08/18/2008 11:00PM

Tin Cup Chalice faces tough last leg


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Michael Lecesse looked at the entries for Wednesday's $150,000 Albany Stakes and immediately knew this was different from any previous race his undefeated 3-year-old Tin Cup Chalice has run in.

With open-company stakes winners Big Truck and Icabad Crane in the field, Tin Cup Chalice is meeting the toughest group he's ever faced in the 1 1/8-mile Albany Stakes, restricted to New York-bred 3-year-olds, at Saratoga.

"Basically the way I look at the race is it's a Grade 3 race," said Lecesse, trainer and part-owner of Tin Cup Chalice. "He definitely has his work cut out for him."

But when you're running for a $250,000 bonus, nobody said it would be easy. The Albany is the last leg of the Big Apple Triple. Having already won the Mike Lee and New York Derby, Tin Cup Chalice can earn Lecesse and part-owner Scott Van Laer a $250,000 bonus for sweeping all thee races.

In three of the previous nine years, a horse has come to the Albany with a chance to win the bonus. But the 1 1/8 miles and the 124-pound weight assignment have conspired to do them in. Lecesse believes his horse can get the distance. He is concerned about the weight.

"That's the only downfall that I see in this Triple Crown is the weighting system," Lecesse said. "I think everybody should carry the same weight just like they do in the Kentucky Derby."

Tin Cup Chalice is giving up three to seven pounds to his opponents in the Albany.

Big Truck won the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby, defeating 2007 juvenile champion War Pass. He was noncompetitive in both the Blue Grass (11th) and Kentucky Derby (18th), and now returns to statebred competition for the first time since last October.

"We were looking at some of the big races, but we decided he'd be better off in these New York-bred races," trainer Barclay Tagg said. "Better to be conservative."

Icabad Crane won his first two starts against New York-breds, and after a third on Polytrack he won Pimlico's Federico Tesio on dirt. Icabad Crane finished third to Big Brown in the Preakness before finishing eighth in the Belmont.

"I backed off him a little bit after the Belmont," trainer Graham Motion said. "I think he's doing well, acting well, he's put on weight. This was really the most logical spot."

Thatsrightofficer finished fourth in the Mike Lee and third in the New York Derby. Trainer Richard Schosberg believes his horse can get the 1 1/8 miles and is reuniting him with Edgar Prado.