PREAKNESS PREVIEW: Besides speed, Afleet Alex has personality
By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on May 20, 2005 1:47 PM
BALTIMORE -- He's got four legs and eats hay, yet there are times when Afleet Alex acts more like a human than a horse.
"I don't know if you guys can see it, but it's like there's a little person in there," said jockey Jeremy Rose, who will ride the Preakness favorite on Saturday.
Those who back Afleet Alex on race days care only about his performance, which includes six career wins and a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago. But those who know him intimately see a horse with a stable full of personality and compassion.
"I think it was all to do with the way he was brought up," trainer Tim Ritchey said. "He was basically bottle-fed by two little girls. At the time, I think he bonded with people more than he did with his mother because she wasn't there.
"He has the ultimate trust in humans, so whatever you want to do with him he is absolutely fine with. He's just become a mellow, likable, easygoing racehorse."
He's also talented enough to win the 130th Preakness.
"Afleet Alex is a really nice horse, a great horse," said John Shirreffs, trainer of Derby winner Giacomo. "He's got a tremendous record."
Afleet Alex has amassed career earnings of $1.5 million, no small sum for a horse that cost a mere $75,000 in a Maryland auction a year ago.
When Ritchey placed the winning bid on behalf of Cash is King LLC, he never imagined the son of Northern Afleet would be so good.
"We certainly didn't have any hopes of looking there and finding a Derby horse," he said. "If it were that easy, everybody would be doing it."
Winning the Preakness won't be easy, either. Afleet Alex must start from the No. 12 post, and if he reaches the back stretch trailing Giacomo and Closing Argument, it might be difficult for Rose to bring him from behind.
In the Derby, Afleet Alex finished behind both those two long shots.
"You've to respect Giacomo and Closing argument. Any horse that beats me, I give credit to," Rose said, "and Closing Argument is the only horse I've ever been behind that I couldn't get past."
Ritchey has looked at the tape dozens of times, and the result never changes.
"That's over. We ran a great race," he said. "I was proud of the horse, I was proud of Jeremy. Maybe there were two or three places in the race where we could have made up a length, but it's all hindsight right now. We can't look back. We've got to look forward."
The same can be said of Giacomo, who had his first workout at Pimlico on Thursday.
"He was comfortable on the racetrack. He wasn't looking at all the tents in the infield," Shirreffs said. "When he jogged on the backside and got into his gallop, he got into a nice, easy, long gallop, a nice stride. He wasn't going short. He looked like his normal self, pretty comfortable out there."
If Giacomo can beat the odds again and win the Preakness, it would set up the fourth consecutive Triple Crown attempt and seventh in nine years. No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
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