-place finish in the Feb. 9 Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds, where he had traffic problems for much of the final half-mile of the Grade 3 stakes.

"He was completely blocked from the half-mile pole until he was about 100 yards from the finish," said trainer Graham Motion. "He wasn't steadied along to the point he would get a trouble call. He just had no where to go."

The Mineshaft was Better Than Bonds's first start in more than three months and Motion expects to see some improvement on Saturday.

"I thought he ran a terrific race at the Fair Grounds, considering the trip, and I'd like to think he'll run every bit as good if not better here," said Motion. "I worked him slow this morning because I wanted to be careful over the wet track and he finished up nice and galloped out strong. I really would have loved to have run him last weekend in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, which came up a weak race but unfortunately a week too early for us."

A field of six to eight is expected for the Skip Away. Along with Better Than Bonds, the field should include Gottcha Gold, Hunting, Frost Giant, Indy Wind, and Delosvientos with both Dr. Googles Boogles and Dr. Pleasure listed as possible starters.

Adriano will move back to grass

Motion also reported that Adriano came out of his ninth- place finish in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes in good shape and will return to the grass for Keeneland's Transylvania Stakes on April 4.

Adriano, an impressive allowance winner on the grass here earlier in the meet, was at a disadvantage after drawing post 12 for the Fountain of Youth.

"I might consider running him back on Polytrack but I doubt I'll run him on dirt again," Motion said.

Motion also said that Better Talk Now is scheduled to work each of the next two Mondays before shipping to Dubai on March 18 for the Dubai Sheema Classic, to be run on the Dubai World Cup card 11 days later.

"I've just been waiting for the weather to clear and the turf course to dry out to work him back," said Motion.

Better Talk Now prepped for the Sheema Classic with a sixth-place finish in the Fair Grounds Handicap on Feb. 9.

'Anna' preps for Hillsborough

Trainer Wayne Catalano beat the rain with his former Eclipse Award- winning filly Dreaming of Anna, who worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 here Saturday. Catalano, a former jockey, was aboard for the work.

"I wanted to make sure everything was right," said Catalano. "She went as smooth as silk."

Dreaming of Anna will likely run Saturday in the Grade 3 Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Communicated wins match race

A match race took place here in Saturday's sixth race, which scratched down from seven to just two starters, Communicated and Ode to Roy.

According to track officials, all five of the horses that scratched had been treated for colic that morning, one of whom reportedly died from the ailment.

Communicated led throughout before drawing away to an easy win.

Alvarado a longshot specialist

Few jockeys at any meet have brought home longshot winners like Junior Alvarado has during the first two months of the current meet.

In fact, when Alvarado guided Jump to the Front to victory at odds of 14-1 in Saturday's opener, the resulting $30.40 win mutual actually lowered his average win payoff for the winter. Prior to Jump to the Front's last-to-first tally, Alvarado's nine previous winners had averaged a mutual payoff of $59.60.