12/26/2008 12:00AM

Vintage year led by a talented trio

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Three outstanding runners - Commentator, Bustin Stones, and Tin Cup Chalice - typified the performance levels of New York-breds in 2008.

The trio, by the way, should make for an interesting contest for New York-bred horse of the year honors when the balloting conducted by New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc. gets underway in a couple months.

In all, 14 New York-breds won graded stakes races in 2008, up from six in 2007.

Commentator, a 7-year-old gelded son of Distorted Humor owned by Tracy Farmer and bred by Michael Martinez, won the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap and Grade 2 Richter Scale. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 120 for his Whitney score at 1 1/8 miles.

Commentator is out of the Storm Bird mare Outsource, who is a half-sister to stakes winner Cogburn from the family of multiple Grade 1 winner Behrens.

Bustin Stones is the other Grade 1 winner from this group, thanks to his score in the Carter Handicap. Bred and owned by Roddy J. Valente, he is by former state sire City Zip out of Shesasurething, by Prospector's Gamble.

Bustin Stones, who also won the Grade 2 General George Stakes, retired unbeaten in six starts, and will begin his stud career in 2009 at Waldorf Farm in North Chatham, N.Y.

Tin Cup Chalice was one of the most popular New York-breds in action this year. He became the first winner of the Big Apple Triple, a series instituted in 1999 with a bonus of $250,000.

The races are the seven-furlong Mike Lee at Belmont Park, the 1 1/16-mile New York Derby at Finger Lakes, and the 1 1/8-mile Albany Handicap at Saratoga.

Tin Cup Chalice also won the Grade 2 Indiana Derby. He is a son of New York sire Crusader Sword out of Twice Forbidden, by Spectacular Bid.

Twice Forbidden is also the dam of New York Derby winner Don Corleone.

Tin Cup Chalice is trained by his breeder Michael Lecesse, who co-owns him with Scott Van Laer.

Elsewhere in 2008, Z Fortune won the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 12 to put himself on the classics trail. Bred by Frank Stella's Delehanty Stock Farm in Amenia, N.Y., he is by Siphon, out of Demoiselle Stakes winner Fortunate Faith, and owned by Zayat Stable.

Big Truck, winner of the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby on March 15, was another prominent statebred 3-year-old.

A son of New York sire Hook and Ladder, Big Truck was bred by A. Lakin and Sons and is owned by Eric Fein. Big Truck is out of Just a Ginny, by Go for Gin.

A pair of New York-breds won graded events on Preakness Stakes Day.

Pays to Dream won the Dixie, while Sweet Vendetta won the Black-Eyed Susan. Both are Grade 2 stakes.

Pays to Dream, bred and owned by December Hill Farm, is by High Yield. His mother, Changing Ways, won the Schuylerville Stakes.

Sweet Vendetta, bred by David Cassidy and Edward Lipton and owned by Cassidy and Team Penney Stable, is by Stephen Got Even. Her dam, the Desert Wine mare Sand Pirate, has also produced stakes winners Half Heaven, Doll Baby, and Love Cove.

The wonderful J'ray won two graded events this year, the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth and Grade 2 Canadian at Woodbine. Bred and owned by Lawrence Goichman, she is by Distant View out of Bubbling Heights, by Darshaan.

J'ray's family includes graded winner Millennium Dragon and Horse of the Year Kotashaan.

A 5-year-old turf specialist, J'ray retired after finishing second in the recent La Prevoyante Handicap at Calder.

Another good turf runner, I Lost My Choo, captured the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks. Bred and owned by Carl Lizza's Flying Zee Stable, she is by New York sire Western Expression out of Fairy Queen, by Tom Rolfe.

Flying Zee campaigned both I Lost My Choo's sire and dam. Fairy Queen traces back to Iberia, the dam of champion Riva Ridge.

Mission Approved, who captured the Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine, was yet another good turf runner. Bred and owned by William F. Coyro Jr., he is by With Approval. Mission Approved is out of Fortunate Find, by Fortunate Prospect.

Sherine, Be Certain, Doremifasollatido, and Wishful Tomcat complete the list of 2008's New York-bred graded winners.