08/20/2008 12:00AM

Tin Cup Chalice gets bonus

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Tin Cup Chalice received a $250,000 bonus from the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund for his thrilling head victory over That'srightofficer in Wednesday's $150,000 Albany Stakes at Saratoga. Everybody who witnessed the performance will agree he deserved every penny of it.

Under a masterfully judged ride by Pedro Rodriguez, Tin Cup Chalice set a leisurely pace and resisted bids from Triple Crown veterans Big Truck and Icabad Crane before withstanding a final surge from That'srightofficer to post the seventh consecutive - and certainly most rewarding - victory of his career.

Tin Cup Chalice, a son of Crusader Sword owned in partnership by his trainer, Mike Lecesse, and Scott Van Laer, received his bonus for completing a sweep of the Big Apple Triple that began with easier wins in the Mike Lee Stakes at Belmont Park and the New York Derby at Finger Lakes.

The early scratch of Writingonthewall helped Tin Cup Chalice control a leisurely pace, posting fractions of 25.66 seconds, 50.88, and 1:15.33 for the opening six furlongs.

Tin Cup Chalice turned back an initial bid from Big Truck into the stretch and a second from Icabad Crane approaching the eighth pole, edged clear near midstretch, then dug in to withstand a final challenge from the 16-1 That'srightofficer through the final sixteenth. Big Truck, who stumbled briefly after the start, finished another 4 1/4 lengths back in third.

Despite entering the race undefeated, Tin Cup Chalice was the third betting choice and returned $6.70.

"I'm a blue-collar guy - I make $40,000 a year," said Van Lear, a forest ranger for the Department of Environmental Conservation, as he cradled a replica of the bonus check. "We knew he'd be in front but didn't know if he'd have enough left to hold off class horses like Big Truck and Icabad Crane."

Lecesse, who is stabled at Finger Lakes, called Tin Cup Chalice "the best horse I've ever trained" and the Albany the "biggest win of my career."

Bennington: Zada Belle cruises

Zada Belle finally got her first stakes victory, drawing off to an easy 4 1/2-length decision over City Bird in the $83,400 Bennington Stakes.

Zada Belle ($3.40), who captured her first two career starts by an average margin of 6 1/2 lengths, had been second in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Stakes here 19 days earlier.

A 4-year-old daughter of Indian Charlie, Zada Belle is trained by Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin.