09/21/2006 11:00PM

Better Talk Now in spotlight

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By RON GIERKINK

ETOBICOKE, Ontario ? Better Talk Now, the 2004 Breeders? Cup Turf winner, will take center stage Sunday at Woodbine in the Grade 2, $300,000 Sky Classic Stakes.

Better Talk Now, based in Maryland with trainer Graham Motion, will become the first Breeders? Cup winner to race at Woodbine since Chief Bearhart won the Sky Classic in 1998. Better Talk Now won the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico in his 2006 debut on May 20, and subsequently finished fifth behind some formidable opposition in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth.

Last time out, in a slow-paced Arlington Million, Better Talk Now closed belatedly for seventh, ending up nearly four lengths behind the front-running winner, The Tin Man.

Motion said the race shape was against the late-running Better Talk Now in the Grade 1 Arlington Million.

"There was just no pace in the race," Motion said. "He made up a tremendous amount of ground in the stretch and galloped out with the leaders, but that was too little, too late."

Motion said he had contemplated sending Better Talk Now to Australia for the prestigious Melbourne Cup in November, but ultimately decided to scrap those plans.

"We had every intention of doing the Australian trip, but we then we came to the decision that it was too complicated." Motion said. "The horse is doing very well right now, and if he runs well this weekend, there?s no reason that we wouldn?t either come back to run in the [Canadian International], or go to the Breeders? Cup. There?s a lot of money on the line here, without having to go all the way there."

Motion believes that Better Talk Now has remained in fine shape this year at age 7.

"I?ve been saying all year that he?s as good as he?s ever been," Motion said. "I truly believe that. At the same time, he?s got to step up and show that. Hopefully, things will set up a little better for him this weekend."

The 1 3/8-mile Sky Classic has attracted two other American shippers ? Silver Whistle and Grand Couturier ? along with Jambalaya, Last Answer, Pellegrino, and Colorful Judgement.

Silver Whistle closed strongly for second in the Aug. 12 Sword Dancer at Saratoga, earning a career high 102 Beyer Speed Figure. He managed to run just fourth as the favorite one start earlier, in a Grade 3 stakes at Arlington. But previously he was in good form.

French import Grand Couturier was an unlucky third in his North American debut in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer.