07/10/2002 12:00AM

Bowling Green the chosen spot for Moon Solitaire


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Henry Cochran had his choice of four races in which to run Moon Solitaire following his victory in the King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap at Woodbine last month.

With many of the nominated stars sitting out Saturday's $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont Park, the 1 3/8-mile turf race looks to be the right choice. Cochran chose the Grade 3 Bowling Green over the Stars and Stripes, the United Nations, and the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

"We felt this would be a good fit for him," Cochran said Wednesday from Louisville. "A mile and three-eighths will help him, and we like to keep his races a month apart."

Cochran received the Irish-bred Moon Solitaire last November from Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. Cochran had him ready to run in March at Fair Grounds, but a race for which he was entered was rained off the turf. Cochran had him entered at Keeneland, but scratched when the race came up too tough.

Moon Solitaire finally ran on May 11 in a classified allowance race at Churchill Downs. He made all the pace before losing by nose to Jake the Flake in the last jump. He came back a month later to win the King Edward by two lengths.

"In the race at Churchill, he was a little too much on the muscle, a little too rank," said Cochran, who shipped his horse to New York Wednesday night. "Between races, we worked on getting him to settle and at Woodbine he ran an awesome race."

Cochran has turned to Belmont's leading rider, John Velazquez, for the mount. Velazquez has won the last three stakes run at Belmont and is a two-time winner of the Bowling Green.

With topweights Super Quercus, Forbidden Apple, and Cetewayo not running, Moon Solitaire will be the second starting highweight at 116 pounds, one less than Grade 1 winner Startac. Others expected to run include Staging Post (115), Craigsteel (114), Eltawaasul (114), Full Flow (113), Phi Beta Doc (113), and Whitmore's Conn (112). Regal Dynasty (112) and Man From Wicklow (112) are possible.

Injured Lord Juban out for the year

Lord Juban, who won three consecutive ungraded stakes in south Florida and who was being pointed to Sunday's $150,000 Lexington Stakes here, strained a tendon in his left foreleg and will be given the remainder of the year off, trainer Tim Ritvo said.

Ritvo said he noticed the injury a few days after Lord Juban worked six furlongs in 1:12.60 at Calder on June 28. Ritvo said he would give Lord Juban six months off and hopes to bring him back as a 4-year-old.

"We want to be very cautious, give him a little extra time and we look to bring him back at 4," Ritvo said. "We think his best is in front of him."

Lord Juban, a 3-year-old son of Lord Avie, is 5 for 10, having posted wins in the Caltech Handicap at Gulfstream, Fabulous Frolic, and the Simply Majestic at Calder.

Van Minister, winner of the Hill Prince Stakes on June 15, will also miss the Lexington. Trainer Carlos Martin said his 3-year-old gelding had run three races in a month and would prefer to have a fresher horse for the late summer and fall. Martin is targeting the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 5.

NYRA institutes new preference system

Beginning with the Saratoga meet, the New York Racing Association will start a new preference system for determining who starts in a race. The previous "stars" system will be replaced by a new "dates" system.

Under the dates system, the horse with the earliest date gets into the race. If a race overfills, horses who have the earliest entry date get in followed by horses with the earliest run date and then scratch date.

All horses under the care of a trainer who has been allotted stalls by the NYRA will have a beginning preference date. All shippers may receive the beginning date if a horse's foal papers are faxed or a copy mailed to the racing department before the first day of entries or are entered on opening day at Saratoga for any race for which they are eligible.

* Bella Bellucci, who missed the Mother Goose because of a sore back, worked five furlongs in 1:02.26 Tuesday morning at Belmont.