Afleet Alex Fine On Day After Perilous Preakness

(from Preakness notes)
Trainer Tim Ritchey reported Sunday morning that Afleet Alex appeared to have emerged from his eventful 4 3/4-length victory in Saturday's Preakness Stakes (gr. I) in fine physical condition.

However, the Delaware-based trainer said he'll keep a close eye on the son of Northern Afleet  to make sure that no problems arise from his colt's frightening collision with Scrappy T at the top of the Pimlico stretch.

"We'll have to monitor him for at least three or four days," Ritchey said. "What concerns me is (the chance of) muscle injuries, because he was contorted in a way that horses aren't meant to be. But he walked perfect today."

Ritchey plans to keep Afleet Alex, owned by Cash is King, at Pimlico until Friday instead of shipping him to Belmont Park on Wednesday, his original plan. The colt is scheduled to start next in the June 11 Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

Ritchey, who reported Afleet Alex had suffered only a superficial scrape on his left front ankle, said the incident with Scrappy T at the top of the stretch tempered his Preakness celebration.

"Probably that problem at the head of the stretch took some of the emotion out of me, because of my concern for the horse. One of my friends said, 'You were the most emotionless person who won the Preakness,'" Ritchey said. "I was more concerned and focused on my horse to make sure he didn't go down and he was OK."

Confident that Afleet Alex had avoided injury following his near-disaster, Ritchey was able to enjoy his first Preakness victory on Sunday morning.

"The Steelers had the Immaculate Reception. What do you call this? The Immaculate Recovery?" he joked while marveling at the colt's athleticism in keeping his balance after clipping heels and bumping with Scrappy T, who suddenly veered out into his path.

Ritchey said Afleet Alex's temperament was as important as his agility.

"I've never seen him get upset about anything, ever. He has never shied or spooked from anything he's been exposed to," Ritchey said. "He is mister laid-back."

Ritchey also credited jockey Jeremy Rose for his role in the Preakness victory.

"They're hand-in-hand. You've got a great athlete in the rider and a very superior athlete in the horse," Ritchey said. "The horse has to maintain his balance, but the rider has to maintain his balance on top of the horse as well. It was a combination of things and a lot of luck, too."

Rose said he's confident that Afleet Alex, who was third in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby (gr. I), will handle the 12-furlong distance of the Belmont Stakes.

"If you've got enough horse under you, you just have to wait a little longer," Rose said.

Afleet Alex won't have a chance to go for a sweep of the Triple Crown in the Belmont, but his trainer refused to lament his colt's one-length loss in the Derby.

"You never look back in this business. We were third in the Derby. If you look back, you'll drive yourself crazy," Ritchey said. "We're grateful to win the Preakness and have a horse in good shape after that eventful race."

In the Scrappy T camp at Delaware Park, trainer Robbie Bailes reported that his horse came out of the race "super," but stopped short of committing to the Belmont Stakes.

"We haven't thought about his next race. We'll talk about it for the next couple of days. We have options, but the main deal is to see how he is. We want to make sure that he doesn't come up body sore," Bailes said.

Bailes said that it was unfortunate that Scrappy T suddenly veered out into Afleet Alex's path at the top of the stretch, but he expressed pleasure in his gelding's performance.

"He ran a big race. I just wish we had a different result. Ramon (jockey Dominguez) said he had a ton of horse when he made the lead," said Bailes, whose colt finished five lengths in front of Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo. "Both horses lost momentum. It's a credit to both horses that they went on and finished strong."

Giacomo, who finished third in the Preakness, was headed back to California Sunday.

Trainer John Shirreffs, who flew back to the West Coast Saturday night, was not available for comment Sunday morning about the future of the gray son of Holy Bull.

However, the Los Angeles Times reported that owner Jerry Moss was in favor of shipping Giacomo to New York for the Belmont. Moss said he would discuss it with the trainer.

Trainer Nick Zito's trio of Preakness starters was reported to be fine Sunday morning, but it's not likely that Sun King (4th), Noble Causeway (6th) or High Fly (10th) will run in the Belmont Stakes.

"I don't see any of our Preakness horses running in the Belmont," Zito said, adding, "although you never say never."

"Sun King ran a good race, but I don't think you'll see him in the Belmont," said Zito, who praised Afleet Alex's grit in overcoming adversity.

Zito said Pinpoint, who captured the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness undercard, is a possibility to join Andromeda's Hero in the Belmont Stakes field.

Fifth-place Preakness finisher High Limit will be shipped to New York but is not under consideration for the Belmont, according to an assistant for trainer Bobby Frankel.

Greeley's Galaxy, who broke poorly and finished seventh in the Preakness, some 20 lengths behind Afleet Alex, headed home to California Sunday morning.

"He came out of the race very good, and he was perfect this morning," trainer Warren Stute said from his base at Hollywood Park. "He had no excuses in the race, and that's not good.

"So now we'll bring him home and sit down with the owner (B. Wayne Hughes) and evaluate him and his future."

Malibu Moonshine, the local hero who finished eighth, returned to his stall at Laurel, where trainer King Leatherbury said he was okay.

"We knew we didn't have the best of chances going in, but we had an opportunity to run in the Preakness, and if you have an opportunity to run in this race, you take it," he said. "We had to take a shot."

The Kentucky Derby runner-up Closing Argument will take a break after running ninth Saturday as the 7-1 fourth choice, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Sunday.

"We'll just sit back and let him have some time off," McLaughlin said. "We'll take a look at the Haskell and Travers (both in August), but nothing sooner.

"He bled a little," McLaughlin said, "like three on a scale of 10, but otherwise he came out of the race fine. Cornelio (jockey Cornelio Velasquez) said he didn't like the track, and I guess that's true because he didn't run his race."

Owners Philip and Marcia Cohen sold a half-interest in the Successful Appeal colt to Becky Thomas) and Dennis Narlinger on Friday, the day before the Preakness.

The homebred colt Hal's Image was shipping by van to Calder Race Course Sunday. Hal's Image finished 11th in the Preakness after getting shuffled back early.

"It was a great experience to be here," trainer Barry Rose said, "but it would have been nicer if he had run better. I'd like to get a couple of good races under him in Florida, and then take a look at other possibilities."

Wilko, who finished 12th, returned to his California home Sunday morning, trainer Craig Dollase reporting that the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner had bled slightly during the race.

"The plan right now is just to let him rest and regroup for awhile, and then we'll decide where we go next."

The New York-bred invader Galloping Grocer returned to Belmont Park Sunday morning after his 13th-place showing as the longest price on the board, 27-1.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Sunday morning that Going Wild, who finished last after setting the early pace, would cut back in distance in the future.

"I'm going to start doing with him what he does best – keep him under a mile," the Hall of Fame trainer said. "He's quick."

Lukas said recent maiden winner A.P. Arrow is a possibility for the Belmont Stakes.

"He looks like a true mile and a half horse," said Lukas, "but I'd say it's less than 50-50."