11/28/2007 12:00AM

One year later, Ballast returns to scene

EmailMIAMI - Ballast won the 2006 Tropical Turf Handicap but figures to be overlooked by the betting public when he returns to defend his title on Saturday.

Ballast, a 6-year-old son of Desert Prince, rallied from just off the pace to post a 1 1/4-length victory over Bob's Proud Moment in his local bow in the 2006 Tropical Turf. He has not won since, although trainer Graham Motion believes Ballast will put up a good fight in defense of his title.

"I brought him back at Gulfstream about a month after he won this race a year ago and he didn't run particularly well, so I decided to give him some time off," said Motion. "He'd been going all year without a break up to that point."

Ballast returned in June at Delaware Park, where he finished second in two consecutive starts, including the Caesar Rodney Stakes, a race Motion felt he should have won.

"He ran huge in both races," Motion said. "He had just a terrible trip in the Rodney. He should have won but got stuck on the rail, could not get out until too late, and just got beat by Silver Tree."

Ballast has had two more starts since that race, finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga and seventh in Hawthorne's Grade 3 Carey Memorial Handicap on Sept. 29.

"I was happy with his performance at Saratoga, but to be honest his last is a bit of a mystery to me," said Motion, who will have 50 horses stabled at Palm Meadows this winter. "But he's done well since that race, and bringing him back to Calder seemed like the logical spot. I wasn't surprised he won the Tropical Turf last year, and while the race has come up very competitive and a lot tougher this time around, I truly believe, on his day, he can run with these horses."

Motion will also be in action here later in the meet, most notably in the Grade 2 La Prevoyante on Dec. 15, when he runs his long-distance specialist Dalvina in the 12-furlong fixture. In her U.S. debut, Dalvina rallied from far back to easily defeat Barancella in Aqueduct's Grade 3 Long Island Handicap this month.

Dalvina was trained by Ed Dunlop for the Long Island, then turned over to Motion after the race. "She worked at Fair Hill on Monday and will be sent to Palm Meadows later this week," said Motion.

Motion also said the star of his barn, Better Talk Now, will race again as a 9-year-old in 2008. Better Talk Now, fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf, will ship to Palm Meadows next month to train up to what Motion hopes will be a start in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March.

"I actually considered running Better Talk Now in the McKnight at Calder in a couple of weeks, but that just doesn't make sense if we want to have him ready to run in Dubai, which is something we've talked about for a long time," Motion said. "It just never worked out in the past because we'd always given him the winters off and the timing just wasn't right."

Motion said Better Talk Now came out of the Turf in good order, which was good news considering the condition of the grass course on Breeders' Cup Day.

"We always wanted the course to be soft for him, but that was beyond soft to the point of being a debacle this year," said Motion. "Naturally we all had to run over the same surface, but over that course, after they'd gone six furlongs in 1:19, he'd have had to be Superman to make up any ground.

"I don't think anyone would have beaten English Channel that afternoon no matter the circumstances," he added, "but it was just a shame the best grass horses in the world had to compete over a course that had been so torn up already. By the time they went to post for the Turf we just held our breath and hoped he came through unscathed."

Mysterious Peintre, Fair Weather Stan work

Mysterious Peintre, who finished fourth in a pair of Grade 3 stakes for Todd Pletcher earlier this year, worked a half-mile in 48 seconds over a fast track here Wednesday. Mysterious Peintre, a 3-year-old French bred colt, is stabled locally with trainer Marty Wolfson.

Fair Weather Stan, a multiple stakes winner here this season on grass, also worked Wednesday, going an easy five furlongs in 1:04 for trainer David Braddy. Fair Weather Stan is coming off an eighth-place finish in the Bonnie Heath Turf Cup.