Belmont Stakes (gr. I) morning-line favorite Afleet Alex was relocated from Barn 14 to Barn 5 Thursday due to the presence of fellow Belmont starter Nolan's Cat, who is in the same barn.
Ken and Sarah Ramey's Nolan's Cat, trained by Dale Romans, shipped into the barn Wednesday. Afleet Alex, the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner trained by Tim Ritchey, has been in Barn 14 since last Saturday. Ritchey was not aware Nolan's Cat would be in Barn 14.
Romans was the first trainer whose horses tested for strangles this spring, causing a quarantine at the Churchill Downs Trackside training center in Louisville and at Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida. Nolan's Cat was stabled at Palm Meadows earlier this spring. He shipped to Belmont from Churchill, which recently had three barns quarantined because of an outbreak of equine herpesvirus.
Romans wasn'tstabled in any of those three barns, one of which remains under quarantine.
"I can't comment on it now," Ritchey said Thursday morning. "I did not ask that they move the other horse. I would never do that. I said just move me out. We'll be talking again later. I have no complaints with NYRA. They've been great to me ever since I've been here."
In a statement released by NYRA later Thursday morning, Ritchey cited his preference for Barn 5 because there is more space for media and because it's the same barn in which Smarty Jones was stabled prior to the 2004 Belmont. Always Noble, an entrant in Saturday's True North Breeders' Cup (gr. II), and a pony will accompany Afleet Alex on the move to Barn 5.
"There are a number of reasons why I'd prefer him to be in Barn 5," Ritchey said. "The barn provides a better situation for media access for both me and members of the media. Smarty Jones was stabled there last year and from what I understand, it worked very well.
"The bottom line is that since Barn 14 was no longer a security barn and he would have to be moved on race day anyhow, I thought it would be a better situation in Barn 5. Since there were three stalls available there, it worked out perfectly."
Thursday morning, Romans told director of racing Mike Lakow he wouldn't move his horse.
All Belmont starters and other stakes horses on Saturday's card will be moved to a detention barn six hours before post time.To purchase photographs of Afleet Alex and other great thoroughbreds, click here.