06/12/2007 12:00AM

Better Talk Now likely not coming for Million


CHICAGO - Better Talk Now's scintillating win Saturday at Belmont came in the Manhattan Handicap, which at 1 1/4 miles duplicates the distance of the Arlington Million, but Arlington fans envisioning a showdown between 8-year-old Better Talk Now and 9-year-old The Tin Man, the West's grass leader, need to put those visions on hold.

Graham Motion, Better Talk Now's Maryland-based trainer, said Better Talk Now was scheduled to make his next start on July 7 in the United Nations Handicap at Monmouth, but looking farther ahead, Motion said it was "more likely" that Better Talk Now would make an August appearance in the Sword Dancer Handicap at Saratoga - a race he won three years ago - than appear in his third straight Arlington Million.

"I think, at the end of the day, he's truly a mile-and-a-half horse, and that might be best," Motion said of going to the Sword Dancer. "I just feel like we've been kind of unlucky when we've come [to Arlington]. But you never say never. It's going to come down to deciding between the two races again."

Indeed, Motion and Better Talk Now's owner, Bushwood Stables, have vacillated between the Sword Dancer and the Million the last two years. Better Talk Now had less-than-ideal trips when he finished seventh in last year's Million and fourth in the 2005 edition, but even at his advanced age, the horse might be better suited to the Million this summer than in years past. Closing into a dawdling pace on Saturday, Better Talk Now won at 1 1/4 miles for the first time, in a performance to rival his Breeders' Cup Turf win of 2004.

"I really don't see his age showing," Motion said. "The only way I see it is in his demeanor, and that's all positive. Physically he's a stronger horse that carries more condition than he ever did before, and he's so much more settled, even in the morning. It used to be he was getting beaten because of his own antics."

Victorina might top Chicago BC cast

It appears that none of the topweights in Saturday's Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap will start in the race, but with a healthy list of nominations, the seven-furlong Chicago BC still could attract a solid field of nine or 10 horses.

The starting highweight could be the Northern California-based Victorina, who shipped into Chicago in April 1996 and won the Meafara at Hawthorne. Trainer Todd Pletcher also has a filly for the Chicago BC, the Arlington-based Trendy Lady, who won two straight at Gulfstream by a combined 11o3/4 lengths but has yet to run on Polytrack.

Churchill-based, Polytrack-loving Mary Delaney, who probably would have been the favorite if she had shipped, is instead going to Belmont for Sunday's Vagrancy Handicap, trainer Eddie Kenneally said.

Dreaming of Anna to Churchill?

It's possible that Dreaming of Anna could make a quick turnaround from her June 2 win in an overnight turf stakes at Arlington and ship to Churchill for the Regret Stakes on Saturday, trainer Wayne Catalano said.

"I'm thinking about it," he said. "I worked her back and she worked super, and I'm very, very happy with her right now. It looks like a good spot to me."

Dreaming of Anna worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 on Monday.

Catalano and his owner, Frank Calabrese, continued their monumental roll over the weekend, and through Sunday Catalano had racked up 19 winners from only 42 starters at the meet. Among the weekend's victors was Hatch, a horse claimed for $10,000 out of a loss at Keeneland, and already a winner of three races at the Arlington meet. On Sunday, Hatch scored by more than three lengths in a second-level allowance race.

Shapphok looks best Thursday

An Illinois-bred second-level allowance race occupies the ninth-race feature slot on Thursday's card, but despite its statebred restriction, the race has quality and depth.

It includes Stonehouse, whose most recent appearance came on the Preakness Stakes undercard at Pimlico, where Stonehouse finished a disappointing fourth to Chelokee after getting into a speed duel in the Barbaro Stakes. In his prior race, Stonehouse finished second at a sprint distance shorter than his best to the talented Illinois-bred Caruso. But at Fair Grounds last winter, Stonehouse won two straight dirt route races. Thursday he gets his first chance on turf, and as a son of Arlington Million winner Chester House, Stonehouse might like it.

The pick, however, is Shapphok, who lost at this class level by only a neck in a May 6 race. Trainer Jim Gulick may have him sitting on a peak performance.