07/11/2013 4:23PM

Belmont Park: Solar Splendor draws a top-notch cast

Tom Keyser
Noble Tune looks sharp winning the American Turf at Churchill Downs.

ELMONT, N.Y. – On the day when Belmont Park hosts the Grade 1 Man o’ War, the track also honors a two-time winner of that race by running the $100,000 Solar Splendor Stakes, which drew an excellent field of 3-year-old turf horses.

Four of the nine horses in this 1 1/16-mile race – presumably a prep for next month’s Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga – are already graded stakes winners, including the uncoupled entry of Noble Tune and Balance the Books from the barn of trainer Chad Brown. When last they ran in the same race, Noble Tune finished a neck in front of Balance the Books when the pair finished second and third, respectively, in last November’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Noble Tune, a son of Unbridled’s Song, is 2 for 3 as a 3-year-old, the year highlighted by a smart-looking victory in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill on May 3. Most recently, he finished fifth in the $460,000 Penn Mile, a race from which he emerged ill, according to Brown.

“He scoped sick,” Brown said. “I’m not a big excuse guy, but that horse, he’s never been sick before and he’s never run bad before. He certainly can run better than that. He’s been clean and healthy since. He won’t have any excuse going into this race.”

As a 2-year-old, Noble Tune won the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes at 1 1/16 miles – the distance of the Solar Splendor – over yielding Belmont turf.

Javier Castellano rides Noble Tune from post 5.

In the Solar Splendor, Balance the Books will be returning to the turf for the first time since the Breeders’ Cup. A son of Lemon Drop Kid, Balance the Books missed running in the Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream because of an illness and was re-routed to the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, where he finished 11th of 12.

He then ran in the Blue Grass Stakes, where he finished sixth, beaten 4 1/4 lengths.

Brown said Balance the Books came out of that race “a tired horse,” and he elected to back off and regroup.

“I needed to stop and start over,” Brown said. “He’s too good of a horse to go off form like that. He’s training pretty well right now.”

Joel Rosario will ride Balance the Books from the rail.

Notacatbutallama was second to Noble Tune in the Pilgrim last year, but is coming off a game neck victory in the Grade 3 Hill Prince here June 15. John Velazquez rides from post 9.

Joha, who won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity last October at Keeneland, faded to 10th in the Hill Prince, his first start in eight months. His trainer, Tom Albertrani, believes the horse will move forward from that effort.

“He just needed a little more work going into that race,” Albertrani said. “He’s a lot sharper, a lot fitter this time around.”

Chamois, third in the Hill Prince, and North Slope, who won an allowance race from which the second- and third-place finishers both came back to win, are prime upset candidates.

Capo Bastone, third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile; Front, 2 for 2 on turf this year; and English Minister complete the field.