06/14/2011 3:21PM

LeCesse, New York breeder, dies


Raymond LeCesse, a Rochester, N.Y., horse owner whose homebred Fio Rito upset the 1981 Whitney Stakes, died June 5 at age 88.

Fio Rito became the first New York-bred Grade 1 winner when he held off Paul Mellon’s Winter’s Tale by a neck to take the Whitney at 10-1. The co-founder of LeCesse Construction, LaCesse also owned Rochester’s North Park Lanes bowling alley, started the Cystic Fibrosis Bowlathon, and was a member of the Rochester Bowling Association Hall of Fame.

“Fio Rito was my father’s pride and joy, and he later got to relive that experience many years later by enjoying my success with Tin Cup Chalice,” son Michael LeCesse told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. The younger LeCesse bred and trained five-time stakes-winner Tin Cup Chalice.

Raymond LeCesse bred Fio Rito, a son of Dreaming Native, from the Sea Charger mare Seagret. Racing until age 6, the gray named after a Las Vegas trumpeter won 28 of 50 lifetime starts and earned $584,142. In addition to the Whitney, Fio Rito also won the Grade 2 Michigan Mile and One Eighth Handicap, then a Grade 2, and 14 other stakes. He won four of those, including the Whitney and Michigan Mile and One Eighth, during his final season at the track. Fio Rito died in 1996, aged 21, and was the first horse buried in the Finger Lakes infield. Tin Cup Chalice, who died in 2009, also was buried there.

Before entering the Thoroughbredbusiness, LeCesse owned Standardbreds, most notably Polaris, who finished second in both heats of the 1966 Hambletonian.