Saturday, June 21, 2008
UNBEATEN TIN CUP CHALICE TAKES STEP UP IN MIKE LEE
Although owner/trainer Michael LeCesse has traveled around in his horse racing career, his roots are about five minutes from Finger Lakes Race track in upstate New York. He doesn’t venture too far too often, but LeCesse has been at Belmont Park for several days now, preparing undefeated Tin Cup Chalice for Sunday’s $100,000-added Mike Lee for New York-bred three-year-olds at seven furlongs.
The Mike Lee is the first leg of the OTB’s Big Apple Triple, and any horse that can win the Mike Lee, the $150,000-added New York Derby at a mile and a sixteenth at Finger Lakes on July 12 and Saratoga’s $150,000-added Albany Handicap at nine furlongs on August 20 will receive a $250,000 bonus from the New York State Breeding & Racing Program.
“This series and the bonus are what we have been waiting for,” said the 47-year-old LeCesse, who began working for trainer Reggie Vardin and later raced in California and Pennsylvania. “If we can win on Sunday, then we have the New York Derby right back at Finger Lakes. This horse loves Finger Lakes, and his half-brother, Don Corleone, won the New York Derby there in 2004.”
Unlike Don Corleone, who paid $121.50 to win in his New York Derby upset, Tin Cup Chalice figures to be a short price in the Mike Lee.
A son of Crusader Sword, who won the 1987 Saratoga Special and Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course, Tin Cup Chalice is out of the Spectacular Bid mare Twice Forbidden. He debuted at Finger Lakes last October, caught a sloppy track and trounced nine rivals at six furlongs. He then won the Finger Lakes Juvenile before ending his two-year-old campaign, and has returned this year to twice beat older horses.
His most impressive race was his May 1 start, when he was a 4 ¼-length winner at five furlongs, stopping the timer in 58.2/5.
“He actually got left at the gate,” LeCesse said. “He got bumped and had to check, but he won anyway and showed us that he could rate if he had to.”
Tin Cup Chalice has trained well for the Mike Lee, and will again have the services of jockey Pedro Rodriguez, who has ridden him in each of his last three starts.
“This is a step up for him because he will be facing tough horses,” LeCesse said, “but he is doing well and he is a good horse, too.”
A rugged player here is Sure Thing Stable’s Groomedforvictory, a son of 1998 Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop, who exits a sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on Belmont Stakes Day. Prior to that race, he had won two in a row, including a half-length victory over Megapixel in the Screenland here on May 7.
“He had all kinds of trouble in that one race (May 7), and he came up with the win,” said trainer Barclay Tagg. “The Woody Stephens on Belmont Day, I don’t think the heat bothered him. I just think that the other horse (J Be K) ran a big race and my horse just never got near him.
“I don’t like to run back too quick, and if this race comes up too tough, I may not run. But my horse is doing well, and there are not a lot of spots for three-year-old New York-breds at seven furlongs, much less one that is worth $100,000.”
Jockey Javier Castellano has the mount on Groomedforvictory.
Flying Zee Stable’s Megapixel is one of the tough rivals for the Mike Lee.
Trained by Carlos Martin, he has three wins and three seconds in seven career starts, and his lone fourth-place finish came in his debut at Aqueduct on January 5.
“Patrick Biancone had him as a two-year-old, and when I got him in October, he told me he just needed time to get over a few `baby’ things,” Martin said. ‘We really haven’t missed a beat with him. He is a big, good-looking chestnut and his dam is named Picture; in fact, when people see him, they say he looks like a `picture.’
“He won on Belmont Stakes Day (June 7), and this might be a little out of character for him to run back in two weeks, but he is doing well and is full of energy. I’m sorry that Barclay is coming back (with Groomedforvictory). He ran a tremendous race when he beat us in the Screenland (May 7) because he had a lot of traffic trouble. But it was a weird race. We were four lengths in front and he ran by us. He was in the 10 path and we were down on the rail, and I’m not sure Edgar (Prado, jockey) saw him coming.”
Prado will be back aboard Megapixel on Sunday.
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