11/01/2003 1:00AM

Better Talk Now pours it on

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
With Edgar Prado aboard, Better Talk Now surges past Del Mar Show (4) and Millennium Dragon (7) to capture the Knickerbocker on Saturday.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Eighty-two minutes before the running of the 2002 at Aqueduct, a then 3-year-old gelding named Better Talk Now won a second-level allowance race at Aqueduct. His final time for the nine furlongs on turf was 0.46 seconds faster than Dawn of the Condor's clocking for the Knickerbocker.

One year later, Better Talk Now returned to Aqueduct for Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Knickerbocker and ran faster than everybody, gunning past Del Mar Show in deep stretch to win by a half-length. It was a neck back to the pacesetting Millennium Dragon in third. Quest Star, the 9-5 favorite, finished fifth.

It was the first stakes win for Better Talk Now, a son of Talkin Man owned by the Brushwood Stable and trained by Graham Motion.

Better Talk Now was coming off the worst performance of his career, a 15-length loss in the Grade 3 Sycamore Breeders' Cup Handicap at Keeneland. Motion explained that Better Talk Now was rank that day and went from eighth position to first in the second quarter of the race.

Breaking from the rail on Saturday, Better Talk Now was successfully covered up for most of the race until jockey Edgar Prado turned him loose in upper stretch.

Prado had Better Talk Now in fifth position, about five lengths off the lead established by Millennium Dragon, who set fractions of 24.78 seconds, 50.00, and 1:14.04 under Richard Migliore for the opening six furlongs.

Turning for home, Prado was able to get Better Talk Now off the rail and he kicked past Del Mar Show, who had taken the lead from Millennium Dragon approaching the sixteenth pole. Better Talk Now covered the nine furlongs in 1:50.53 over a good turf course and returned $15.60 as the second choice.

"He's a tough little horse," Motion said. "He's a tough horse to ride. Today he was very game.

"I loved being in the one hole with this horse, because he needs to get settled," the trainer said. "He's got a tendency to lean on other horses down the stretch, which he still does, but I thought being in the one hole we'd have a better shot."

Del Mar Show, a multiple graded-stakes winner, had been tailing off form in his last three starts. But, he put in a much-improved effort on Saturday.

"Had a good trip, ran his eyeballs out - a mile and an eighth may be stretching it a little bit," trainer Bill Mott said. "There was a little give in the ground - maybe he likes it a little firmer - but it was a very good effort."

Quest Star was further back than usual after breaking slowly, and jockey John Velazquez said, "I started chirping at him on the backstretch and just got nothing."