Ibboyee Solid Choice in Mike Lee

A pair of colts with proven stakes credentials and an up-and-comer stepping out of allowance competition headline Sunday’s $100,000 Mike Lee, the featured race at Belmont Park on Father’s Day.


Contested at seven furlongs and restricted to New York-bred 3-year-olds, the Mike Lee is the first leg of the OTB Big Apple Triple, which also includes the $150,000 New York Derby at Finger Lakes on July 17 and the $100,000 Albany at Saratoga on August 25. A $100,000 bonus will be presented to the connections of any horse who sweeps all three races.


The 2-1 morning-line favorite in the Mike Lee is Ibboyee, who won three stakes against statebreds as a 2-year-old and earned his first black-type victory against open company in his most recent effort when he captured the Spend a Buck over one mile, 70 yards at Monmouth Park on May 23.


Owned by Anstu Stables, Ibboyee placed in a pair of seven-furlong events at Gulfstream Park over the winner, finishing third in the Grade 2 Hutcheson and second in the Grade 2 Swale, and was runner-up in the Grade 3 Withers over a one-turn mile at Aqueduct.


“I think he’ll handle [the cut back] real well,” said Ibboyee’s trainer Todd Pletcher. “He’s been successful in races over the distance.”


Because Ibboyee has already proven himself going long or short, he could be a strong contender in all three legs of the Big Apple Triple.


“We think it’s nice series for New York-breds,” said Pletcher. “We’re just trying to take advantage of his New York-bred status.”


With John Velazquez named to ride, Ibboyee will break from post position 2.


General Maximus, a four-length winner in his lone start as a juvenile, returned to defeat Afleet Express by 1¾ lengths at Gulfstream on January 30 in his seasonal bow. Fourth when stretched out to a mile at Gulfstream on February 27, he rebounded to score by 3¼ lengths in the Times Square division of the New York Stallion Stakes at Belmont Park on May 2 last time out.


“We thought going into his last race that he was only 75 percent fit, and he got a lot out of that race,” said his trainer John Terranova.


Terranova opted to have General Maximus bypass the New York Stallion Stakes on May 26 and the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on June 5 in favor of the Mike Lee.


“[The New York Stallion Stakes was] on the grass and it really wasn’t our plan to try him on the turf yet,” said Terranova. “We thought about the Woody Stephens, but thought the Mike Lee would set us up well for the summer.”


Even though General Maximus lost his lone start beyond 6½ furlongs, Terranova remains open to giving the son of Freud another chance in routes.


“I think we’ll take it step-by-step with him,” said Terranova. “We don’t have any long-range plans, yet.”

Owned by Goldmark Farm, General Maximus will leave post position 4 under Javier Castellano as the 5-2 second choice.


Friend or Foe, who is unbeaten in two starts, will face stakes competition for the first time in the Mike Lee.


“There will be some good horses, but this will be a good test,” said John Kimmel, who trains Friend or Foe on behalf of Chester and Mary Broman.


A two-length debut winner at Gulfstream in March, Friend or Foe was geared down late when he captured an allowance for New York-breds by 1¾ lengths after checking slightly at the head of the stretch at Belmont on May 15.


“He had some trouble, but he still ran fast,” said Kimmel of the allowance victory. “I thought it was impressive. When [jockey Rajiv Maragh] put him in the clear, he just ran by those horses.”


Kimmel is hopeful the son of Florida Derby winner Friends Lake will continue to progress as he negotiates longer distances.


“He has beautiful movement,” said Kimmel. “He’s a big horse – about 17 hands. This is an important step to seeing if he can stretch out. He’s bred to go long, but has tactical speed.”


Maragh retains the mount aboard Friend or Foe, who drew post position 6 as the 7-2 third choice.


Raynick’s Jet opened up to a 3¼-length victory in a statebred allowance over Aqueduct’s inner track in March, then tired to finish fourth in the Grade 3 Bay Shore on the main track at the Big A in April. Dropped into an open allowance race at Belmont on May 15, the Turtle Bird Stable representative rallied on the outside to get up by a neck.


Tabbed at 5-1 on the morning line, Raynick’s Jet will break from post position 5 under Cornelio Velasquez.


Fenway Faithful, victor of last year’s Sleepy Hollow at Belmont, is set to make the second start of his sophomore campaign in the Mike Lee. Owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, Fenway Faithful will try to improve off a fifth-place finish against older New York-breds in an allowance at Aqueduct on April 24.


Completing the field is Make Note, who won a pair of stakes against New York-breds as a 2-year-old. He has raced twice this year, chasing home General Maximus to complete the exacta in the Times Square and finishing a distant third to the filly Franny Freud in the New York Stallion Stakes.


The field for the Mike Lee:








Make Note (NY)

E S Prado


G Weaver



Ibboyee (NY)

J R Velazquez


T A Pletcher



Fenway Faithful (NY)

R A Dominguez


R A Violette, Jr.



General Maximus (NY)

J Castellano


J P Terranova, II



Raynick's Jet (NY)

C H Velasquez


S M Asmussen



Friend Or Foe (NY)

R Maragh


J C Kimmel






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