07/04/2006 12:00AM

Better Talk Now ready, but U.N. status is shaky

Better Talk Now (center), here winning the Dixie Stakes, is ready to race.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Graham Motion hopes New Jersey's budget crisis does not force cancellation of Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park.

All season, the trainer has been pointing defending winner Better Talk Now toward the race.

"I've heard of 100 ways to lose a race, but this is ridiculous," Motion said. "Since the beginning of the year it has been our plan to run on Saturday. That would make it even more disappointing if we don't get to run."

Motion plans to send out Better Talk Now, with stablemate Shake the Bank again filling the roll of designated rabbit.

They have been a very effective team. Shake the Bank opens a clear lead to ensure an honest pace, while Better Talk Now settles near the back of the pack.

In last year's U.N., Shake the Bank opened a 15-length lead that set the stage for Better Talk Now to rally to a three-quarter-length victory.

They used the same tactics to capture the Grade 1 Man o' War at Belmont Park last September and the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico on May 20, Better Talk Now's season debut.

Motion used last year's Dixie as Better Talk Now's U.N. prep and would love to see a similar outcome.

"The horse is doing great," Motion said. "I gave him about a month after he ran without breezing him, which I often do."

Better Talk Now, 7, had seven-furlong workouts the last two Saturdays over the wood chips at Maryland's Fair Hills Training Center.

"They are two-turn works, and it's something I've always done for him before a big race," Motion said.

Other likely runners, according stakes coordinator Mike Melendez, are Cacique, Relaxed Gesture, Silverfoot, and two from trainer Todd Pletcher, English Channel and Ramazutti.

Cacique dug in to earn his first U.S. victory in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap. He set a pressured pace and held on by a head as Relaxed Gesture rallied from last in the seven-horse field.

English Channel, winner of the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 6, battled Cacique for the Manhattan lead and finished fourth, only a half-length behind the winner.

Silverfoot and Ramazutti ran one-two in the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs. Silverfoot used a victory in last year's Louisville as a springboard to a second-place finish in the U.N.