Better Talk Now drove past Del Mar Show and pacesetter Millennium Dragon to register a gritty half-length victory in the $150,000 Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. IIT) at Aqueduct Saturday.
Starting on the extreme inside post in the 1 1/8-mile turf test, jockey Edgar Prado rated the 4-year-old Talkin Man gelding on the inside in the middle of the 12-horse field, swinging to the outside in upper stretch and prevailing over Del Mar Show. Millennium Dragon was third, a neck behind the runner-up and 2 3/4 lengths in front of Request for Parole.
"He's got a nice turn of foot the last part," said Prado. "He's not an easy horse to ride. You've got to keep him covered up."
Favored Quest Star was fifth with jockey John Velazquez. The final nine-furlong time was 1:50 2/5 on a turf course rated "good."
Graham Motion trains Better Talk Now for owner Brushwood Stable.
Millennium Dragon, ridden by Richard Migliore, nearly made every pole a winning one while carving out easy fractions of :24 3/5, :50, 1:14 and 1:38 1/5. Del Mar Show, with Jerry Bailey aboard, was a close-up third at the rail before rallying up alongside the leader in the stretch and battling gamely between the three contenders to the wire. Request for Parole was steadied in close quarters on the final turn while finishing up well. Quest Star had to alter course in the stretch.
"I thought I was going to be first or second going into the first turn," Velazquez said of the favorite. "Instead, I was behind horses. He broke a little slow. I started chirping at him on the backstretch and just got nothing. He didn't show up today."
Better Talk Now ended a three-race losing streak while registering his first graded stakes victory. He was ninth – beating just one – in his most recent start, the 1 1/2-mile Sycamore Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland Oct. 4. The bay won for the sixth time in 17 career starts while picking up a $90,000 winning purse. His total earnings improved to $337,437.
"He had a terrible post at Keeneland going a mile and a half," Motion said. "He was all the way on the outside. We tried to save ground in that race, and he got rank. That's why we figured we would cut back to a mile and an eighth.
"I love the post position today (inside). He has a tendency to lean on horses a little bit. He's a very gutty horse. Anytime you have Edgar (Prado) on and you are in touch with an eighth of a mile to go, you feel pretty good. This is the kind of effort I expected all year."
Wimborne Farm bred Better Talk Now, who is out of the dam Bendita (by Baldski), in Kentucky.
The 6-1 second choice paid $15.60, $8.60 and $7.20. Del Mar Show returned $9.10 and $6.50. Millennium Dragon's show was $9.60. The $2 exacta was worth $117.