06/20/2008 12:00AM

Unbeaten Finger Lakes invader gets tested


ELMONT, N.Y. - Based at Finger Lakes, trainer Michael Lecesse doesn't run too many horses at Belmont Park. Five summers ago, he brought As Wicked here for a first-level allowance race and his horse had the lead at the eighth pole until a colt named Ghostzapper blew past him in the final furlong to beat As Wicked by 3 1/4 lengths.

Sunday, Lecesse returns to Belmont where he'll run the undefeated Tin Cup Chalice in the $100,000 Mike Lee Stakes. Run at seven furlongs, the Mike Lee is restricted to 3-year-old New York-breds. The Mike Lee also serves as the first leg of OTB's Big Apple Triple, which awards a $250,000 bonus to the owner of the horse that wins the Mike Lee, the New York Derby at Finger Lakes on July 12, and the Albany Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 20.

Tin Cup Chalice, a son of Crusader Sword, has won all four of his starts by a combined 29 1/2 lengths, three of them on the lead. In his 3-year-old debut, he was wiped out at the start, according to Lecesse, and for the first time in his career had to come from off the pace, which he did in winning by 4 1/4 lengths.

"I didn't think he'd get up, to be honest with you,'' said Lecesse, who is the trainer, breeder, and part-owner of Tin Cup Chalice. "I thought for sure when he got wiped out he was done, but he seemed to handle it fine.''

Tin Cup Chalice returned to front-running when he won a New York-bred allowance going 5 1/2 furlongs on May 30. Though Tin Cup Chalice has never raced beyond six furlongs, Lecesse doesn't see the seven furlongs of the Mike Lee as a problem. Don Corleone, a half-brother to Tin Cup Chalice, won the 2004 New York Derby at 1 1/16 miles and another sibling, the filly Two Reigns, won going long.

This figures to be the toughest group Tin Cup Chalice has faced. Groomedforvictory and Megapixel ran one-two in the Screenland Stakes here on May 7. Both came back on Belmont Stakes Day, with Groomedforvictory finishing a well-beaten sixth in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens and Megapixel winning a statebred second-level allowance race.

Carlos Martin, the trainer of Megapixel, believes his horse is coming up to this race in excellent shape.

"I'll be surprised if he doesn't run another bang-up race,'' Martin said.

Be Bullish, Peperoni, That's'rghtofficer, Half Moon Street and Motor Patrol complete the field.