10/17/2008 12:00AM

Lord Admiral, 7, at his best


Better Talk Now, Big Booster, and Lord Admiral ought to get together for coffee and a bull session somewhere on the Santa Anita backstretch. This grizzled trio has seen more and done more than most of these upstart Breeders' Cup horses could even dream about.

With 47 career starts, 9-year-old Better Talk Now has lined up in the starting gate more times than any of the other 179 horses pre-entered in the 2008 Breeders' Cup, but Big Booster and Lord Admiral are right behind him with 46 appearances, and Lord Admiral, a relative youngster at 7, has really been around. The Irish-based horse is in the midst of his second excursion to the United States, and based on his close fourth-place finish last out in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, he is not without a chance in the BC Mile.

"He's no novice," trainer Charles O'Brien said Friday from his office at a training stable some 15 miles outside Dublin. "I always liked him from Day 1, but he's gotten better and stronger as time has gone by, and he was quite high strung as a young horse."

O'Brien cross-entered Lord Admiral in the Dirt Mile on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride track, and said he is giving that race strong consideration, though Lord Admiral has first preference in the turf race.

"He does all his work on the Polytrack back home, though I get the sense that the track there is quite different than Polytrack," said O'Brien.

Lord Admiral launched his career in the summer of 2003, and won his second start, but wins did not often come thereafter. The horse lost all his races in 2004 before capturing a listed stakes in June 2005, but he did not win again for two more years. In fact, Lord Admiral did not seem to really blossom until he turned 6, and his most productive seasons have been this year and last year.

This past winter, in fact, he scored the biggest victory of his life, capturing the Group 2 Jebel Hatta at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai. It was Lord Admiral's third winter trek to the Middle East, and in the autumn of 2006, he came to the U.S. and ran well, finishing third in the Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita and second in the River City Handicap at Churchill Downs. His travels are based in great part on a search for turf that is firmer than what he typically finds back home on the Emerald Isle.

"It's hard to get that here," O'Brien said. "Once the ground goes [soft], you're looking for opportunities somewhere else."

Lord Admiral, owned by O'Brien's father, has won nearly $1 million in prize money at this point. Give him another few years on turf courses without a lot of give, and who knows how many millions he might accumulate.

"He takes his races very well," said O'Brien. "He's got a very strong constitution."

Forty-six races into this line of work, and that has become evident of Lord Admiral.