04/06/2004 11:00PM

Better Talk Now must overcome layoff

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Better Talk Now, who won the Grade 2 Knickerbocker at Aqueduct in November, drew post 11 for Saturday night's $200,000 Connally Breeders' Cup Turf at Sam Houston Race Park. He is the 119-pound highweight for the 1 1/8-mile turf race for older horses that closes out the meet.

Better Talk Now, who has not run since the Knickerbocker, arrived at Sam Houston late Tuesday afternoon aboard a flight that also carried two others to town for the Connally: Quest Star, a Grade 2 winner last out at Gulfstream, and Del Mar Show, runner-up in the Knickerbocker.

The race will be supported by the $40,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes and the $40,000 Sam Houston Turf Cup Sprint.

Rene Douglas will ride Better Talk Now for trainer Graham Motion. Last year, Better Talk Now won 3 of 7 starts, with two of those victories coming in turf stakes. He races for Bushwood Stables.

The complete field for the Connally from the rail with riders: Canaan Land, Jeremy Collier; Quest Star, Pat Day; Bassant, Jeffery Burningham; Excessive Behavior, John Jacinto; Toratora, Felipe Rodriguez; Seainsky, E.J. Perrodin; Skate Away, Gerard Melancon; Warleigh, Jeremy Beasley; Del Mar Show, Cornelio Velasquez; Gentleman JJ, Don Simington; Better Talk Now, Rene Douglas.

The biggest omission from the field is Candid Glen, who has won the past three runnings of the Connally. He is not ready to defend his title following a layoff necessitated by a leg injury, according to his owner, Glen Warren. Candid Glen will return at Louisiana Downs this summer.

Gold Storm, who has won 4 of 5 career starts, headlines the Sam Houston Turf Sprint. Also in the race is Run Zeal Run, who will be ridden by Day. Tiva's Little Sis, winner of the $50,000 Chapel Belle last fall at Louisiana Downs, and Sound of Gold, a two-time stakes winner over the local turf course, headline the Jersey Lilly.

* Jerry Reites, an agent who represents top regional rider Jamie Theriot, said that following the Sam Houston meet he will begin booking mounts for John Jacinto. Jacinto ranks second in the Sam Houston standings behind runaway leader Jeremy Beasley.

Last week, Beasley set a record for rider earnings at a Sam Houston meet when his mounts reached earnings of $1,048,573. His feat surpassed Steve Bourque, whose mounts earned a then-record $1,019,911 during the 1998-1999 meeting at Sam Houston.

Amanda Crandall is the leading apprentice with 28 wins at Sam Houston.

Steve Asmussen, who has won three trainer titles at Sam Houston, led the standings by six wins over Danny Pish going into the races Wednesday. Asmussen ranked second in the owner standings, one win behind leader Jim Bausch.

* There is a free $2,500 online handicapping contest tied into the Connally Breeders' Cup. Registration at www.shrp.com was to begin on Thursday.