A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 24, 2006
Big Apple Triple (thoroughbred racing)

In the spirit of “the Big Apple” itself, OTB has run the “Big Apple Triple” (New York State’s version of the triple crown) since 1999. The first leg is the Mike Lee Stakes (run since 1980) at New York City’s Belmont Park. The second leg is the New York Derby (run since 1969) at the Finger Lakes. The third leg is the Albany Stakes (run since 1978) at Saratoga.


New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc.
BELMONT - FINGER LAKES - SARATOGA
BIG APPLE TRIPLE
$100,000 Mike Lee Stakes (Belmont) : June 26, 2011
$150,000 added New York Derby (Finger Lakes): July 16, 2011
$100,000 The Albany (Saratoga): August 24, 2011

Wikipedia: Mike Lee Handicap
The Mike Lee Handicap is the first leg of the “Big Apple Triple,” a grouping of three races in New York state for New York breds. A horse who wins all three of the Big Apple Triple wins the purse total of $400,000 plus a $250,000 bonus. The second leg is the New York Derby held at Finger Lakes race track, and the third leg is the Albany Stakes at the Saratoga Race Course. The series began in 1999.

The Mike Lee is held at Belmont Park in the spring and is open to three-year-olds of either gender running at 7 furlongs. It offers a purse of $100,000. Although it is not restricted to registered New York breds, due to the racing conditions, it’s still not an open race.

This race was run as the New York City OTB Big Apple Handicap prior to 1988, but now it’s named for Mike Lee, the former sports editor for the Long Island Press for over 40 years.

NY Thoroughbred Breeding & Development Fund: Mike Lee Handicap, Belmont Park
The MIKE LEE HANDICAP was named in honor of the former sports editor for the Long Island Press of over 40 years. Lee was known among his colleages as an outstanding sports writer and humanitarian, and by his community for his services. As well as being a Thoroughbred racing enthusiast, he also served as the first president of the United States Harness Writers Association and president of the Brooklyn chapter of the Baseball Writers Association. In his latter years, he also served racing as a member of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

Run as the NEW YORK CITY OTB BIG APPLE HANDICAP prior to 1988. Run at Aqueduct prior to 1989. Run at one mile from 1980 to 1993 inclusive.

Wikipedia: Albany Stakes (United States)
The Albany Stakes is an American Thoroughbred horse race that is the third and final leg of the “Big Apple Triple,” a grouping of three races in New York for horses bred in that state. A horse who wins all three of the Big Apple Triple wins the purse total of $400,000 plus a $250,000 bonus. The first leg is the Mike Lee Handicap run at Belmont Park, and the second leg is the New York Derby at Finger Lakes race track. The series began in 1999.

The Albany is held at the Saratoga Race Course and is open to Thoroughbred three-year-old horses of either gender running at a mile and one eighth on the dirt. It offers a purse of $150,000. Although it is not restricted to registered New York breds, due to the racing conditions, it still is not an open race.

Run since 1978, the Albany was held at Belmont Park in 1981, at Aqueduct Race Track in 1980, and also from 1982 to 1985.

In 2008, Tin Cup Chalice won the first Big Apple Triple by taking the Albany Stakes, the New York Derby, and the Mike Lee Handicap. In the Albany Stakes,

NY Thoroughbred Breeding & Development Fund: New York Derby, Finger Lakes
Race called New York Breeders’ Derby from 1969-1971; New York Derby Handicap in 1974; New York Derby from 1977 to present. Race run at one mile 1969-1971; mile and one-sixteenth in 1974 and 1977-1983; mile and one-eighth from 1984 to 1998; mile and one-sixteenth from 1999 to present.

Wikipedia: Albany Stakes (United States)
The Albany Stakes is an American Thoroughbred horse race that is the third and final leg of the “Big Apple Triple,” a grouping of three races in New York for horses bred in that state. A horse who wins all three of the Big Apple Triple wins the purse total of $400,000 plus a $250,000 bonus. The first leg is the Mike Lee Handicap run at Belmont Park, and the second leg is the New York Derby at Finger Lakes race track. The series began in 1999.

The Albany is held at the Saratoga Race Course and is open to Thoroughbred three-year-old horses of either gender running at a mile and one eighth on the dirt. It offers a purse of $150,000. Although it is not restricted to registered New York breds, due to the racing conditions, it still is not an open race.

Run since 1978, the Albany was held at Belmont Park in 1981, at Aqueduct Race Track in 1980, and also from 1982 to 1985.

In 2008, Tin Cup Chalice won the first Big Apple Triple by taking the Albany Stakes, the New York Derby, and the Mike Lee Handicap. In the Albany Stakes,

NY Thoroughbred Breeding & Development Fund: Albany Handicap, Saratoga
The Albany Handicap is the third and final leg of the BIG APPLE TRIPLE, a series of three races for New York-bred three year-olds, which also includes the Mike Lee Handicap at Belmont Park and the New York Derby at Finger Lakes Racetrack. The series was inaugurated in 1999. THERE IS A BONUS OF $250,000 FOR ANY HORSE THAT CAN SWEEP THE SERIES.

John J. Fitzgerald, born in 1893, was a horse racing writer for The Morning Telegraph in the 1920s and was the first person to popularize the term “THE BIG APPLE”. While on assignment in New Orleans, Fitzgerald overheard African-American stablehands refer to New York City racecourses as “The Big Apple.” He loved the term so much that he named his racing column “Around the Big Apple.” The title to the column became synonymous with the New York City racing scene.

Run at Belmont Park in 1981; at Aqueduct in 1980 and from 1982 to 1985. Run at six furlongs in 1984; at seven furlongs from 1978 through 1983 and in 1985. 

Google News Archive
26 June 1999, Schenectady (NY) Daily Gazette, “Horse Racing Notebook” by Mike Kane, pg. C6, col. 3:
The secondary feature on the program at Belmont Park today is the Mike Lee, a seven-furlong event for 3-year-old New York-breds.
(...)
The Mike Lee is the first race in the initial Big Apple Triple series that includes the New York Derby at Finger Lakes and the Albany at Saratoga. A $100,000 bonus will be paid for a sweep.

New York (NY) Daily News
Lukas Is Fined, Finally
BY BILL FINLEY DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Friday, December 17, 1999
(...)
The bonus given to any horse who can sweep the “Big Apple Triple” has been increased to $250,000 for 2000. The Triple consists of the Mike Lee at Belmont, the Albany Handicap at Saratoga and the Finger Lakes Derby at Finger Lakes. All three races are for New York breds.

Thoroughbred Times
New York groups team up for Big Apple Triple contests
Posted: Thursday, June 09, 2011 4:15 PM
The New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund and the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc. will sponsor drawings for prize packages associated with each of the three races that make up the Big Apple Triple series for New York-bred three-year-olds.

Each of the prize packages includes hotel accommodations at a nearby hotel or bed and breakfast, two VIP reserved seats for race day, winner’s circle access, and unique prizes suited to each race and venue

The Saratogian
SARATOGA RACE COURSE: What’s in a name
Published: Tuesday, August 09, 2011
(...)
The Albany Handicap, a race for New York-bred 3-year-olds, was first run in 1978 and honors the capital of New York. It is the third and final leg of the Big Apple Triple, which includes the Mike Lee Stakes at Belmont Park and the New York Derby at Finger Lakes.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • (0) Comments • Thursday, August 24, 2006 • Permalink