Pace Assured, Better Talk Now Back in Dixie

(from Pimlico report)
After watching Better Talk Now's grand stretch kick compromised by a slow pace in last year's $250,000 Comp USA/Toshiba Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT), trainer Graham Motion is more surprised than anyone that he will saddle the 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) champion for Saturday's Pimlico renewal.

"I swore last year I'd never run him in that race again, but it's such a perfect spot to bring him back," Motion said. "He ran in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I), so he got started late this year. This is the perfect spot. Now that we have Shake The Bank the pace scenario isn't going to be an issue."

A field of seven is set for this year's 1 1/8-mile Dixie.

Better Talk Now finished fourth behind winner Cool Conductor one year ago, his late-running chances for victory diminished by slow fractions of :26 1/5, :51 4/5, 1:16 4/5 and 1:40 4/5 during the first mile of the 1 1/8-mile turf stakes. Immediately following such a major disappointment, Motion and the Brushwood Stable went on a search for "a rabbit" to run as an entry with Better Talk Now to ensure a solid early pace in his races.

The private purchase of Shake The Bank paid immediate dividends. Better Talk Now rebounded to capture the United Nations Handicap (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park in his next start. Better Talk Now also got up late to win the Man o' War (gr. IT) at Belmont Park two starts later after Shake The Bank opened up an 8-length early lead.

"I think Shake The Bank's probably a useful horse in his own right. That's why we wanted to have him, because of what happened in the Dixie last year. We never wanted to be put in that position again," Motion said. "If Better Talk Now is only going to run four or five races this year, we don't want to waste one."

Better Talk Now hasn't raced since finishing a never-threatening 12th in the Japan Cup on Nov. 27.

"He's doing really well. The Japanese trip didn't take much out of him and he had a break," Motion said. "He's really in good form. I don't see him losing a step at all at this stage."

Ramon Dominguez will ride the 7-year-old gelding that has earned $2.6 million during his 32-race career. Tommy Turner is assigned the job of setting the pace with Shake The Bank

The 2005 Dixie is also a painful memory for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, who saddled Artie Schiller for a second-place finish when he was nodded by long-shot winner Cool Conductor. Artie Schiller, who went on to capture his first grade I victory of his career in last year's NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile at Belmont Park, will be back to make amends for his tough loss in last year's Dixie.

The 5-year-old son of El Prado, the even-money morning line favorite who will be ridden by Garrett Gomez, is also looking to rebound from a nose loss to Miesque's Approval in the Maker's Mark Mile (gr. IIT) at Keeneland in his 2006 debut.

$250,000 CompUSA/Toshiba Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT, Race 10, 4:22 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. a-Shake the Bank (KY), Tom G. Turner, 118, 2/1
2. Dreadnaught (KY), Alex O. Solis, 118, 6/1
3. a-Better Talk Now (KY), Ramon A. Dominguez, 124, 2/1
4. Dr Detroit (MD), A. R. Napravnik, 118, 20/1
5. Sabre d'Argent (KY), Javier Castellano, 118, 12/1
6. Rebel Rebel (IRE), Edgar S. Prado, 118, 6/1
7. Artie Schiller (KY), Garrett K. Gomez, 124, 1/1