04/22/2009 11:00PM

Golden oldies galore in Elkhorn

Barbara D. Livingston
Better Talk Now, a 10-year-old with $4.2 million in earnings, is among six horses 7 or older in Friday's closing-day turf marathon.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A race meet at Keeneland resembles more a sprint than a route, as fast as it seems to whiz by. But the closing-day feature every spring is a turf marathon, the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes.

Of course, the last few furlongs of the $200,000 Elkhorn, which closes out the 15-day meet here Friday, probably could be something of a blur, too, considering the way 1 1/2-mile grass races tend to boil down to a mad dash over the last few furlongs. Among the seasoned pros who know exactly how that's done is 10-year-old Better Talk Now, the $4.2 million earner who heads up a veritable good ol' boys network that comprises a good chunk of 14 entrants, including two also-eligibles.

Not that racing secretary Ben Huffman wrote the race conditions to exclude younger types, but within the main body of 12 starters there are two 8-year-olds and three 7-year-olds. Among the younger set is the probable race favorite, Champs Elysees, a mere 6-year-old who won two Grade 1 turf races last year for breeder-owner Juddmonte Farms and trainer Bobby Frankel.

Besides those wins in the Northern Dancer at Woodbine and the Hollywood Turf Cup, Champs Elysees also shows a runner-up effort behind Einstein in his last race, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. That's a primary reason the $1.5-million earner will take plenty of wagering action before breaking from post 11 under Jose Valdivia Jr. in the three-turn Elkhorn.

Among the other viable contenders in the 24th Elkhorn is a trio of 5-year-olds who last raced at Gulfstream Park: Quasicobra and Spice House, the respective two-three finishers in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida in February, and Buddy's Humor, winner of the off-the-turf Pan American in March.

Last year, the Elkhorn was won by Dancing Forever, the Phipps Stable standout who went on to distinguish himself as winner of the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap and the third-place finisher in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Lure (1994) and Chief Bearhart (1997) are among the other prior winners.

Better Talk Now is being pointed to the June 6 Manhattan at Belmont, said trainer Graham Motion.

"It's a lofty goal, but I'd love to win a Grade 1 race with him as a 10-year-old," said Motion. "He's really doing well. I couldn't be happier with him."

The Elkhorn, the ninth of 10 races, anchors a card that also includes two allowances (races 7 and 8).