When Better Talk Now walks through his Fair Hill Training Center barn, no one has any doubts about who he thinks he is.
"He thinks he's the king," owner Brent Johnson said with a laugh. "He knows he's accomplished something. They walk him and he stops at every stall to take a bite of every other horse's hay like he owns the place. ... He simply exudes a confidence that says he is somebody."
Better Talk Now is horse racing's version of the Energizer Bunny. At age 9, he's still going strong.
On a trip to the United Arab Emirates, he will be one of two horses representing the United States in tomorrow's $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic.
He's a five-time Grade I winner, including the 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf and the Grade I Manhattan Handicap turf race at Belmont Park last year. Tomorrow's race will be his 43rd career start, a number indicative of his toughness. His 14 career wins are a testament to his talent.
"He's won just about every major turf race you would want to win and I think eventually people will come to appreciate him as one of the best American turf horses ever," said his trainer Graham Motion, who is in Dubai with his horse. "He's not easy on himself, but the keys to his longevity are his size -- he's built like a long distance runner, light and strong -- and his owners' patience -- they give him the winters off."
With more than $4 million in turf winnings, Better Talk Now is the second all-time money winner on the turf behind John Henry. And like the late John Henry, Better Talk Now can be "cantankerous," Motion said. He added, however, that the horse has gone from hard to ride to push button for his regular jockey Ramon Dominguez, who will ride him today and who has ridden him to all of his stakes wins.
The venerable gelding will carry 119 pounds, which is 4 pounds less than the topweighted Youmzain will carry.