When Bushwood Stable's Better Talk Now wins, it's usually close. Under Ramon Dominguez, the late closer gutted out a three-horse photo by a head to win Sunday's $269,156 Sky Classic Stakes (Can-II) on a yielding turf at Woodbine.
Better Talk Now, who captured the 2004 John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) on a yielding surface, outfought local hopes Jambalaya, who was second by a nose, and Last Answer in a tense battle down the long stretch of the E.P. Taylor course. He took the 1 3/8-mile contest in a time of 2:18.50.
Last Answer, a runner-up in his past three races, went straight to the lead for jockey Emile Ramsammy, cutting slow fractions of :25.78, :50.95, 1:15.58 and a mile in 1:40.52. Better Talk Now, who likes a fast pace to help his closing style, was four-wide into the stretch after sitting sixth in the seven-horse field and prevailed in the final strides.
"He has also run in some races where it seems like it's going to be paceless," said Dominguez, regular rider of the 7-year-old gelding, the 9-5 favorite. "As long as he relaxes, he can get it done. He can be his own worst enemy when he gets a little too keyed up. He's an old pro. He knows what needs to be done to win."
For conditioner Graham Motion, it was yet another splendid effort from the lifetime winner of 13 races from 36 starts. Better Talk Now came into the Sky Classic off a seventh-place finish to The Tin Man in the Arlington Million (gr. IT) on Aug. 12. He earned $161,064 and has banked $2,953,141 in his career.
"I've said all along this year, I think this horse is every bit as good as he was when he won the Breeders' Cup," praised Motion.
Even in defeat, Jambalaya, last year's Breeders' Stakes and Saranac Handicap (gr. IIIT) winner, put forth one of the strongest efforts in his 14-race career.
"I think he ran the race of his life," said jockey Jono Jones, who won last year's Sky Classic with 2005 Horse of the Year, A Bit O'Gold. "I had a perfect trip. I was right on the rail. That was probably the best going."
Better Talk Now could use the Sky Classic win as a springboard to the $2 million Pattison Canadian International (Can-I) set for Oct. 22 at Woodbine.
"I think there's a pretty good chance. The International is a very prestigious race in its own right. We're going to have to get together and decide whether to choose that or the Breeders' Cup," said Motion.
Better Talk Now is the first horse to have competed at Woodbine after winning a Breeders' Cup race since 1998, the year after Sam-Son Farm's Chief Bearhart won the Breeders' Cup Turf.
He paid $5.70, $3.70 and $2.50, while Jambalaya ($5.10 and $3.80), rounded out an $38.10 exacta. Last Answer ($3.10) completed a $107.30 trifecta.
Grand Couturier, Pellegrino, Silver Whistle and Colorful Judgement followed.