Ritchey Wonders: Who Will Rate?

Handicappers aren't the only ones who have questions prior to a race. Trainers do, too.

"Who will rate?" Tim Ritchey asked Friday morning at the stakes barn at Pimlico on a rainy, blustery day in Baltimore.

"There is plenty of speed in the race," Ritchey said, referring to Saturday's Preakness (gr. I), the middle leg of the Triple Crown. Ritchey trains Afleet Alex, who ran third in the May 7 Kentucky Derby (gr. I).

The top three finishers in the Derby -- Giacomo, Closing Argument, and Afleet Alex -- are all back to run in the Preakness.

"I don't think the pace will be as fast as in the Derby; I don't think anyone thinks that," Ritchey said. "But the question is who can rate?"

Ritchey said he expects Jeremy Rose to have Afleet Alex "within 10 lengths of the leaders" during the early stages of the 1 3/16-mile race.

The most important thing, Ritchey said, is to make sure Rose gets position from the 12 post. "On this racetrack, you don't want to be hung wide," he said.

Afleet Alex, by Northern Afleet , is owned by Cash is King Stable. The winner of the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) has won six of 10 lifetime starts.

Speaking to reporters Friday morning, Ritchey even took a few minutes to discuss a topic of importance to Maryland horsemen -- slot machines.

"Someone has to step up and help Maryland racing," Ritchey, who is based at Delaware Park, but also races regularly in Maryland, said. "The savior at one time was off-track wagering. Now it is slot machines. Look at the surrounding states. Someone must step up to the plate here in Maryland."