Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Afleet Alex turned in another of his unique feats Monday by jogging a mile and a half at 6:15, then going out at 8:45 and galloping three miles in the sweltering heat and humidity.
If there is one thing for sure, there will be no questions regarding fitness as the son of Northern Afleet
heads into Saturday's 137th Belmont Stakes (gr. I), for which he is expected to be a solid favorite over Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Giacomo.
Afleet Alex paid a visit to the gate, then broke off into his gallop. Coming by the stands, he was going smoothly, with no wasted energy, and continued strongly into the clubhouse turn. No one at the trainer's stand was expecting him to come by again. After all, this was Belmont, and once around the mile and a half oval at a good clip is pretty much your standard gallop. But, not only did Alex come by a second time, he was reaching out and powering over the ground, going much stronger than the first time. Trainer Tim Ritchey said his last mile was done at a two-minute lick, and judging by how soon Alex came by the second time, it was a heckuva' two-minute lick.
So, in total, Afleet Alex trained an unbelievable 4 1/2 miles on the hottest morning of the year by far. When he returned from his gallop, his nostrils were flared and bright red, and you could clearly see every vein on his body. After being hosed down, he seemed to cool out well and was none the worse for wear. It actually may have taken Ritchey longer to cool out, as he returned on the pony with sweat pouring off him. This horse continues to amaze, as he does things you just don't see other horses do.
After arriving by van from Baltimore on Saturday, he took a couple of rolls in his wood shavings, and was strong when they took him out to clean him off before walking the shed. He quickly settled in as if he'd been there all his life. "Nothing bothers this horse," assistant trainer Roque Romero said.
Ritchey said today's move will be Alex's final stiff gallop before the race. "I wasn't planning on working him again, so I wanted him to stretch his legs a little bit this morning, and show some acceleration, which he did," Ritchey said. "The only thing is, it got hotter that I anticipated, so we just have to make sure he gets some cold water on him, and we'll get some fluids in him, and everything should be good. The heat is always a concern, but it's never bothered him. He ran during the summer months at Delaware Park and Saratoga last year, so I don't foresee it being a problem.
"I'll cut down on his training after today. That was his major move, five days before the race, and we'll start jogging and slow galloping once a day from now until the race."
In other Belmont news, Lone Star Derby (gr. III) winner Southern Africa was scheduled to arrive at Belmont Monday afternoon. Nick Zito, who will be at Belmont all week, will van his three Belmont starters – Andromeda's Hero, Pinpoint, and Indy Storm – down from Saratoga on Wednesday. Also arriving on Wednesday will be Giacomo.
Trainer Sal Russo, who is battling a bad case of the flu, said the connections of Peter Pan (gr. II) runner-up Reverberate are leaning toward running in the Belmont.