He Did ALL The Talking: Better Talk Now

August 26, 2022

A perfect storm. The term used when the elements of nature combine to create massive amounts of energy. But that energy is not always destructive as storms can be.

Once in a while, a perfect storm will bring together a certain horse and certain humans with such energy that—there’s no other way to phrase it—it creates magic. And Better Talk Now was a wizard.

Trainer Graham Motion was the eye of the storm. Calm, measured. Better Talk Now the eye wall, tight, driving forward, swirling, drawing in his jockey and owners. 

Motion had a place where he could bring Better Talk Now down from a Category 5 to a tropical storm. Fair Hill. 

“Graham gave Better Talk Now a good spot to rest. It was good for him to be at Fair Hill,” said primary owner Brent Johnson of Bushwood Stables.

Graham Motion with Better Talk Now at Fair Hill. Photo by Maggie Kimmit.

Better Talk Now, who was lovingly referred to as “Blackie,” because of the black cast to his dark brown coat, wasn’t the kind of horse you would see little kids feeding a carrot to. In fact, he gave grooms and other barn staff quite a challenge in his care. 

“I remember when Blackie came to us, and he was part of our lives for so many years. He was always larger than life; King of the Hill, and he knew it. And if you didn’t realize that you learned very quickly!” said Maggie Kimmit, who works at Herrigswell Stables and was close to Better Talk Now.

When asked what one word he would use to describe Better Talk Now, Motion said emphatically “cantankerous.” Just for clarification, Merriam-Webster’s definition of cantankerous is “difficult to deal with.”

Motion explained: “Better Talk now was quite ornery, quick to grab you especially when he was fit. He gave the staff quite a time, gave Anita [Motion, Graham’s wife] a time at a Breeders’ Cup where we were short-staffed. 

“Being at Fair Hill and being turned out helped a lot. It helped him relax. He definitely was quirky,” said Motion. 

Better Talk Now was a warrior horse. Spirited and headstrong, charging forward once his rider gave him the signal. The key was tapping into his spirit and how to get the horse to the point in the race to let him go.

Most people who are unfamiliar with racing don’t realize the strategy involved. The first point is you have to get the horse onto the training track.

Blackie Breezing on the Fair Hill training track under his regular rider Fenella O’Flynn. Photo courtesy of Herringswell Stables.

When I told Lisa Davidson, one of Better Talk Now’s regular exercise riders, I heard he was a bit difficult to get to the track and asked how he was to get there for training she explained: “He was happy to get on the track in the morning as long as he thought what you were asking was his idea,” Davidson said.

“Sometimes I had to push him a bit because he knew he had to save something for the race that day, but he liked to get out there and run with the other horses,” she continued.

Lisa said they would take him with a group of horses. Trainer Motion usually had Better Talk Now work in company. 

“I had to gently coax him. Once he got going, he was OK on his own,” Lisa said.

“His exercise rider had him figured out, Lisa Davidson. She’s a very special rider,” Motion remarked about Davidson.

Better Talk Now liked to be in a group of horses and in a race, he needed to be in a group of horses. 

Beginnings

Better Talk Now was foaled in Kentucky on February 25, 1999. Bred by Diane Perkins on her Wimborne Farm, Perkins trained and campaigned her homebred through the first five of his 51 starts.

Blackie’s sire, Talkin Man was the winner of the Coronation Futurity, Grey Stakes (G3) and Swynford as a 2-year-old. He was champion 2-year-old colt in Canada in 1994. In his sophomore year Talkin Man won the Wood Memorial and Gotham, both G2. He finished with five wins and one second out of ten career starts and earned $677,967.

Unlike his son, Talkin Man would come just off the pace to a rally win. Occasionally setting the pace, he wired the Wood Memorial. 

Talkin Man stood at Walmac in Kentucky from 1996 to 2000, Anson Stud in Canada from 2001-2002 and then went to Ireland.

Talking Man’s pedigree is a mix of Canadian, U. S., British, Irish, and French influential champions, sires, and Reines de course.

