06/19/2010 11:00PM

Mike Lee comes up strong


ELMONT, N.Y. - John Terranova looked at the entries for Sunday's $100,000 Mike Lee Stakes at Belmont Park and marveled how competitive the seven-furlong race for New York-bred 3-year-olds came up.

"That's got to be the strongest-looking Mike Lee ever," Terranova said. "Every now and again you get a real standout, but there's three or four in there that are really nice."

Included in that three or four is the Terranova-trained General Maximus, a winner of three of four career starts; Ibboyee, the champion New York-bred 2-year-old of 2009; and juvenile stakes winners Fenway Faithful and Make Note. Raynick's Jet and Friend or Foe, both coming off wins, fill out the competitive sextet.

The Mike Lee is the first leg of the Big Apple Triple, a three-race series for New York-breds that includes the New York Derby at 1 1/16 miles at Finger Lakes on July 17 and the Albany Stakes at 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga on Aug. 25. The New York Racing Association will pay out a $100,000 bonus to the connections of the horse that can sweep all three races.

While Ibboyee will likely be favored in the Mike Lee, General Maximus looks like the horse to catch. General Maximus has won both of his races in restricted company - both at Belmont Park - including a sharp 3 1/4-length victory in the Times Square Division of the New York Stallion Stakes on May 2.

"He definitely wasn't all the way tight," Terranova said. "He's a big, big horse, he's training real forward now. He's got a lot more in him than he did going into that race."

General Maximus will break from post 4 under Javier Castellano. Fenway Faithful, also 2 for 2 at Belmont, looks like the other speed horse in the field.

Ibboyee went 4 for 5 against statebreds last year and has run in five open company stakes this year. He finished second to D' Funnybone in the Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream, and second to Afleet Again in the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct before winning the Spend a Buck Stakes, a two-turn race at Monmouth Park last out.

"You might argue he's a little better at seven furlongs," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He's a versatile horse that's proven good at everything."

Make Note was second to General Maximus in the Times Square before trying turf. Friend or Foe is 2 for 2, beating open company at Gulfstream before winning a first-level statebred allowance here on May 15.