By Francis LaBelle Jr.
Tin Cup Chalice, owned, bred and trained by Michael Lecesse, became the first horse to sweep the OTB’s Big Apple Triple on Wednesday afternoon at Saratoga Race Course when he held off a final upset bid by That’srightofficer to win the 31st running of the $150,000 nine-furlong Albany for three-year-old New York-breds by a head.
Now unbeaten in seven career starts, the Crusader Sword colt earned a $250,000 bonus from the New York Thoroughbred Breeding & Racing Program for winning the seven-furlong Mike Lee at Belmont Park, the New York Derby at a mile and a sixteenth at his home track at Finger Lakes and the Albany.
“He’s a nice horse and has done everything right,” said Rodriguez, who broke from post 6, got the lead and held a one-length lead over Big Truck through the first quarter mile of 25.66 and the half of 50.88 on the fast main track. “Mike (Lecesse) did a nice job getting this horse ready for this race. We were very fortunate that the other speed (Writingonthewall, No. 2) scratched out of the race. We knew we had control of the pace.”
While Tin Cup Chalice began to inch away from his pursuers in the lane, That’srightofficer, a 16-1 longshot under Edgar Prado who was fourth in the Mike Lee and a well-beaten third in the New York Derby, came with a powerful challenge. Tin Cup Chalice, who carried top weight of 124 pounds and conceded five pounds to That’srightofficer dug in and won in 1:51.33.
“I thought we had a good chance in there because they went in a 50 half mile,” said Lecesse, who was accompanied by his 85-year-old father, Raymond, owner of 1981 Whitney winner Fio Rito. “Coming down the lane, he got to the sixteenth-pole, and I was just thinking `Come on wire!’ The other horse was trying to pass us, but he dug in.”
Added co-owner Scott Van Laer: “Pedro did exactly what he needed to do – slow the pace down. He had the position being on the lead, and when he needed horse, he had it. Just like every time, he’s a push-button horse and he did the job. You don’t get a better ride than that -- to get on the front end and slow it down that much. That’s pretty much the way he’s run each one; this one we thought might be tougher. It probably helped that the (Writingonthewall) scratched out of there, but there was class in this race with the 5 (Icabad Crane), who was a Kentucky Derby horse and a Grade 1 stakes-placed horse (third in the Preakness), and the 7 (Big Truck).”
Lecesse said the Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby at a mile and a sixteenth at Hoosier Park on October 4 could be a next start for Tin Cup Chalice.
Big Truck was third, followed by Almighty Silver, Overextended and Icabad Crane.