His dam, Bendita, from whom Blackie gets his color, was also bred by Diane Perkins at her Wimborne Farm. The mare has a mix of Canadian, U. S. and British breeding, even Australian in her top, but her bottom save one stallion, is all French. 

The Baldski mare, whose grandsires were Nijinski (CAN) and Bon Mot (FR), was no slouch on the track. Out of her nineteen starts Bendita won five, placed in six including the Bal Harbour at Hialeah and was third in two with career earnings of $89,087. 

There is a race at Saratoga on Sunday, August 28 named for a particular racehorse who brought a bit of magic to his races. The $135,000 Better Talk Now Stakes is Race 8 posting at 5:05 PM ET.

Turf Specialist: 51 Intriguing Starts

On the track, Better Talk Now was spectacular. But it took him a while to get going. Five starts in fact.

The first start for Diane Perkins’ homebred was on the dirt at Keeneland on October 21, 2001, under Robby Albarado. These are the Equibase Footnotes: bobbled at the start, was checked, then never reached contention. Better Talk Now had finished tenth. So, he was given a little time to mature. 

Fast forward to April 7, 2002, again at Keeneland at seven furlongs on the dirt under Rene Douglas. A little better result with sixth out of 12 starters. Notes: outrun into the stretch, passed tired rivals. 

Then we come to two MSW races in June at Churchill Downs where Perkins stretches him out of a mile and a sixteenth on dirt. 

June 2 Calvin Borel is up to take seconds by 1 3/4 lengths. On June 19 Borel is again in the irons, but the team finishes a bit farther back. But, a second is second. And Better Talk Now’s speed figures are moving up exponentially. 85, 93 respectively. We’re getting closer! 

In fact, he broke his maiden in the last race he ran for Mrs. Perkins. It was a notable start because it was his first start on turf. Further notable because he won by nine lengths under Calvin Borel. He didn’t break his maiden, he shattered it.

There’s much more to this story. Brent Johnson was anxiously watching that particular race at home sweating the outcome. Johnson and his partners had made an offer to Perkins to purchase Better Talk Now, and the deal could hinge on this particular race.

But that wasn’t the first race of Better Talk Now’s Johnson had watched with interest. 

“I saw him run June 2, 2002, at Churchill Downs on dirt. I watched the way his legs came up, he moved like a turf horse. He has turf in his pedigree. His dam, Bendita, has a turf pedigree,” Johnson said.

“He had a style of staying in the back then had a kick for closing,” Johnson said.

Brent Johnson. Courtesy of Brent Johnson

Johnson is in a partnership with Karl Barth and Chris Dwyer and the trio campaign in the robin’s egg blue and white silks of their Bushwood Stables.

Johnson continued: “Better Talk Now isn’t big, he’s only 15.3 hands. He only weighs about 1,000 pounds. He was built like a filly.

“I really wanted to put him on the turf.

“I developed my own method of formulating speed figures and his came up high on turf,” Johnson said.

Johnson went to his partners.

“We decided to contact Better Talk Now’s owner, Diane Perkins, and make a private offer of $75,000. She declined,” Johnson said.

Keep in mind at this point Better Talk Now had yet to break his maiden in four starts on dirt. 

Perkin contacted Johnson and said she would sell the horse—for $200,000.

“We’re not a big outfit with a lot of horses. We can’t make big investments,” Johnson said.

The partnership offered $125,000. Perkins declined. 

As fate would have it, Perkins contacted Johnson again and said she would sell him the horse for $150,000. But there was a caveat. She wanted to run him in a turf race at Churchill Downs. 

Johnson said anxiety set in and the “what if’s” circulated in his mind. What if he wins and she decides not to sell him? What if he doesn’t win and his handicapping method proves inaccurate? 

So, Johnson sat anxiously at home watching the race on television. 

Mrs. Perkins followed through with the deal after the race as she was planning to go to her house in Argentina two weeks after the race. 

And Johnson held his breath until Better Talk Now was loaded onto that trailer for his trip to Fair Hill in Maryland.

Dominguez and Motion at Pimlico Race Course after winning the 2004 G2 Dixie. Photo courtesy of Horse-Racing.net.

