06/09/2007 12:00AM

Better Talk Now surges to take Manhattan


ELMONT, N.Y. - The 8-year-old Better Talk Now continued his remarkable career Saturday, overcoming a slow pace and rallying furiously in the stretch to win the Gradeo1, $400,000 Manhattan Handicap in a wild finish at Belmont Park.

Having one horse beaten at the quarter pole, Better Talk Now, under Ramon Dominguez, split horses inside the sixteenth pole, then dove back to the rail in deep stretch to run down Cosmonaut and outfinish English Channel and Shakis to win by a head. English Channel nosed out Shakis for second. It was another half-length back to Cosmonaut, who vied for the lead before taking a clear advantage at the eighth pole.

Red Zipper, who dueled with Cosmonaut, finished fifth and was followed in the order of finish by Minister's Joy, Kiss the Kid, and Steppenwolfer. Sky Conqueror was scratched after tying up during training Friday.

The win was the 14th from 39 starts for Better Talk Now, and the fifth Grade 1 victory of his career. He has now earned $3,819,788 for the Bushwood Stable.

Usually, trainer Graham Motion runs a rabbit, or pacesetter, to help set up Better Talk Now's late run. But he felt that strategy hasn't worked, and elected not to run the speedy Shake the Bank. Instead, Motion simply wanted Dominguez to wait as long as possible to pull the trigger and hope for the best.

Saturday, Better Talk Now was at his best, lagging in seventh place behind fractions of 25.30 seconds, 50.58, 1:14.98, and a mile run in 1:38.72.

Meanwhile, Edgar Prado had Cosmonaut in hand through those fractions, and he appeared to be on his way to victory when he opened up a 1 1/2-length lead at the eighth pole.

But Better Talk Now was coming to his inside, and English Channel, buoyed by the presence of Shakis to his outside, came charging and overhauled Cosmonaut in the final 50 yards.

"It's hard to believe, but this horse is getting better," Motion said. "He's more settled and more relaxed. He really shouldn't have been able to close like that into those fractions. He is an unbelievable horse."

Better Talk Now, a gelded son of Talkin Man, covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.39 and returned $8.70 as the co-second choice.

"It was amazing for him to come through following those slow fractions," Dominguez said. "He's so much more mature. He's just doing awesome, this horse."