06/21/2001 11:00PM

Bonus hunt starts in Mike Lee


There was no Triple Crown on the line this year after Point Given dusted Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos in the Preakness. Now racing fans have to wait another year to see if a 3-year-old will follow in the footsteps of Affirmed, the last Triple Crown winner in 1978.

Hold on, not so fast. There is still a chance for a triple to be hit this year, although it is one that won't hold as much historical significance as the real Triple Crown.

On June 30, the $100,000 Mike Lee launches the Big Apple Triple for New York-bred 3-year-olds at Belmont Park. The seven-furlong Mike Lee is followed by the $125,000 New York Derby, a 1 1/16-mile race on July 28 at Finger Lakes. The $150,000 Albany Handicap at nine furlongs at Saratoga Race Course wraps up the series on Aug. 22.

A $250,000 bonus, earmarked for the owner of the horse who can sweep the trio of races, puts the value of the Big Apple Triple at $625,000.

The bonus has remained untouched since the Big Apple Triple made its debut in 1999.

Last year, Image Maker had the triple in his grasp after capturing the first two legs, but came up short and finished fourth in the Albany.

Dubai is many time zones removed from New York, but there is a Middle East connection in this year's Mike Lee. Bakhoor, one of the expected starters, races for the Maktoum family of Dubai. The colt, bred by Frances Leidy, was originally purchased as a weanling at auction for $72,000 and then sold for $330,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky select yearling sale.

Bakhoor, a son of Cryptoclearance, blew away his state-bred rivals at Belmont in a maiden race in May and then destroyed a restricted first-level allowance field in June.

Although nominated to the Triple Crown, Bakhoor, who is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, was not among the early nominees in January to the Big Apple Triple. Therefore, his connections will have to pony up a $5,000 supplemental fee, which is good only for the Mike Lee, not the other races in the series, plus entry and starting fees.

Le Grande Danseur, last year's New York-bred 2-year-old champion male and an original nominee to the series, is the likely Mike Lee favorite.

Trained by Dominic Galluscio for Team Valor and Team Five Star Stables, Le Grande Danseur won two restricted stakes last year - the Bertram F. Bongard and Sleepy Hollow - and was second to Gotham winner Richly Blended in the Grade 3 Withers in his last start, on May 5. Overall, he has a record of 4-2-0 from six starts.

Le Grande Danseur, who owns three sharp works at Belmont Park in the last month, including a bullet six furlongs in 1:14.40 on June 16, is well suited to the Mike Lee's seven-furlong distance.

Entries for the Mike Lee will be taken Thursday.

Ormsby has first winner

New York freshman sire Ormsby had his first winner Wednesday at Belmont Park. Mybingo, who is bred, owned, and trained by Lou Meittinis, won a state-bred maiden race by a half-length over seven 2-year-old fillies, paying $56.

Mybingo, out of the King Pellinore mare, Doublecork, was making her first start in the five-furlong dirt race.

Ormsby, a son of Carson City, won his fourth start as a 2-year-old, a 13-length score in a maiden race, and later that year finished second in the Damon Runyon Stakes.

Ormsby went on to win $611,593 in four seasons of racing.

Ormsby has 29 2-year-olds in his first crop and has had two other starters besides Mybingo. He stands at Sugar Maple Farm in Poughquag, N.Y., for $3,000.

* The New York Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund will hold its next board of directors meeting at 10 a.m. on Aug. 9 at the Saratoga Golf and Polo Club in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.