Stonelea Stables’ Balance the Budget consistently runs strong races in the early spring, and he repeated that pattern Saturday in the $40,000 Tryon Block House, when he tracked the early pace, took over on the backstretch the final time, and held off a late challenge to notch a 3 3/4-length victory.
Stonelea is the racing operation of Kentucky horsewoman Nina Bonnie, and Balance the Budget is trained by her daughter-in-law, Julie Gomena. They have had repeated success with Balance the Budget, an eight-year-old Bellamy Road gelding who won the 2015 Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3) at Aiken Spring, the year’s first jumps meet, and the 2016 Carolina Cup at Camden, S.C., on the season’s second weekend.
Balance the Budget had his running shoes on for the Tryon Block House, a 2 1/4-mile race on a new course at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Columbus, N.C. Ridden by Mark Watts, he stalked the early pace of Hardrock Eleven while the remainder of a high-quality field spotted them 10 lengths.
Watts moved past the pacesetter on the backstretch the second time and opened 10 lengths on the rest of the field. Sheila Williams and Northwoods Farm’s Special Skills, a multiple stakes winner ridden by Sean McDermott, made a late move into the stretch but could not menace Balance the Budget.
Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, the 2015 novice champion, finished third, and Hardrock Eleven finished fourth.
Balance the Budget, who collected his first win since the 2016 Carolina Cup, completed the Tryon Block House’s 2 1/4 miles in 4:03.80 on firm turf.