04/13/2005 11:00PM

Better Talk Now in Fort Marcy

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Better Talk Now, the upset winner of last October's Breeders' Cup Turf, will launch his 6-year-old campaign in the Grade 3, $100,000 Fort Marcy Handicap here on April 23, trainer Graham Motion said.

The Fort Marcy, run at 1 1/16 miles, is the first turf stakes of the year in New York. Better Talk Now is 2 for 2 over the Aqueduct course, including a victory in the Grade 2 Knickerbocker Handicap in 2003.

Better Talk Now rallied from 12 lengths off the pace to upset Kitten's Joy in the Breeders' Cup Turf at odds of 27-1. Hoping to win an Eclipse Award, Motion then sent Better Talk Now to California, where he ran sixth in the Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 4.

Better Talk Now wintered in south Florida at Palm Meadows, where he was able to work several times on the turf before returning to his northern base at the Fair Hill, Md., training center.

"We could breeze him on the grass down there, which was a tremendous help," Motion said. "We couldn't do that last year."

Motion had Better Talk Now nominated to several spots but chose the Fort Marcy because of the gelding's success over Aqueduct's turf course, the distance, and the relatively easy ship from his Maryland base.

"The mile and a sixteenth I prefer for him because if I run him a mile and a half I think he'd be a little too sharp," Motion said.

Motion said he is hoping to use the Fort Marcy as a prep to the Grade 2 Dixie Handicap at Pimlico on Preakness Day. Last year, Better Talk Now finished ninth in the Dixie.

Motion said he planned to work Better Talk Now on Saturday at Fair Hill. He added that Ramon Dominguez would come up to New York to ride Better Talk Now.

The list of possible foes includes last year's Fort Marcy winner, Chilly Rooster, Remind, Big Booster, Ecclesiastic, and L'Oiseau D'Argent.

Duggan opens public stable

David Duggan, a former assistant to trainers John Kimmel and Eoin Harty, has opened up a public stable and will be based at Belmont Park this spring. Duggan was expecting the arrival of six horses this weekend.

Duggan, 37, worked for Kimmel in the mid-to-late 1990's, when Kimmel had horses such as Hidden Lake, Flat Fleet Feet, Catinca, and Wheelaway. Duggan also worked for Harty in California, Illinois, and Dubai - and for trainer John Oxx in England.

"There are better opportunities here," Duggan said. "In California, for someone to start out training over there you start out in a hole straight away. We like New York, it's been a lucky place for us."

Duggan will work in concert with his partner, Lara Robinson, who also previously worked for Kimmel and Harty.

Hushion weighs options for 'Camie'

Trainer Mike Hushion has always been high on Uncle Camie, and the speedy sprinter lived up to expectations on Sunday with a sharp four-length victory in an optional claiming race. He ran six furlongs in 1:08.79 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 107, the second time in three starts he has earned that lofty figure.

Uncle Camie was running for the first time since finishing eighth in the Paumonok Handicap on Jan. 29. In the interim, he underwent throat surgery.

Hushion will begin looking for a stakes for Uncle Camie and mentioned the $200,000 Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap at Pimlico on Preakness Day as a possibility.

Hushion is enjoying a spectacular spring meet, saddling 9 winners from 23 starters since the main track opened on March 18. He was one win behind Richard Dutrow Jr. for leading trainer at the meet.