12/01/2004 12:00AM

Like something out of a movie


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Better Talk Now, winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf and solid favorite for the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup on Saturday, is owned by Bushwood Stable - three guys with law degrees and a collectively bent sense of humor.

They got the name from Bushwood Country Club, the legendary setting of the greatest sports movie ever made (sorry "Seabiscuit"). That's right, folks, the best older grass horse in North America carries with him at all times the inspirational wisdom of the 1980 cinema classic, "Caddyshack."

"Wanna make 14 dollars the hard way."

Brent Johnson and Karl Barth are teenage buddies from George Mason Junior/Senior High School in Falls Church, Va. Chris Dwyer joined the mix when he met Johnson while they were in pursuit of law degrees at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland.

"Living in northern Virginia, I had Andrew Beyer delivered to my doorstep in the Washington Post, so I read everything he's ever written," Johnson said. "Karl just really liked going to the races, enjoying the show. I spent a whole lot more time handicapping. But still, I'd go out with five dollars and watch the races for a whole day."

"There won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness. So I got that going for me, which is nice."

Dwyer lives in Chicago and specializes in estate planning. Barth is based in Seattle. His area of expertise is in securities law. Johnson earned his degree, passed the bar, and now owns an investment advisory firm with his father. They have, in fact, seen movies other than "Caddyshack."

"We've even had a couple of horses named from movies," Johnson said. "The first one was Twice as Sweet - from 'The Color of Money' - and we just named one Take the Cannolis. My favorite movie is 'The Godfather,' but Luca Brasi was already taken."

"I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them."

Graham Motion trains the Bushwood horses at his Herringswell Stable at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. That's where Better Talk Now has spent his time since the Breeders' Cup.

"The problem we found with Bushwood is that we continually get confused with Brushwood Stables," Johnson said, referring to the high-powered racing and breeding outfit. "They're just a little bit bigger than us. I noticed Brushwood just bought a yearling at the September Keeneland sale for a million and a half. Yeah, that's just a little different from our purchases."

"Don't sell yourself short, judge. You're a tremendous slouch."

The Bushwood empire is growing, however. Last summer, the partners spied an ad in a trade publication tipping the availability of a weanling by More Than Ready out of the Baldski mare Bendita. The breeding jumped off the page. It was a half-brother to Better Talk Now, now owned by Bushwood and bearing the name Better Be Ready.

"Hopefully, he's worth a little bit more now," Johnson said. "We're just trying to make reasonable business decisions as we go. We've been with Graham about four years now, and certainly we wouldn't hesitate to give him a really good horse if we come across one. One thing's for sure, though. You can't ever think you've got the game beat."

"Just be the ball, be the ball, be the ball. You're not being the ball, Danny."

In the Breeders' Cup Turf, Better Talk Now realized Motion's darkest fears when he repeated a tendency to lean left as he banked into the stretch, triggering a tense inquiry. The result stood. Now Johnson is hoping their horse will sail straight and true on Saturday.

"We've been talking to him about that," Johnson said. "Hopefully he'll be able to figure out that turn. For us, having a guy like Ramon Dominguez riding him is great. It's important to sit and wait with our horse, which is exactly what he did when Powerscourt picked up the pace on the backstretch in the Breeders' Cup."

"I'd keep playing. I don't think the heavy stuff gonna come down for quite a while."

Better Talk Now, a 5-year-old son of Talkin Man, is by far the best horse the Bushwood partners have ever owned. He was purchased privately as a 3-year-old from his breeder, the Wimborne Farm of Diane Perkins. Prior to winning the Breeders' Cup Turf, Better Talk Now won the Sword Dancer Handicap at Saratoga and finished a close second in the Bowling Green at Belmont. A win at Hollywood on Saturday could help his campaign for an Eclipse Award, especially since he defeated the other top contender, Kitten's Joy, at Lone Star Park.

"It was after the Sword Dancer, we talked about it a little," Johnson confessed. "It was a fleeting moment, but the turf division seemed wide open. So we thought that if he could really do well over the next several months, and maybe win the Breeders' Cup . . ."

"This crowd goes deadly silent. A Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. The former greenskeeper now about to become . . . Masters champion."