07/03/2007 12:00AM

Better Talk Now not slowing

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - The years have not taken a toll on Better Talk Now.

"I know I've been quoted saying it before, and people are probably getting tired of hearing it, but I feel he is probably as good now, if not a little better, than he's ever been," trainer H. Graham Motion said. "I feel that applies going into his next race."

That next assignment is the Grade 1, $750,000 United Nations Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth Park, a race the 8-year-old gelding won in 2005.

Better Talk Now doesn't appear to have lost a step, based on his most recent effort: a stirring rally to edge English Channel by a head and capture the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

"I couldn't be happier with him," Motion said. "I'm extremely fortunate to have him, and I feel like he's doing very well right now."

It appears a small but select field is on tap for the United Nations. In addition to Better Talk Now, Monmouth stakes coordinator Mike Melendez only had firm commitments for Embossed and a pair from trainer Todd Pletcher: English Channel and the mare Honey Ryder.

English Channel won the United Nations last year, one of three Gradeo1 victories in a brilliant campaign.

Honey Ryder adds an interesting dimension as she loves this 1 3/8-mile distance and has a record of 6-1-1 in nine attempts.

Kiss the Kid aims to rebound

Kiss the Kid chased the Grade 1 turf monsters last time out in the Manhattan. The 4-year-old colt was hung out three wide while stalking the leaders for three-quarters of a mile before fading to the back of the pack.

Kiss the Kid gets an easier assignment Thursday back at Monmouth in the $45,000 feature, a third-level allowance with a $50,000 claiming option. Owner-trainer Amy Tarrant was looking for a less challenging spot after the Manhattan, with the goal of sharpening the colt for Monmouth's Grade 3 Oceanport Stakes on Aug. 5.

"I wanted to do something in between," Tarrant said. "These allowance races are tough, but they should be - if he's going from here into a Grade 3."

The field includes a pair of battle-hardened stakes campaigners in Foreverness and Extra Bend.

Foreverness, an 8-year-old New York-bred gelding, has been a fixture in the statebred grass stakes at Belmont Park. He also is effective in open company, having won the Grade 3 Fort Marcy Handicap at Aqueduct in 2006.

Extra Bend hit the board in four consecutive stakes last summer, including a head loss in the Jersey Derby on Monmouth's Haskell Day undercard.

Against this seasoned field, Kiss the Kid will need a top effort to earn his first victory since last September.

He gets two important changes: Blinkers return, and apprentice rider Mario Madrid is back in the irons.

The colt raced with blinkers in every start except the last one, the Manhattan.

"I felt he needed them back on to make him a little sharper," Tarrant said. "I do think it will make a difference. I thought he was a little too relaxed in the race in New York."

Madrid, who guided Kiss the Kid to his last victory here in a second-level allowance, gets his first mount of the season on the horse.