Changing of the Guard

Sometimes where a horse finishes in a race on paper doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s especially true in races such as the Kentucky Derby which can take an earnest run into a failed race due to traffic like it’s on the Capital Beltway. 

Take Better Talk Now’s race at Saratoga on August 11, 2002, an allowance. Picture a field of 10 all bunched together. The finish: Nose, 1 1/4, nose, head, head, head, head, nose, and a couple of others right behind. That was Better Talk Now. He was 2 3/4 lengths stuck behind the nose head head, you get the idea. This time Javier Castellano was aboard and Graham Motion was now in charge.

Seemingly up for the challenge Motion would run Better Talk Now back three weeks later stepping way up in the Saranac Handicap G3 at Saratoga. At a mile and three sixteenths it would be the gelding’s longest race. And it was again on the turf. 

I asked Graham why he moved him up to stakes company so quickly when it took him so long to break his maiden?

“We watched his morning work caliber, and he was very impressive. We believed he was a stakes quality horse,” he said.

Under Robbie Davis, Better Talk Now broke from post 3, settled into eighth, and never moved further than sixth. Whether outclassed or outdistanced, it was not to be Blackie’s nor Motion’s day.

Motion had his work cut out for him.

A month later the team included Eibar Coa getting the leg up on Better Talk Now in an allowance at Delaware Park on October 1, 2001. At a mile and an eighth on turf Blackie broke from post six, and stayed in position six but then … he made a bid and he and his pilot “drew off smartly” to take the win by 3 3/4 lengths in a final time of 1:52.38. Seems “Team Blackie” was feeling the momentum. 

That was followed by another allowance victory on November 2 at Aqueduct, where Better Talk Now picked up yet another new jockey. This was a seasoned jockey that could teach the young gelding a few things including patience. Hall of Famer Edgar Prado would get the leg up and the expert pilot garnered a 3 1/4 length victory in the one and an eighth-mile turf challenge. 

Blackie would get a little break before his next start at the Fair Grounds on December 28 and yet another jockey change with Ramon Dominguez in the irons. This pairing would prove to be fortuitous. However, the results of the race were not. Dominguez put the gelding in a position where Blackie challenged at the 1/2 mile and then lead in the stretch, but he just faded back to eight in a field of 11.

Dominguez became Better Talk Now’s regular jockey in 2005 and the dynamics of the storm changed. But Dominguez first encountered the willful gelding in 2002.

Dominguez recounted his first race with Better Talk Now being a huge learning experience. Never let Blackie in the clear, especially too soon. 

“In the first race where I rode him, at the Fair Grounds. He was very intense going into the first turn. He pulled and I couldn’t get a hold of him, he was very rank, so I briefly moved him into the clear to collect his legs and get him to relax and he took off and ran for a 16th of a mile and after that he was done. 

“I realized my mistake was he has to be behind horses to make him relax more, keep him “covered up” as the Europeans say. 

“After that, I knew I had to keep him behind horses. Get him to relax, keep him on the inside, he can’t be on the outside, and wait until I could make my move for position to let him go in the last 16th of a mile. 

“We didn’t know what kind of horse he was going to be at that point,” Dominguez said.

To kick off his 4-year-old year, Motion sent Better Talk Now down to Gulfstream Park and again put Prado in charge. Blackie would come off the pace to rally in another exciting finish where all three top places were separated by necks. 

Dominguez would take Better Talk Now in hand at one and one-eighth miles on the run in the Eight Thirty Stakes at Delaware Park on June 29, 2003, the pair would prevail in a race where a neck determined all three top finishers.

Rene Douglas would get the mount in the Arlington Handicap in July where Better Talk Now placed second again by a neck. The black gelding seemed to like a challenge. This time at one and a quarter mile, the longest distance yet. 

Again, under Douglas, Blackie would go up to Woodbine, and again move up to graded stakes company and place third in the G2 Niagra Breeders’ Cup Handicap on August 30. 

A failed attempt at G3 Sycamore Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland on October 4 under Douglas didn’t discourage Motion. The following month at Aqueduct November 11 in the G2 Knickerbocker Better Talk Now would score his first graded stakes under Edgar Prado by 1/2 a length beating Jerry Bailey on Del Mar Show who got the show spot by a neck. 

