10/15/2005 12:00AM

Sweet Talker nips Karen's Caper

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Sweet Talker (right) gets her nose on the wire, with Karen's Caper only inches behind.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Rafael Bejarano can do little wrong at Keeneland these days. Riding Sweet Talker, the longest shot in a field of seven 3-year-old fillies, Bejarano put a perfectly timed ride to maximum use when Sweet Talker lasted by the barest of margins Saturday in winning the $500,000 .

Sweet Talker, an 18-1 shot, gave trainer Helen Pitts her first Grade 1 winner by holding off late-charging Karen's Caper in the 22nd running of the QEII by a nose. Gorella, the 2-1 second choice, was just another head back in a frantic and compact finish. Luas Line, the 2-1 favorite in the field of seven 3-year-old fillies, was sixth, while the last-place finisher, Singhalese, was beaten less than three lengths by the winner.

The wins and plaudits just keep coming for Bejarano, the 23-year-old Peruvian who on Friday notched the 1,000th victory of his nascent career. Bejarano, who last year led all North American jockeys with 455 wins, leads the Keeneland jockey standings and is in search of his third straight riding title at the track.

"I am really happy," he said.

In ideal autumn weather, and before a packed house of 24,896, Naissance Royale set slow fractions of 25.38 seconds, 50.84, and 1:15.52. By early stretch, all seven fillies seemed to stand a fighting chance, but it was Sweet Talker, who had looped into contention with a steady run on the far turn, who proved narrowly best.

The finish was so tight that when Bejarano was asked afterward whether he thought he had won, he said, "Yeah. No. I don't think. I don't know for sure."

"I guess that's as close as it gets to being a dead heat," said Robby Albarado, the jockey on Karen's Caper, who at 11-1 was the second-longest shot while making her U.S. debut.

Sweet Talker, a Kentucky-bred by Stormin Fever, is owned by Eliah and Lisa Kahn. She returned $39.40 to win after finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.20 over a firm turf course. She now has won 7 of 13 starts, with the $310,000 winner's share nearly doubling her career bankroll to $682,723.

Pitts, 31, a Maryland native, took over most of Ken McPeek's stable in July after McPeek quit training to become a bloodstock agent. McPeek, who still oversees some aspects of his former stable, was present Saturday.

The $2 exacta paid $343.40; the $2 trifecta $1,999; and the $2 superfecta $8,287.