08/18/2009 11:00PM

Road's end near for Better Talk Now

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Barbara D. Livingston
Funny Moon, entered by trainer Christophe Clement for Saturday's Grade 1 Alabama, walks the shed at Saratoga on Wednesday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Though Better Talk Now finished a solid second in last weekend's Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational, trainer Graham Motion couldn't help think that Father Time has finally caught up to the 10-year-old gelding.

"I questioned myself a little as to whether that it was age that he didn't get there," said Motion, whose horse fell two lengths shy of 33-1 shot Telling. "I just question whether he would have got there three years ago. It's in the back of my mind. It's got me thinking."

What Motion and owner Brent Johnson are now thinking is to give Better Talk Now one more race and then call it a career. That last race most likely will take place in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park on Oct. 3.

"We'll point him for one race in the fall, possibly the Joe Hirsch, then we'll say that will be his swan song," Motion said. "I think it's unrealistic to think we'll bring him back as an 11-year-old."

Better Talk Now has started 51 times in a career that began in 2001. He has won 14 races, nine of which were graded stakes, including the Breeders' Cup Turf in 2004, and earned more than $4.3 million. He has won virtually all of New York's major turf routes, including the trio of Grade 1's - the Manhattan (2007), Man o' War (2005), and Sword Dancer (2004) - as well as the Grade 3 Ft. Marcy (2005) and Grade 2 Knickerbocker (2003). The Joe Hirsch is the only one that has eluded Better Talk Now. He finished fourth in that race in 2007.

Better Talk Now has lost his last 12 starts since winning the 2007 Manhattan.

Motion said that following Saturday's Sword Dancer was the first time that he and Johnson talked about retirement.

"It's a tough decision to make emotionally," Motion said. "When you have a horse that runs like that, when you see him every day and he's doing well and he enjoys it, it's hard to say he shouldn't be doing it."

Motion said his only reservation about running in the Joe Hirsch is the possible presence of Gio Ponti, a four-time Grade 1 winner this year.

Mine That Bird to train Friday

Mine That Bird is expected to return to the track on Friday, following successful surgery Tuesday to repair an entrapped epiglottis. Trainer Chip Woolley said that he was advised by Dr. Patricia Hogan, who performed the throat operation on Tuesday, to wait a few days before returning the Kentucky Derby winner to training.

"We'll follow the vet's recommendation, do what they want us to do," Woolley said. "If at any point in time they feel he's not 100 percent, we'll pass the Travers up and go wherever else."

Woolley, however, doesn't believe that missing two days of training would have a major impact on Mine That Bird and he remains "very optimistic" that the horse could be ready to make the Travers. Woolley plans to jog the horse Friday, gallop him Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, then hopefully work on Tuesday.

"The horse is as fit as can be. He just worked a couple of days ago," Woolley said. "If you would have had to miss the work I'd have some question. Two [missed] gallops on a horse like him is not going to make any difference."

Woolley said Mine That Bird has to be on antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, but the horse will be off them far enough out from the race that he wouldn't test positive.

Stardom Bound back on work tab

Stardom Bound, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2008, breezed three furlongs in 38.97 seconds Wednesday morning at Aqueduct. It was her first breeze since she finished third in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland on April 4.

Stardom Bound was sent to a farm in Kentucky for a vacation before rejoining trainer Rick Dutrow at the beginning of July.

"She was ready to breeze, so we breezed her," Dutrow said from Aqueduct. "She went good. She's been galloping. The last week she's been showing up the right way in her gallops."

Dutrow had previously said that he would entertain the idea of training Stardom Bound up to the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 6. He would, however, run her in the race only provided Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta would not be in it.

"We're hoping it works out that our filly is ready to freak, judging by the way she's training, and that Zenyatta doesn't go and Rachel Alexandra doesn't go in the race," Dutrow said.

Stardom Bound has won four consecutive Grade 1 races over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface, including last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Thunders Dove to Gallant Bloom

Thunders Dove came off a 10-month layoff to win Sunday's Addison Mallery Stakes by four lengths, her fourth consecutive victory.

It was the third consecutive listed stakes victory for Thunders Dove, who will now get a chance at a graded stakes in the Grade 2, $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont on Sept. 26.

"She's very talented," said trainer Nick Zito. "You don't run in 10 months, you got to be talented to run like that. She acted like she ran last week."

Zito credited the work of his staff and patience of owners Rick and Susan Imbert for the filly's success. Zito said Thunders Dove was ready to run in a race at Tampa early in the winter, but the decision was made to scratch and point for the Hurricane Bertie at Gulfstream. Unfortunately, the horse developed a foot problem which necessitated time at the farm.

"That's how you keep these horses going," Zito said. "There's nothing wrong with having a 5- or 6-year-old."

Turf Writers' dinner on Monday

The New York Turf Writers' Association will hold its annual awards dinner Monday night at Saratoga National Golf Course.

Among the award winners are owners Jess Jackson, the IEAH Stables, trainers Kiaran McLaughlin, Steve Asmussen, and Larry Jones, jockey Alan Garcia, and the New York Racing Association's president and CEO, Charles Hayward.

Tickets are $100 and can be purchased by contacting Audrey Harding at aharding@nyrainc.com or calling her at (518) 584-6200.