This success would lead to another layoff for five months to end his 4-year-old campaign. 

The 2003 Knickerbocker. Photo by Adam Coglianese

Coming back in April 2004 under Douglas Better Talk Now would have an unsuccessful result but, again, this didn’t discourage Motion who had total faith in his stalwart gelding. His speed figures remained steady fast.

Better Talk Now would run in stakes for the rest of his 5-year-old year. Second in the Battlefield at Monmouth under Stewart Elliot, Second in the G2 Bowling Green at Saratoga under Jose Santos.  

Then under Ramon Dominguez on August 12, 2004, Better Talk Now was rewarded with his first Grade 1 stakes, the Sword Dancer at Saratoga by 1 1/2 lengths. And this time he was totally stretched out at a mile and a half. 

“The [2004] Sword Dancer was the race where he relaxed, and I could get him to the position I needed,” Dominguez said.  

(Equibase notes on the Sword Dancer: was rated along inside, saved ground while well in hand, angled out and advanced nearing the stretch, responded when roused, finished gamely outside and was clear under the wire.) 

Hall of Famer Edgar Prado had also piloted Better Talk Now several times. 

Edgar said that he was very strong and would pull, lost races because of it. 

“You have to have finesse, find a horse’s sweet spot, not fight a horse because you will never win,” Prado said. 

Everyone said Better Talk Now had a bad habit of lugging in. 

Prado said the change in bit and addition of extended blinkers helped. 

Better Talk Now was the boss but all business on the track on race day. Except, maybe, for getting over to and in the gate. 

“In fact, one of the guys at the starting gate at Saratoga commented to me last weekend that he remembers Better Talk Now being so difficult to load. They had trouble getting him off the dirt course onto the grass to get him to the gate. It was nerve-racking,” Motion recounted.

All the little quirks you have to work out in your mind as an exercise rider, trainer, jockey, and, of course, gate worker. 

But once the gate opened … 

“Ramon had it down to an art. He seemed to know exactly what to do,” Motion said.

Dominguez had him calm, cool, and collected on the backstretch just behind the slowest horses keeping Better Talk Now covered, letting the pacesetters move ahead burning energy. As they came around the far turn and accelerated to gain position, Dominguez would carefully move Better Talk Now up in the pack of horses to the tiring leaders, still covered, awaiting an opportunity to thread his way through traffic. 

Once there was an opening he would slip through as the leaders would give it their all to catch Better Talk Now who still had enough in the tank to sprint in the last sixteenth of a mile for his traditional win by a neck thrilling fans. 

Normally owners and trainers would be a bit jittery but they were used to Better Talk Now’s style and trusted Ramon’s skill implicitly. 

The 2007 Manhattan at Belmont Park. Photo by Adam Coglianese

Motion continued to spot Better Talk Now in graded stakes with some very good results. And some that required a few adjustments. Dominguez finished fourth with him in the G1 Man o’ War at Belmont. The Equibase notes say he was outrun early. Seems as if he got his on the loose too soon. Nothing left in the last sixteenth of a mile.

Johnson also recalled the second most anxious moment with Better Talk Now. Waiting for the result of the inquiry after his gelding crosse the finish line first in the 2004 G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Lone Star Park. 

“Ramon and Better Talk Now are coming up the backstretch almost not moving. Ramon totally understood the horse.” Johnson explains. 

“Power’s Court and Kitten’s Joy were being ridden hard. Ramon makes a huge move and swoops past six or seven horses came in the clear for the stretch run.”

Dominguez had angled out on the far turn and rapidly closed the gap on the turn. He circled five wide rallying into the stretch charged to the front then drew away under steady left-hand urging.”

Better Talk now won by 1 3/4 lengths. Then it came. The inquiry.

The objection by Powerscourt’s jockey Jamie Spencer was that Better Talk Now drifted in in midstretch. The Equibase notes state Better Talk Now drifted in “slightly” and Powercourt “brushed with the winner while drifting out.” 

