09/25/2006 12:00AM

Better Talk Now's options: International or BC Turf


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Better Talk Now has traveled a long way, both literally and figuratively, between his first appearance here at Woodbine in August 2003 and his triumphant return in last Sunday's Sky Classic.

Better Talk Now's third-place finish in the 2003 Niagara marked his first Grade 2 stakes appearance for trainer Graham Motion, who has trained the 7-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding throughout his career.

In the interim, Better Talk Now had won four Grade 1 stakes races, including the Breeders' Cup Turf at Lone Star Park in 2004, and was the top gun in the Grade 2 Sky Classic with his career bankroll of almost $2.8 million.

But the $300,800 Sky Classic, a 1o3/8-mile race run over a turf course rated yielding, was hardly a stroll in the park for Better Talk Now as he was fully extended to prevail over a very game Jambalaya and Last Answer in a thrilling finish.

The photo showed Better Talk Now and jockey Ramon Dominguez in front by a head on the outside, with Jambalaya prevailing by a nose for second money over the rail-riding Last Answer.

"We weren't sure he'd won it," said Motion, who trains Better Talk Now for the far-flung Bushwood Stable group of Brent Johnson (Virginia), Karl Barth (Seattle), and Chris Dwyer (Illinois).

"But, he hadn't finished second for more than two years. It's almost like it's all or nothing for him. He's extremely determined. He's just a remarkable horse."

Ramon Dominguez, aboard Better Talk Now, won his second major stakes here in the space of a week, having captured the Grade 2 Canadian aboard Ready's Gal for trainer Todd Pletcher on Sept. 17.

Better Talk Now will ship back to his training base at Fair Hill, Md., and his immediate future will be a hot topic of discussion.

The choice would seem to lie between the Breeders' Cup Turf, on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs, and the Canadian International, on Oct. 22 at Woodbine.

Both the Breeders' Cup Turf and the Canadian International are Grade 1, 1 1/2-mile grass races, with the Turf worth $3 million and the International offering $2 million Canadian.

"We'll get together and decide what to do," said Motion. "We'd love to get back to the Breeders' Cup, but your race here is a pretty prestigious race and it's worth a lot of money, too."

Murani shows great heart

Trainer Mike Keogh and jockey Emile Ramsammy, who came so close to capturing the Sky Classic with Last Answer, enjoyed some consolation when Murani upset the $100,400 Flaming Page three races later on the Sunday program.

Murani, owned by the Arosa Farm of Jurgen and Monique Schemmer, was making her stakes debut and took the Flaming Page, a 1 1/2-mile turf race for fillies and mares, at the direct expense of odds-on multiple-stakes winner Noble Stella.

"She trains so determinedly," said Jurgen Schemmer. "We thought for sure she could go a mile and a half. She's got a great stride on her and a big heart, obviously."

Schemmer added that Murani, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old, had been sidelined by a condylar fracture last November after making just two starts in each of her first two campaigns.

Murani, who was recording her third win in her last four starts, will be considered for the E.P. Taylor Stakes, a Grade 1, $1 million turf race for fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles here Oct. 22.

McAleney makes right choice

Jockey Jim McAleney was on the spot in last Saturday's $134,400 La Lorgnette, as he was offered his choice between Vestrey Lady and Classical Miss in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies.

Both Vestrey Lady and Classical Miss are owned by Harlequin Ranches and trained by Reade Baker.

Vestrey Lady was coming off a front-running score in the Duchess at 7 1/2 furlongs on the inner track, while Classical Miss was coming off a closing success under second-level allowance conditions at 1 1/16 miles.

"Classical Miss is a very, very honest filly," said McAleney. "But until she worked so well the other day, and I knew she was at the peak of her game, it was the first time I had had any doubt about choosing between the two.

"But in my opinion, Vestrey Lady had displayed a whole lot more ability, and was a more talented horse, even though she's not much of a work horse."

McAleney made the right call, as Vestrey Lady led throughout and prevailed by a half-length while Classical Miss ended seventh of 11 under Jim McKnight, although beaten just 5 1/2 lengths.

"I was hoping she wouldn't be one-dimensional," said McAleney. "I took her off the pace before, and if she's loose she slows down very nicely."

Both McAleney and Baker had been concerned about serious pace pressure in the La Lorgnette, but, as it transpired, Vestrey Lady had things pretty much her own way and was able to hang tough by a half-length.

Vestrey Lady, who was the meet-leading ninth stakes winner for Baker and the 10th for McAleney, is slated to make her next appearance in the Raven Run at Keeneland.

The Raven Run, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies, offers Grade 2 status and a purse of $300,000.

In the meantime, Baker and McAleney are scheduled to be back in stakes action here this weekend, with A.P. Reality on tap for Saturday's Mazarine and Storm Caller for Sunday's Ontario Derby.

The $250,000 Mazarine is a Gradeo3 race for 2-year-old fillies, while the $200,000 Ontario Derby is a Grade 3 race for 3-year-olds.