Cash Is King's Afleet Alex, dramatic winner of the Preakness and runaway winner of the Belmont Stakes (both gr. I), was operated on yesterday at the New Jersey Equine Clinic after suffering a condylar fracture. The 3-year-old son of Northern Afleet
is now out of consideration for the upcoming Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) and Travers Stakes (gr. I) but could return for a fall campaign.
Trainer Tim Ritchey noticed something was not quite right with Afleet Alex's left front ankle after training hours at Belmont Park Tuesday morning. X-rays were taken that showed a shadow. Ritchey immediately sent Afleet Alex to the NJEC in Clarksburg, N.J. There, it was determined he had a condylar fracture.
Ritchey accompanied the colt to the clinic and observed the surgery, which was performed Wednesday afternoon by Dr. Patricia Hogan.
"It's a relatively common type of fracture in Thoroughbred horses," Hogan told The Blood-Horse
Thursday morning. "It occurs in the bottom of the cannon bone at the level of the fetlock joint. In Alex's case, it was caught very early before it had the opportunity to progress into a more significant injury.
"The horse had an extensive radiograph examination and then was taken to surgery," she said. "A brief procedure under general anesthesia lasted less than 35 minutes. A single screw was placed across the fracture on the bottom of the cannon bone, and it compressed the injury very well. An arthroscopic evaluation on the fetlock joint was also done, and the interior of the joint was found to be in excellent shape.
"His prognosis for returning to racing at his elite level is excellent without a doubt," she said.
Hogan expects Afleet Alex's lay-up to be relatively brief.
Hogan will consult with Dr. Larry Bramlage to set up a time frame that is conducive to healing the fracture properly, yet allowing the horse to keep in reasonable condition with an eye on possible fall engagements.
"It's unfortunate, but not career ending," said Ritchey. "I look forward to Afleet Alex's return to the races. The book isn't over, there are still more chapters to the story. As always, the health of the horse is most important. I believe he will overcome this bump in the road.
"With the expertise of Dr. Hogan and the New Jersy Equine Clinic, as well as the consultation with one of the most elite veterinarians in the world, Dr. Bramlage, I believe we can formulate a plan that will have 'Alex' back racing at his previous level."
"Alex recovered well from anesthesia and was back in his stall in short order," Hogan said. He was scheduled to return to Belmont Park Thursday.
After the horse was brought into his stall, Ritchey crinkled a piece of paper from a peppermint. When Alex came right over to him, he knew all was well.
"Although we are obviously disappointed, Alex's health is most important," said Chuck Zacney, managing partner of Cash Is King. "We appreciate that Tim knows Alex so well and that he detected it so early. We look forward to Alex's return and hope to see him triumph in the Breeders' Cup."
The other Cash Is King partners are Bob Brittingham, Joe Judge, Joe Lerro, and Jennifer Reeves.
Afleet Alex's last recorded workout came at Belmont Park July 21. Prepping for the $1-million Haskell at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. Aug. 7, Afleet Alex got a mile in 1:36.74. He had been assigned highweight of 123 pounds for the nine-furlong Haskell.
Out of the Hawkster mare Maggy Hawk, Afleet Alex has won eight of 12 starts, with two seconds and one third, and has earned $2,765,800. Bred in Florida by John Martin Silvertand, Afleet Alex was a $75,000 purchase by Cash Is King out of the 2004 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in-training sale.
Afleet Alex finished third as the 9-2 second choice in Giacomo's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) May 7, beaten a length. The bay colt bounced back two weeks later, scoring in perhaps the most dramatic fashion in Preakness history after bumping with Scrappy T at the head of the lane. Stumbling to his knees and nearly going down, jockey Jeremy Rose was able to gather the colt up and not only finish the race, but blow the field away by 4 3/4 lengths.
In the Belmont, Afleet Alex made an explosive move on the turn of the 1 1/2-mile classic and then drew off to a seven-length victory as the even-money favorite.
Like Smarty Jones the year before him, Afleet Alex prepped for the Triple Crown this winter at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. He won the six-furlong Mountain Valley Stakes March 5, then finished off the board for the only time in his career in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel Stakes (gr. III) March 19 while suffering from a lung infection. Healthy, he blew away the field four weeks later in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II), pulling away to an eight-length victory.
At 2, Afleet Alex won four of six starts, winning both the Sanford (gr. II) and Hopeful (gr. I) stakes at Saratoga. He finished second in both the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont and the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Lone Star Park. He was weighted at 124 pounds on the Experimental Free Handicap, two pounds below Breeders' Cup winner Wilko and 2-year-old male champion Declan's Moon.Evan Hammonds contributed to this article.