“It took five minutes for them to come back with a decision. I was literally sweating,” Johnson said. 

“A DQ in a $2 million dollar race would have been devastating,” Johnson said. 

And the decision came. No change of order. 

Better Talk Now, Graham Motion, Ramon Dominguez and Bushwood Stables had just won the G1 Breeders’ Cup. And a large chunk of a $2 million purse.

“We won our first Breeders’ Cup race with Better Talk Now, also, Ramon. It was a real turning point in our careers.” Motion said.

The 2005 G1 John Deer Breeders’ Cup Turf. All photos courtesy of Horse-Races.net.

Blackie was a handful in his next start in the G1 Hollywood Turf Cup in December. Based on the notes on Equibase. Pulled inside then outside a rival, tugged his way up three deep to prompt the pace on the backstretch and last turn, took a short lead into the stretch, battled between horses and drifted out a bit in midstretch and also weakened in the final furlong. 

The black gelding would kick off his 2005 campaign with Ramon Dominguez as his regular rider and the team could score a victory in their first outing in the G3 Fort Marcy Handicap at Aqueduct. At 1-1/16 miles, still on the turf, Better Talk Now moved inside under the patient hands of Dominguez and dug in to win by a neck.

The team would go on to run in all graded stakes that year, mostly Grade 1s. A fourth place in the G2 Dixie at Pimlico, a victory in the G1 United Nations at Monmouth Park, their first Grade 1 victory. Then another fourth place in the Arlington Million in August. 

Better Talk Now going for the lead in the G1 United National. Photo by Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Better Talk Now’s team decided they needed a new strategy. 

The G1 Man o’ War in September at Belmont Park had Better Talk Now starting as #1A coupled with #1 Shake the Bank ridden by Tommy Tune. 

“His racing style, he tended to lug in, lean on other horses. We had him gelded around the time of his race at Delaware Park. Then added extension blinkers so he wouldn’t lean on other horses. And we needed a rabbit,” Remarked Motion.

As owner Brent Johnson said: “Rabbits are commonly used in racing in Europe but infrequently seen in [North America]. We needed a horse to set the pace. So, we put in Shake the Bank.” 

Strategy.

Shake the Bank broke from post 4, jumped to the lead, and held it. Better Talk Now broke from post 5 and comfortably settled into ninth just behind Dreanaught (Jean-uc Samyn up), Vangelis (Edgar Prado up), and Swordsman (GER) (Pablo Fragoso up) with Stage Call (IRE) was close behind under Mike Smith.

As King’s Drama (IRE) (John Velazquez up) and Relaxed Gesture (IRE) (Corey Nakatani up) chased Shake the Bank as he held the lead by eight lengths, Better Talk Now was relaxed and rated coming around the turn. 

The Man o’ War. Photo by Adam Coglianese

When they hit the straight and Shake the Bank faded back to tenth, Relaxed Gesture briefly took the lead and Ramon Dominguez went three wide to get position moving into third then let Better Talk Now loose. They would take the win by a neck over King’s Drama. 

Shake the Bank would finish eleventh. Strategy.

Man o’ War at Belmont Park followed by still again a fourth place this time under Hall of Fame Jockey John Velazquez. 

Back with Domingues in the irons Better Talk Now had a troubled seventh in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf where he saved ground early, lodged a brief four-wide move midway on the turn, and flattened out. 

A month later he would become an international runner traveling to Tokyo to run in the Japan Cup to finish a disappointing 12 closing out his 6-year-old campaign. Conditioner Motion would give him a six-month layup before his next start.

The break in 2006 seemed to agree with Better Talk Now as he began his 7-year-old campaign with a sweet victory at Pimlico in the 1 1/8 mile G2 Dixie on Preakness weekend. The win meant a great deal to Motion as he had begun his career at Pimlico. It was also memorable for Dominguez as he was also a regular rider on the Maryland circuit as well as in Delaware.

As usual, Better Talk Now came from behind and won by a neck.

The 2006 Dixie at Pimlico Race Course. Photos courtesy of Horse-Racing.net.

