- I’d really like to find a reason to throw out either Afleet Alex or Bandini and find someone else to add some value to the mix. I posted about Bandini yesterday. Afleet Alex had to overcome a significant setback in his training, but bounced back in the Arkansas Derby better than many, including I, could imagine he could. He has a solid foundation of 2 year old experience, and could very well be undefeated if not for bad racing luck and lung infections. If you draw a line through the Rebel, he couldn’t be more impressive; his figs have improved over his 2 year old year, and he won both races handily in excellent come-home times. He passes all the qualification tests, with 3 preps (though the Rebel couldn’t have done much for him) and his last prep the optimum 3 weeks before.
He’s also from the Raise A Native sire line, though through a less fashionable path than Bandini. His sire Northern Afleet stands for $12,500, and his sire Afleet was exported to Japan. Northern Afleet is also the sire of 2005 stakes winners G.P. Fleet (9 furlongs, turf) and Saint Afleet (6 1/2 furlongs), and he has 5 stakes winners in his first crop. Though Afleet Alex is from a crop of only 37 named foals:
His next two crops, beginning with his 2005 juveniles, average in the 70's, and he was bred to 124 mares in 2004. [Taylor Made Stallions]Northern Afleet won stakes up to 9 furlongs.
Afleet Alex’s full brother, Unforgettable Max, has won a stakes at 9f too. Some people talk about his female family adding stamina, but I think they’re referring more to sires in his dam’s pedigree like Hawaii and Roberto, rather than any great class from his tail-female line. His pedigree seems more like one that could get the distance rather than should get it. He does have a dosage index is 2.11, and he's a complete outcross through his first five generations.
The decision to retain Jeremy Rose as jockey is something to consider; Rose may be a fine young rider and seems like a nice kid, but with the big field, just the slightest hesitation or indecision could be the difference. In the Arkansas Derby, I thought he demonstrated excellent judgment, sensing the slow pace and taking matters into his own hands. If he can ride Alex the same way in the Derby he’ll be fine, and nobody will criticize him for whipping too much in the stretch.
Putting the betting aside, I’d prefer Afleet Alex over Bandini. His humans’ stories are nice and they’re good for the sport, and I’m pissed at Bandini’s connections over the Spanish Chestnut thing. One thing about Bandini - considering again the angle of 2 year old racing, Bandini did start last year, once, and he finished well back. So though he technically raced at 2 and thus doesn't have to buck a trend that's held since 1882, the idea of that angle is a horse getting a foundation of racing that will allow him to perservere through the long stretch and added ground of the Derby, and Bandini clearly did not get that at 2. Afleet Alex, on the other hand, was right there with the best of them last year, and has only improved in 2005. His 5f in :59 workout last week was the best of 29 at Churchill that day, with the next fastest 1 2/5 seconds slower.
The move, in fractions of :12 2/5, :24, :35 2/5, and :46 3/5, with a six-furlong gallop-out time of 1:12 2/5, pleased trainer Tim Ritchey and jockey Jeremy Rose. [Bloodhorse]Note that he threw in eights of :11 2/5 and :11 1/5 - a quarter of :22 3/5! and actually - understandably - slowed up a bit in the final eighth. He’s shown a devastating kick in his two wins this year, and if Rose times it the right way, and he can get the extra furlong.....Just thinking out loud.
- Wilko had a nice work the other day, and I see some are starting to hype his chances. According to Haskin's report yesterday, in which he made cases for both Wilko and Buzzards Bay, Wilko flew home his last quarter in :22 2/5 to complete his five furlongs in :59 4/5, then "galloped" out another eighth in :12 flat for a six-furlong clocking in 1:11 4/5.
As opposed to Afleet Alex, Wilko’s figs have not improved from his 2 year old - he still hasn’t run back to his Juvenile. He’s had only two preps, his training has been disrupted by rain and quarter cracks, and he always seems to have an excuse. I thought he had none in the SA Derby; he had dead aim on two horses he should have beaten, and I think he’ll have to improve considerably to be close in the Derby.