We may have just witnessed the end of the dawdling Elite Alex and the birth of the new and improved sharp Elite Alex after the son of Afleet Alex drilled five furlongs in a bullet 1:11 3/5 at Oaklawn April 6, wearing blinkers for the first time.
With Calvin Borel aboard, Elite Alex, working from the gate in company with Alex's Vision, showed tremendous early speed, getting his opening quarter in :22 2/5, a half in :46 2/5, and five-eighths in :58 3/5. After cruising past his workmate he drew away in the stretch and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:25 3/5.
“Was that unreal or what?” said trainer Tim Ritchey. “A lot of the six-furlong races aren’t run that fast, and he did it pretty handily. And top-class sprinters don’t even work in :58 3/5. He galloped out the seven furlongs easily, and I wish I had kept timing him. He probably pulled up a mile in 1:38 or 1:39. He’s always had natural speed, but he’s had bad luck coming out of the gate and was taken too far back in his last start. I put blinkers on him and popped him out of the gate to put a little speed on his mind. Most of all, it convinced (Borel) that the horse has some natural speed and can be closer, which is where we wanted him in the Louisiana Derby. So, I think we got all that accomplished. Calvin said he was amazed; he didn’t think he was going anywhere near that fast.”
Elite Alex needs a first or second in the April 16
“He’s a really, really nice horse and I just hope he gets to show it on the 16th,” Ritchey said. “That’s all I ask. If not, he’ll show it later.”
Ritchey said Elite Alex will wear blinkers in the Arkansas Derby. “I don’t really think he needs them, but it’s going to be a big field and he’s going to be up closer this time, so he’s going to be stuck in there somewhere. He goes through holes like nothing, but I don’t want to have any ifs, ands, or buts about it. The blinkers aren’t going to hurt him, and the upside is more with him, especially if he gets to the
Borel added, “The blinkers made him jump out of there, but he was still finishing up the way he has the whole time. That’s what you want when you’re running a mile and a quarter. I still have confidence in him. He’s coming up to the race like you want to see. I think if we can run first or second (in the Arkansas Derby) he will be the right kind of horse that can fit the way I ride in the Kentucky Derby.”
Elite Alex, who was purchased at the Keeneland September yearling sale for $300,000, is owned by Elite Alex LLC, headed by Chuck Zacney, who headed the partnership that owned Afleet Alex.
Elite Alex, who is out of the Unbridled mare Catch the Moment, entered 2011 with great promise, but a series of bad posts, wide trips, bad racing luck, and a minor hoof injury compromised his chances in an allowance race, in which he was beaten a head; the Southwest Stakes (gr. III), where he finished third; and the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), in which he was a fast-closing fourth.