I asked if a mile, mile and an eighth was Better Talk Now’s best distance. 

“As he got more mature, he liked 1 1/4, 1 1/2 miles, Motion said.”

Motion would give Better Talk Now a little more time off with a turnout at Herringswell at Fair Hill until his next start at Monmouth in the G1 United Nations but with different results this time. He finished fifth and the notes said he needed response. 

But Better Talk Now’s speed figures remained blazing in the hundreds on Equibase.

After a bothered start produced a seventh in the G1 Arlington Million in August Better Talk Now and Dominguez found their footing in the G2 Sky Classic at Woodbine scoring the win again by his customary neck. They followed up with a second place in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs in November with a 123 Equibase Speed Figure (ESF). This would close out the stalwart gelding’s 7-year-old campaign.

Again, Motion would give Better Talk Now some downtime at Fair Hill. His first start as an 8-year-old—yes, an 8-year-old—would be at Churchill Downs in May on Kentucky Derby weekend in the G1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. In a cluster of runners fighting for the lead all separated by a neck he would finish a very game fourth. 

The rest of his 8-year-old year would be very productive with a victory by a neck in the G1 Manhattan at Belmont, a third place by a neck in the G1 United Nations in July, then a fourth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf in October.

Recognizing his age but still knowing the black beauty still had potential and the desire to run, Motion gave Better Talk Now a turnout in after the Breeders’ Cup. 

His 9-year-old campaign began in February 2008 in the Fair Grounds Handicap with a lackluster run where the notes said he was “devoid of speed.” 

On March 29 he would travel to Dubai to run in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic at Nad Al Sheba.. The trip must have been taxing on him because he finished ninth. But Better Talk Now was not done.

After a two-month break, Motion would have the stalwart gelding back in the G1 Manhattan at Belmont on June 7. A race that he had won before with a thrilling stretch run this time he made a late run coming from last but it was too late. Even with his lucky rabbit, Shake the Bank who led until the straight, Better Talk Now got no better than fifth place. 

A month later at Belmont with no lucky rabbit, Better Talk now grabbed third In the Man o’ War rallying from seventh. Much his old self. He followed up with a second in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga, again, no rabbit. Pretty nice results for a 9-year-old. And his ESFs were blistering. 119 in the Man o’ War, 116 in the Sword Dancer. 

Motion gave Better Talk Now three more starts in 2008. It seemed as if the gelding was slowing a bit. While his speed figures were still triple-digit he didn’t seem to have that bolt for that flashy finish rallying off the pace to clip his competitors by a neck.

He would travel to Woodbine in September for the G1 Northern Dancer Turf and finish seventh. At Oak Tree in October, he placed eighth in his fifth and final Breeders’ Cup Turf. 

But Motion sensed Better Talk Now was saying I’m not ready. So Motion gave him what had become his customary turnout from October until April.

Now all of 10 years old, Better Talk Now made his 49th career start at Keeneland on April 24, 2009, in the G2 Elkhorn. Coming from all the way back, his style throughout his career, he made a late bid but could not get past the competition and ended up in sixth place. Was he done? Really done? 

Um, no. Better Talk Now would go out on his own terms.

Motion would give him two more starts in very familiar races—the Manhattan at Belmont and the Sword Dancer at Saratoga. 

For the Manhattan Ramon Dominguez had committed to ride Court Vision so Motion gave 2005 Preakness and Belmont winner Jeremy Rose the leg up. Coming from eleventh Rose and Better Talk Now were able to rally and take third. Admirable for a 10-year-old in his 50th start.

As is fitting, Dominguez was back aboard for Better Talk Now’s final start—number 51. All in all they had made — starts together. This was the Sword Dancer. The race where it all started to happen five years ago. First Graded 1 they won each and together. It was so fitting to go out on this race. 

The stage was set for the ten-horse field, August 15, 2008, at Saratoga. Breaking from post 8, Dominguez quickly relaxed and rated Better Talk Now into eighth right behind Brass Hat and in front of Gentleman Chester and Grand Coutier (GB), his cover. And there the pair galloped unhurried through the opening mile until it was time. Time to make that rallying move. Under Dominguez’s direction, they launched a rally leaving the far turn, swung five wide at the quarter pole, and made a run from outside to threaten in midstretch. They couldn’t catch the leader, Telling, but Better Talk Now hit the board in second by two lengths. 

