07/13/2013 4:14PM

Belmont Park: Notacatbutallama scores in Solar Splendor

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Tom Keyser
Notacatbutallama, ridden by John Velazquez, won the Solar Splendor Stakes by a half-length at Belmont Park on Saturday.

ELMONT, N.Y. – The connections of Notacatbutallama thought they were “stealing” when they entered their recent Grade 3 stakes winner in Saturday’s $100,000 Solar Splendor, a listed stakes at Belmont Park.

Lo and behold, the 1 1/16-mile turf race drew three other graded stakes winners, making it arguably the toughest field the New York-bred Notacatbutallama has faced to date.

But Notacatbutallama was up to the challenge, running past Joha in the final 50 yards to take the Solar Splendor by a half-length. It was Notacatbutallama’s fifth victory in 11 career starts and his fourth stakes success for owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher.

Joha, a Grade 1 winner as a 2-year-old who was making his second start off a layoff, held second after setting a comfortable early pace. It was one length farther back to Balance the Books, who finished a half-length in front of Noble Tune. The latter two horses are Grade 3 winners trained by Chad Brown.

“Testament to the horse – he shows up every time, runs hard,” said Michael McCarthy, an assistant to Pletcher. “You kind of think you’re stealing a little bit when you enter in a race like this, and Chad shows up with two very nice horses in here.”

John Velazquez, the rider of Notacatbutallama, was aware of where Noble Tune and Balance the Books were during the race. He kept Notacatbutallama in fifth position, three wide, while Noble Tune and Balance the Books were behind him.

Despite the fact that Joha was able to run a quarter-mile in 25.31 seconds, a half in 49.18, and six furlongs in 1:13.40, Velazquez remained patient before asking his horse to run outside the quarter pole. Notacatbutallama pursued Joha through the stretch before collaring him late.

Notacatbutallama, a son of Harlan’s Holiday, covered the 1 1/16 miles over good ground in 1:42.56 and returned $13.

“I know those two horses are behind me,” Velazquez said. “I wanted to make them commit inside of me and wait there as long as I could, and then when I asked him to run, he was there for me.”

Notacatbutallama likely will make his next start in the Grade 2, $200,000 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes on Aug. 9 at Saratoga, where he won a maiden race last August.