11/13/2008 1:00AM

Tin Cup Chalice to try Japan Cup Dirt

Barbara D. Livingston
Tin Cup Chalice (right), winning the Albany at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 20, will run in the $2.4 million Japan Cup Dirt on Dec. 7.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The New York-bred program has certainly come a long way over the last decade. Now, one of the top New York-breds of 2008 is going a long way to carry the banner for the program and North America.

The connections of Tin Cup Chalice have accepted an invitation to run their 3-year-old gelding in the $2.4 million Japan Cup Dirt at Hanshin Racecourse in Hyogo, Japan on Dec. 7.

Tin Cup Chalice, a son of Crusader Sword who is based at Finger Lakes, has won 8 of 9 starts, including the Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby in his last outing. Earlier in the year, Tin Cup Chalice became the first horse to sweep the Big Apple Triple - the Mike Lee, New York Derby, and Albany - to earn his connections a $250,000 bonus.

Michael Lecesse, the trainer and part-owner of Tin Cup Chalice, said he was originally planning to run the horse in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 29. But the invitation to run for $2.4 million was too good to pass up.

"The purse is a big incentive to go and try for," Lecesse said Thursday by phone from upstate New York. "He was going to run in a Grade 1 either way, why not try for a little more money? The status of both races is pretty high."

The Japan Cup is run at about 1o1/8 miles. Though Tin Cup Chalice did win the Albany at 1 1/8 miles, he seems to be more effective at shorter distances.

"A mile and an eighth with 16 horses - possibly 18 is what they told me - obviously he's going to have to run a superb race in order to win it," Lecesse said.

Lecesse had to scratch Tin Cup Chalice out of the Best of Luck Stakes here on Oct. 29 due to a bruised foot, but Lecesse said the injury cost the horse only four days of training.

"Two days after I scratched him he popped his abscess and was walking sound right after that," Lecesse said.

The Japan Cup Dirt is run clockwise, which is the opposite of the way races are run in North America. Lecesse has worked Tin Cup Chalice in a clockwise direction for his last two breezes, including a seven-furlong move at Finger Lakes in 1:29.20 on Wednesday.

"The first time it was a new experience for him, he handled it okay; I wouldn't say he was perfect," Lecesse said. "The second breeze was much more productive the way he switched leads."

Tin Cup Chalice is scheduled to leave for Japan on Nov. 19. Pedro Rodriguez, his regular rider, will ride him in the Japan Cup Dirt.

Jones targets three Aqueduct stakes

Before trainer Larry Jones bolts the Northeast for the winter, he will have several more horses to run in graded stakes races at Aqueduct.

Saturday, Jones will run Solar Flare in the Grade 3 Stuyvesant. On Nov. 29, Jones will ship in Kodiak Kowboy for the Grade 1 Cigar Mile and Old Fashioned for the Grade 2 Remsen.

While all three could win, Old Fashioned is the most intriguing of the trio.

Old Fashioned is a 2-year-old son of Unbridled's Song out of the Grade 3-winning mare Collect Call. Owner Richard Porter shelled out $800,000 for Old Fashioned as a yearling. After winning a six-furlong maiden race at Delaware by a nose on Oct. 6 - from which the second- and third-place finishers came back to win - Old Fashioned came back to take a first-level allowance race going a two-turn mile by 15 1/2 lengths.

"This horse is serious," Jones said. "He's a good-quality horse, we've got a lot of high hopes for him. He'll be heading to Fair Grounds to start trying to get on the Derby trail."

Jones and Porter have finished second in the last two Kentucky Derbies - with Hard Spun and Eight Belles.

So far, so good for Chatain

Angel Penna Jr. has been around Chatain long enough to know not to get too excited, but it's starting to look like the talented but fragile horse may make it to the Grade 1 Cigar Mile.

Chatain, away from the races since winning the Hal's Hope at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 6, worked five furlongs in 1:01.24 Wednesday morning at Belmont Park. It was his fourth work in 20 days, the first time he's been able to string that many works together in that period of time since February.

"Right now, we're doing fine, right now we're on target," Penna said. "He's getting fit; he's not yet to his best level by any means, but we've got two more weeks to go. Right now, all cylinders are working."

Chatain, a son of Forest Wildcat, has been plagued by foot problems throughout his career. He has won 6 of 9 starts, including the Hal's Hope twice. Last fall, he won the William Livingston Stakes at the Meadowlands on Nov. 3 in an attempt to make it to the Cigar Mile, only to have that foot problem crop up again.

Criminologist to Matriarch

Trainer Shug McGaughey was getting ready to pull the plug on Criminologist's career. But after watching her breeze the last couple of times, he will give Criminologist a chance to go out a Grade 1 winner when she runs in the $500,000 Matriarch at Hollywood Park on Nov. 30.

"If I thought she hit that level I would have pulled the plug," McGaughey said, "but she breezed real well two back and breezed well again the other day."

Criminologist has won 9 of 21 starts, including the Grade 3 Noble Damsel two back and the Grade 3 Beaugay earlier in the year. In her most recent start, Criminologist finished third as the favorite in the Grade 3 Athenia Handicap at Belmont.

McGaughey mentioned that Grade 1 winner Dancing Forever, who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Turf, will run again next year.

"I think he can have a good year next year," McGaughey said. "I'll know more about him. You hate to say that about a horse you've had for five years."

McGaughey explained that he now knows not to run Dancing Forever on soft turf, ground he encountered in the Sword Dancer and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. McGaughey said Dancing Forever did not get enough out of either race to have him ready for the Turf.

"At the eighth pole he flattened out and maybe he wouldn't have if he would have had a hard race in him," McGaughey said. "I thought he fought hard to be third."