Trainer says Afleet Alex on track for more races


ELMONT, N.Y. - The sporting world hasn't seen the last, or maybe even the best, of Afleet Alex, says Tim Ritchey, his trainer.

The morning after Afleet Alex's overpowering victory in the Belmont Stakes, Ritchey said the colt would likely race Aug. 7 in the Haskell Invitational Handicap at Monmouth Park. Afleet Alex might also compete Aug. 27 in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, the trainer said.

What's more, Ritchey said, the 3-year-old Afleet Alex would race next year, assuming he stays healthy and sound.

"This horse is going to run as a 4-year-old. Period. End of story," Ritchey said.

Most recent winners of Triple Crown races quit racing at 3 because of injuries or sales to breeding farms. Last year, after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and almost winning the Belmont, Smarty Jones was retired to stud despite being the country's most popular horse and racing's biggest draw.

"I think it's the thing to do," Ritchey said of racing Afleet Alex next year. "I think it will make the horse more valuable. I know the owners are having the time of their lives - and so am I."

Ritchey said that representatives of 15 farms, most in Kentucky, had called about standing Afleet Alex when he retires. He said the colt's owners - the five-person syndicate known as Cash is King Stable - would likely sell the breeding rights at some point but retain the racing rights through 2006.

Ritchey estimated that Afleet Alex was worth $20 million to $25 million after his victory in the Preakness.

"I think his value has increased dramatically after the way he won the Belmont," Ritchey said.

Cash is King paid $75,000 for Afleet Alex in May last year at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic auction at the Timonium fairgrounds. After winning eight of 12 races, the colt has earned $2,765,800.

At some point, Ritchey said, he wants to run Afleet Alex on the grass. He might perform even better than he has on dirt, he said.

"I think he'll excel on the turf," Ritchey said.

The turf experiment could take place this fall. Other possible races Ritchey mentioned for Afleet Alex this year were the Super Derby on Oct. 1 at Louisiana Downs and the Breeders' Cup on Oct. 29 at Belmont - and not necessarily the Breeders' Cup Classic. Ritchey said the Turf and Sprint could fit Afleet Alex.

"He's a horse who can do almost anything," Ritchey said. "He's kind of an iron horse. He's performing better and better every time."

NOTE: Yesterday, Ritchey took exception to the word "confronted" in a Sun story Friday as a description of his meeting Thursday with trainer Dale Romans at their barn at Belmont. That's the day Ritchey moved Afleet Alex to another barn after horses from Kentucky had shipped into his. Ritchey said his meeting with Romans was cordial and brief. Also, Ritchey said he moved Afleet Alex to a more private barn so the horse could get some rest, not because he didn't want to share the barn with horses from states that had experienced outbreaks of the equine diseases herpes and strangles.

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