09/03/2005 12:00AM

Seeking respect for Better Talk Now


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Although Better Talk Now has won the 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf and two other Grade 1 races, trainer Graham Motion said he believes the 6-year-old gelding does not receive the recognition he deserves.

"I still feel there is a stigma about this horse, which is odd considering he has won some of the most prestigious turf races - the Breeders' Cup, Sword Dancer, and United Nations," Motion said. "I want to get him to the Breeders' Cup again to prove it wasn't a fluke. If I can get him there, he will prove it."

Better Talk Now is on the path to get back to the BC Turf with a start in Saturday's Man o' War at Belmont, where the Breeders' Cup will be held this year. Like last year, Motion will train Better Talk Now up to the race after the Man o' War.

Friday, Better Talk Now recorded his final workout before the Man o' War. At the Fair Hill training center in Elkton, Md., he breezed five furlongs in 1:04 over the seven-furlong wood chip track in company with the Motion-trained Funfair, who won the Troy Stakes here Aug. 20. Lisa Davison, Better Talk Now's regular exercise rider, was aboard for the workout.

This year, Better Talk Now has started four times, including a win in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth. In his last start, the Arlington Million, he was hung six wide around the turn, possibly costing him second. He ran fourth - beaten three lengths by winner Powerscourt - and lost a three-way head bob for the place spot behind Kitten's Joy and Fourty Niners Son.

"I hate to make excuses, but he was awful wide in the Arlington Million," Motion said. "It was nobody's fault, that was just the trip he had to take. He came the furthest around of anybody."

To ensure a reasonable pace for the late-running Better Talk Now, Motion will also enter Shake the Bank in the Man o' War. Shake the Bank, entered in the United Nations as a rabbit, carved out much of the pace to set up Better Talk Now's powerful closing run.

Ritchey vows Alex will be back

Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex returned to the racetrack for a public appearance after Saturday's second race. One day earlier, Afleet Alex jogged one mile here in his first trip to the track since suffering a hairline fracture of the cannon bone in his left foreleg on July 27 at Belmont Park.

Trainer Tim Ritchey said Afleet Alex's recovery progress the last two weeks has been excellent.

"He will run this year," Ritchey said in the paddock during Afleet Alex's exhibition. "As long as he's healthy, he will run this year."

Concerning a start in the Breeders' Cup on Oct. 29, Ritchey said: "It's very iffy. It's still a possibility. I will know more in a few weeks after he starts to gallop."

Afleet Alex, unraced since the Belmont Stakes on June 11, began his appearance in the paddock, where he was very eager before the second race. Ritchey saddled him there with a red saddlecloth bearing the colt's name. Ten minutes later, following the second race, Ritchey gave Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr. - wearing the green and white silks of owner Cash Is King Stable - a leg up on Afleet Alex.

Afleet Alex made three trips around the walking ring then proceeded out to the main track about five minutes later. He paraded down the middle of the track toward the grandstand, and then retraced his path to finish up in the winner's circle.

Afleet Alex had been walking four times a day the past two weeks. On Thursday, X-rays were taken of his left leg and e-mailed to Dr. Larry Bramlage at the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic in Lexington, Ky.

"[Dr. Bramlage] was very pleased with the amount of healing the last two weeks," Ritchey said.

Ritchey said Afleet Alex will continue walking four times a day and gradually move from a one- to two-mile jog the next two weeks. He will then move on to a gallop.

"He went perfect today and yesterday," Ritchey said. "Because he has been walking two to two and a half hours a day, he still has a lot of muscle tone. He still has good fitness."

Coa committed to New York

This is jockey Eibar Coa's third stint in the New York riding colony. But this time, he said, he's here to stay.

Coa, 34, who has won several riding titles in south Florida as well as Monmouth Park, finished second in the jockey standings at Belmont and is currently fourth at Saratoga. He won 58 races at Belmont, second only to Edgar Prado's 85 wins. At Saratoga, with three days remaining at the meet, he has won 30 races - trailing Prado (43 wins), John Velazquez (37), and Jerry Bailey (32).

Coa tried New York in 1998 and 2003. In 2003, he had 28 wins at Belmont and 18 wins at Saratoga. With riding titles at Monmouth in 2001 and 2002, though, he decided to ride there in 2004 instead of returning to Belmont and Saratoga.

"I always thought I would be back," Coa said about returning to New York after leaving in 2003. "I actually planned to go to Monmouth this year. I rode the opening two days there, but that Sunday, decided to go back to Belmont. Something in my heart said now is the time. I'm happy that I'm here."

Coa said hiring agent Matt Muzikar before the Belmont meet has been an integral part of his success. He hired Muzikar because he planned to ride at Monmouth, but the success he had at Belmont - including seven wins opening week - encouraged him to stay.

Coa said he thinks much of his recent success comes from a change in his reserved demeanor the last two years.

"I never doubted myself, but for some reason I was just not getting there," Coa said. "I'm a little more open with people now. I let people know me better as a person and that has helped me."

Coa, who began riding in the U.S. in 1993, is hoping to continue his momentum in New York at the Belmont fall meet, with such top mounts as Pomeroy, who won the A.G. Vanderbilt here and is preparing to run in the Vosburgh on Oct. 1.