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Trainer Tim Ritchey (right) ponies Afleet Alex (left) in the early morning at Belmont Park on Friday
Unlike most recent Classic winners, he was a well-raced and successful 2-year-old, with wins at Saratoga in the Sanford and Hopeful along with seconds in the Champagne and Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He took the same Arkansas path to the Triple Crown as last year's Preakness winner Smarty Jones, winning the Mountain Valley and Arkansas Derby before finishing third in the Kentucky Derby. The only time he has ever finished worse than third was in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn where he was 6th, but later found to be sick. Apparently he recovered nicely as he nearly won the Kentucky Derby, finishing third to Giacomo, and then overcame a near fall in the Preakness to win easily. Current plans call for him to race next in the Haskell at Monmouth on August 7.
One good bit of news is that he will get to race through the end of 2006 as long as he is healthy. Trainer Tim Ritchey said, "He's going to run as a 4-year-old. Period, end of story. We've had about 15 farms call. One condition that will be in any contract is that we will sell the breeding rights, but he will run as a 4-year-old as long as he is healthy and sound. It's the right thing to do. The owners are having the time of their life, and I am too."
Afleet Alex is was bred in Florida by John Martin Silvertand and was sold as a 2-year-old in training at the Timonium Fastig-Tipton sale for only $75,000. He is owned by Cash Is King Stable, an ownership syndicate of five people, mostly from Pennsylvania, with Chuck Zacney as the managing partner. The other partners are Robert Brittingham, Joseph Lerro, Joseph Judge, and Jan Reeves. Afleet Alex was their first runner and was recommended to the group by trainer Tim Ritchey. Afleet Alex is named after Zacney's son and Brittingham's daughter who are both named Alex. Because of the name, they have become affliated with the charity Alex's Lemonade Stand for Pediatric Cancer Research and are donating a portion of his earnings to it.
Managing partner Chuck Zacney said after the Belmont, "Unbelievable. Once again, coming in here, getting two out of three of the Triple Crown legs, fantastic, I guess as I watched the race and I saw another terrific ride by Jeremy, and we're thrilled to death to be here. I've got to give all the credit to Tim. I mean, from day one, he took this horse, took him under his wings, had the horse ready and anybody who questioned whether or not this horse could go a mile and a half, he proved it rather convincingly today."
Trainer Tim Ritchey has been around horses all his life and started riding at age 2 1/2. At 18, he attended the Potomac Horse Center and spent 1 1/2 years on the US Olympic Equestrian Team. He went on to ride steeplechase races before turning to training thoroughbreds. He has trained in Delaware, Arkansas, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, with his main base at Delaware Park. He is a five-time leading trainer at Delaware and has been in the top four in the track's trainer standing for 13 straight years. His first Triple Crown appearance was with Marciano in the 2001 Preakness, who finished 7th. He also trained Docent to win back-to-back Maryland Million Classics in 2002 and 2003.
After the Belmont Ritchey said, "We expected this kind of performance today. I wasn't surprised he was that far back, but when he got rolling, it was a lot of fun. I thought Jeremy rode tremendously. He saved ground like we discussed early in the race. He dropped in. He was sitting perfect. I kept saying to myself, patience, and Jeremy was patient as could be. You could tell the horse just started to pick up horses on his own. Jeremy wasn't even riding him. When he kind up went outside of Giacomo, Jeremy asked him a little bit and he accelerated and went with authority."
Jockey Jeremy Rose won his first race on September 23, 2000 and went on to win the 2001 Eclipse Award as North America's top apprentice rider. He was the leading rider at Delaware Park in 2001 and was second in 2002 and rides primarily in the Mid-Atlantic tracks. He had back-to-back wins in the Maryland Million Classic with Somerset in 2001 and Docent in 2002. Afleet Alex is his first major stakes winner of what looks to be a very promising career.
After the Belmont Rose said, "He was the best horse. I knew that if I didn't do something stupid, I was going to win this race. He's just that good. He should be a Triple Crown winner, but I messed up or whatever. I knew I had the fastest quarter mile when I needed it (24.50, fastest final quarter mile since Arts and Letters, 1969). The only thing that could get him beat was me, so I stayed out of his way. He's won from five-eighths to a mile and a half. I say I messed up because I had the best horse. You can't blame Tim (Ritchey) and you can't blame Afleet Alex. So, if you have to blame someone, blame me."
Afleet Alex Data:
Foaling Date: 5-9-2002
Pedigree: Northern Afleet - Maggy Hawk by Hawkster
Dosage Profile: 5-0-9-0-0
Dosage Index/CD: 2.11 0.71 *Dual Qulaifier*
2004 Record: 6 starts 4-2-0 $680,800
2005 Record: 7 starts 5-2-0 $2,085,000 (through the Belmont)
Best Beyer Figure: 108 (waiting for the Belmont figure)
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