2008 Sword Dancer at Saratoga. Photo by Maggie Kimmit.

The fans as well as his team were thrilled and Better Talk Now ended his career with recorded stats of 51 starts, fourteen wins of which four were Grade 1’s, eight seconds and five third-place finishes with earnings of $4,356,664.

Now he was done. But not talking. And not being the boss.

Better Talk Now’s last race: The G1 Sword Dancer

Blackie: Life After Racing

After Blackie retired from the track, he went to live out his days in his familiar pasture at Fair Hill. The following was written by Maggie Kimmit from Herringswell Stables at Fair Hill.

Maggie’s one descriptive word for Blackie: Irreplaceable. 

“Blackie adjusted to retirement pretty seamlessly. Happily, for all of us, there was never any question that he would remain here at Fair Hill. It was his home and his routine, and I do believe that made the life change much easier for him.

The thing I will always remember is how he so clearly understood when people came to Fair Hill just to visit him….and come they did. He had very loyal fans. He’d walk to the fence, pose for endless photos and enjoy entirely too many peppermints! 

Blackie with his bestie Gala Spinaway. Photo by Elaine Kucharski

His BFF was undoubtedly Gala Spinaway. The “Grumpy Old Men,” they were extremely devoted to each other. Gala was 11 years older than Blackie, and a very accomplished stakes winner in his own right. He let Blackie think he was the Big Cheese…but Gala was the man. 

He didn’t really attach to any one person. We ALL doted on him, always. The day Ramon Dominguez came down to visit was wonderful. It was great to see them together.

I was one of a handful of people at New Bolton Center on Blackie’s last day, and it was an unforgettable experience. You realize in those moments what profound lessons these animals teach us, and the true impact they have on our lives. They become such a part of our hearts.

The one word that immediately comes to mind whenever I think of him is “irreplaceable.” I can’t imagine another one like him. 

Blackie in a pasture at Fair Hill. Photo by Maggie Kimmit.

The Inevitable End

It was the drive none of us wanted to make – heading up Route 1 toward Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa. That’s never a good thing, even under the best circumstances. But Fenella, Su Chung and I knew exactly what awaited. We were going to say goodbye to Better Talk Now.

We had all known since earlier in the day that this outcome was a strong possibility. Anita Motion broke the news to me as soon as I arrived for work that morning. Fenella ran into Graham Motion at the barn where he shared the same update with her.

“He could barely get the words out,” she said.

Graham and Anita saw Blackie the night before, and Anita posted a photo on social media of him with his head hanging out of his intensive care stall, enjoying the breeze from his fan. Graham even remarked that “he seemed content.”

To read more of Maggie Kimmit’s moving tribute to Blackie’s last day read “Better Talk Now: Tme to say goodbye” in This Is Horseracing, click here

2009 Sword Dancer at Saratoga, Better Talk Now’s last race. Photo by Maggie Kimmit.

In gratitude…

I would like to thank all of those who contributed so much to this story. All of Blackie’s people: Graham and Anita Motion, Maggie Kimmit, Brent Johnson, Lisa Davidson, Fenella O’Flynn, Ramon Dominguez, Edgar Prado, and everyone at Herringswell Stables. And, I would really like to thank all of the talented photographers who allowed us to include their photos as part of this story. Adam Coglianese/NYRA, Bill Denver/EQUI-SPORT, Cindy Pierson-Dulay/Horse-Races.net, Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club. This story wouldn’t have happened without their kinds contributions. But there wouldn’t be a story without the fabulous Better Talk Now. Thank you, Blackie!!! 

By Maribeth Kalinich; Maggie Kimmit, Contributor; Amber Joyce, Editorial Contributor

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Maribeth Kalinich, Senior Editor, Graphic Designer

Maribeth Kalinich grew up in a family with a love for horses, a passion for Thoroughbred horse racing and a taste for playing the ponies....

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