With over $20 million of prize-money – not forgetting 'champion' status to each winner – it wouldn't be surprising if the Breeders' Cup meeting was at times taken a little too seriously.
But thankfully there is an antidote, and it comes in the form of the owners of John Deere Turf (gr. IT) candidate Better Talk Now, who are high school chums Karl Barth and Brent Johnson, and Chris Dywer, who met Johnson while at law school.
Devoted Web surfers may have noticed that Better Talk Now is the proud owner of his own page on myspace.com, on which he introduces himself thus: "Hello, I am one of the best distance turf horses of the past decade. I have won four Grade I stakes, including the 2004 Breeder's Cup Turf".
His 'like to meet' section is listed as "Film Maker, Sweet Talker, Five by Five, Honey Ryder, Angara, Jeannine Edwards," while 'friends' signed up to his page include – apparently – Diddy, MC Hammer, and Paris Hilton.
Favorite films are Phar Lap
; while Better Talk Now's favorite TV programs are listed as Mr Ed
and Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Virginia-based Barth describes the Web site as "just a joke that Better Talk Now set up for the benefit of the owners (who race as Bushwood Stables) and Graham and Anita (Motion, Better Talk Now's trainer and his wife). It was never aimed at the public and mostly consists of inside jokes that probably wouldn't be funny to anyone else.
"I think he (Better Talk Now) most likely sneaks into Graham's offices at night to log onto the computer. I suspect that if Graham provided more entertainment for them, the horses would engage in more productive hobbies. At least the MySpace page keeps him (the horse, that is, not the trainer) from surfing the adult sites!"
On a slightly more serious note, Barth says: "We're looking forward to competing against the best horses in the world at Churchill Downs. There is not really overwhelming interest in Better Talk Now given all that he's accomplished. Despite winning four Grade I races, including the Breeders' Cup, the alleged 'experts' never give him the credit he deserves."
Perhaps that is why the Bushwood boys are keen to campaign the 7-year-old overseas.
"We ran in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) last year (12th of 18 to Alkaased), and it was a tremendous experience," says Barth. "Unfortunately, the Japan Cup is probably too close to the Breeders' Cup this year, but we are strongly considering the Hong Kong Vase (HK-I) in December. We seriously considered running in the Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) this year, but we could not work through the financial or logistical problems with running in Australia."
To own a horse like Better Talk Now is a dream for Barth, Johnson and Dwyer.
"Brent and I are friends from high school, and started going to the track together when we were 16 or so. We met Chris when he attended law school with Brent. We always dreamed of owning a big-time horse. We started buying horses right after college, and although we had one minor stakes winner previously, Better Talk Now is our first real exposure to the upper tier of racing. We have enjoyed every minute of this, and are very appreciative of the remarkable job Graham has done of consistently keeping this horse at the top of the division for so many years."