09/07/2008 12:00AM

Better Talk Now still strong at 9


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Northern Dancer was repositioned on the Woodbine stakes schedule this year in order to serve as a prep for the Oct. 4 Canadian International.

Fittingly, Sunday's Northern Dancer has an international flavor with a German invader, six shippers from the United States, and three locally based horses making up the field for the Grade 1, $750,000 turf stakes.

Heading the U.S. contingent in the 1 1/2-mile race is Better Talk Now, who is the most accomplished horse in the lineup.

A 9-year-old gelding trained by Graham Motion, Better Talk Now has won 14 of 46 races, including five Grade 1 stakes, and finished in the money 25 times.

Better Talk Now is coming off a second in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer, a 1 1/2-mile turf race at Saratoga on Aug. 16, and Motion thought long and hard before entering the Northern Dancer.

"For a 9-year-old to be coming back in three weeks, when you don't normally do that, was the crux of the decision-making for us," said Motion. "We wanted to be sure he was coming up to the race right; he seems to be."

Better Talk will be making his third appearance here, having finished third in the 2003 Niagara and first in the 2006 Sky Classic.

"He likes it up there," said Motion. "We're looking forward to coming."

Ramon Dominguez, who hasn't missed a call on Better Talk Now since the summer of 2005, will be in the irons Sunday.

The other shippers from south of the border are Frost Giant, winner of the Grade 1 Suburban on the dirt last time out; Cloudy's Knight, who captured last year's Grade 1 Canadian International; Champs Elysees, a Grade 2 winner at Santa Anita last winter; Marsh Side, runner-up in last year's Northern Dancer; and Strike a Deal, second in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park and in the Grade 2 Nijinsky here in his last two starts.

Quijano, a 6-year-old German-bred gelding, has won Group 1 stakes in his homeland and in Italy and also has run well in Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, and at Woodbine.

His appearance here came in last year's Canadian International, where Quijano closed late and wide to finish third under regular rider Andreas Starke.

Ilke Hildebrand, an assistant to Quijano's trainer Peter Schiergen, said the horse had traveled well and was acting "pretty much the same" as he was coming into the Canadian International.

Locally based Sky Conqueror won the first two runnings of the Northern Dancer, and this year Seaside Retreat stands a solid chance of winning on his home turf.

A 5-year-old gelding trained by Mark Casse and ridden by Patrick Husbands, Seaside Retreat is in career form and won the Nijinsky last time out in an easier fashion than his one-length margin might suggest.

"He's very happy right now," said Casse. "He's doing as well as he can do.

"He's going to be facing the toughest competition he's faced, but they're coming to play in our house. It's going to be a good race."

The other locals in the Northern Dancer are French Beret and Spice Route, who are capable enough sorts but outsiders here.