Better Talk Now, shown winning the 2007 Manhattan, looks to repeat in the 2008 version.

Better Talk Now, shown winning the 2007 Manhattan, looks to repeat in the 2008 version.

Jeffrey Snyder

Better Talk Now Seeks Manhattan Repeat

Einstein has been held out of the June 7 race because of a licensing issue.

Bushwood Stables’ seemingly timeless 9-year-old gelding Better Talk Now will seek a rare repeat in the prestigious $400,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) June 7 at Belmont Park, but will have to take down 11 talented rivals, including a pair of talented horses saddled by Bobby Frankel, who has won this event three times himself.

The 10-furlong Manhattan, which is on the inner turf, will be run as race 10 on the program, one race before the $1-million Belmont Stakes (gr. I). it is the third leg of the guaranteed $1-million late Pick 4.

The omission of probable betting favorite Einstein in the Manhattan is notable. One of the top turf horses in the country, Einstein was scheduled to race, but was not entered because of a licensing issue with embattled co-owner Shirley Cunningham. Cunningham, who is has been in jail since last August due to his alleged role in misappropriating millions of dollars from clients in a fen-phen settlement case, let his New York owners’ license expire last year. While Einstein had made his last two starts in Kentucky under the name of Patricia Cunningham – Shirley’s wife – New York rules require Shirley Cunningham to have an owners license as well.

The defection of Einstein now leaves the Manhattan wide-open, with Better Talk Now in improved position to become the first repeat winner of the event since Milesius did it in 1988 and 1989. Installed as the 8-1 fourth choice, Better Talk Now has not won the since last year’s Manhattan, when he prevailed by a head over English Channel. The son of Talkin Man is 0-for-2 this season, including a ninth-place finish in the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) on Dubai World Cup day March 29.

Trainer Graham Motion said Better Talk Now has recovered well from the long trip. “There were no repercussions from the Dubai trip. I’ve spoke with a few trainers that had horses ship to Dubai and all of them have said their horses have handled it well, Better Talk Now included. As far as the race, I was disappointed he did not get a piece, but he was running against some of the world’s best grass horses. I really don’t have any excuses for him, other than he was outrun a bit.”

With a 14-6-3 record from 43 career starts and more than $4 million in earnings, Better Talk Now is a rare treasure in Thoroughbred racing. Graham said people should appreciate this horse while they have a chance.

“When his racing career is over I think people are going to look back and really appreciate the horse for who he is,” Motion said. “I don’t think people have really realized how good this horse has been and the fact that he has been competitive against the best turf horses in the world for this amount of time. He has won nearly every important grade I in New York for marathon turf horses. I get pretty emotional when I talk about the career he has had. He’s a part of the family.”

Out of the Baldski mare Bendita, Better Talk Now was bred in Kentucky by Wimborne Farm. Regular rider Ramon Dominguez gets the mount. Motion will also saddle stablemate Shake the Bank as a “rabbit” for Better Talk Now, who prefers to come from off the pace.

Frankel will send out Stud TNT’s Out of Control and Gary Tanaka’s Proudinsky, who are both entering off fine efforts. Bred in Brazil, Out of Control was runner-up to Einstein in the May 3 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT), just a length back after closing ground in the nine-furlong contest. The 5-year-old son of Vettori won a pair of graded stakes last year, including the Oak Tree Mile (gr. IIT). Garrett Gomez will get the return call on the 4-1 second choice.

Proudinsky picked up his second graded stakes March 8 in the Mervin Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) at Fair Grounds and was installed as the 7-2 favorite as a result. The 5-year-old Silvano horse has been remarkably consistent in his career, going 4-3-1 from 10 starts. Bred in Germany, Proudinsky will be making his first start on the Belmont turf and his only two off-the-board finishes were at 10 furlongs.

A slew of other contenders must be considered, including Dancing Forever and Pays to Dream, who both come off of graded stakes wins. Phipps Stable’s Dancing Forever won the Fifth Third Elkhorn (gr. IIT) April 25 at Keeneland, while December Hill Farm’s Pays to Dream romped by 7 1/2 lengths on Preakness day in the Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT) while going off at 19-1.

Also with a good chance is Zabeel Racing International’s Stream of Gold. The 7-year-old Rainbow Quest gelding has won or been graded-placed in four of six events since coming to the states from the United Arab Emirates and England. Kiaran McLaughlin trains.

$400,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT, Race 10, 5:36 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Inner Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Interpatation (KY), 114, Jose Espinoza
2. Shakis (IRE), 116, Alan Garcia
3. Stalingrad (KY), 114, Channing Hill
4. Out of Control (BRZ), 117, Garrett Gomez
5. Better Talk Now, 119, (KY), Ramon Dominguez
6. Strike a Deal (KY), 115, Javier Castellano
7. Cougar Bay (IRE), 115, Eibar Coa
8. Pays to Dream (NY), 116, Edgar Prado
9. Proudinsky (GER), 118, John Velazquez
10. Dancing Forever (KY), 118, Rene Douglas
11. Shake the Bank (KY), 114, Jeremy Rose
12. Stream of Gold (IRE), 118, Robby Albarado