- Tim Ritchey and Jeremy Rose spoke to the Philly Daily News’ Dick Jerardi about the unique qualities that make Afleet Alex the one to beat.
How often do you get a horse with the talent and intelligence to go with it?Rose plans to change nothing for the marathon distance of the Belmont, as he wrote in the NY Post:
"First one I've come across," Ritchey said. "I've trained an awful lot of horses in 30 years. A lot of horses have the talent, but they don't have the mental ability to just relax. I've seen some horses that could relax, but they couldn't run very fast."
Alex's jockey, Jeremy Rose, said Alex could give the burst of speed any time during a race. What Ritchey has done is teach Alex to relax so when Rose deems it the right time, an almost imperceptible signal tells the colt to go. That Alex has the stamina to still have that burst after running a pretty high speed for several furlongs is a testament to all those miles in the morning. [Philly Daily News]
As far as the Belmont, I've already pretty much figured out what I want to do ... whether it'll happen or not, I don't know. But what I'd like to do is just set back like I have in every race, let him relax the first mile and probably a quarter, and then just let him run that last quarter.Sounds pretty easy, but it remains to be seen just how things will set up for him. If Rose keeps his cool – perhaps he should watch a tape of Real Quiet to see what he should not do – it’s hard to imagine that he won’t be right there, if not all by himself at the finish. Jerry Bailey says that Rose’s lack of experience at the track and in the race really doesn’t mean all that much.
"What do I have over Jeremy Rose? Not a lot," he says. "Most of us only ride one mile-and-a-half dirt race every year, and if you're ready for pressure situations, if you're capable of performing in big races, the mile-and-a-half won't faze you."Cash is King has apparently turned down ever-increasing offers for the horse. Nick Zito confirmed to the Philly Inquirer that his offer after Alex’s maiden win was $650,000. Managing partner Chuck Zacney spoke about a phone call he received after they won the Sanford at Saratoga last summer.
Yes, Bailey says, 19 rides "gives you some edge but it's certainly not critical. Give me the better horse and I'll give you all my previous Belmont experience." [NY Daily News]
"Somebody was offering $2 million for Alex. You don't know how legitimate it all was, but they sounded interested. I turned the phone off, I leaned over to my wife, and said, 'We just turned down $2 million for Alex.' She started rolling her eyes. I heard numbers directly, myself, I believe the number went as high as $3-to-31/2 million, prior to the Breeders' Cup." [Philly Inquirer]And this report from Delaware Online (via Albany Law School) says that the offers have reached $10 million since the Preakness. I have to say, if I’d paid $75,000 for my first horse and was offered $650,000 after he broke his maiden, I would have been mighty tempted, wouldn’t you?
- Bill Handleman in the Asbury Park Press takes another look at Giacomo, noting how cautious his connections have been in the past.
The last time Shirreffs saw fit to come to Belmont Park he brought Bertrando with him. Bertrando ran in the Woodward Stakes in 1994…."I just noticed Holy Bull had blocked heels on and he had a big butt."So, let’s assume that the horse is doing great. That doesn’t mean he’ll be able to win at a mile and a half at Belmont. I think that the idea that he’s some kind of big closer who will naturally thrive here is really a myth that came out of the Derby; if you look at his running lines, you’ll see a one-pace horse who more often than not does no better than run evenly in the stretch. OK, I’m done making my case against him.
The last time Moss came to Belmont Park he won the Metropolitan Mile with a horse named Garthorn. That was in 1986.
Let me get this straight now. The owner returns after 19 years, the trainer comes back after 11, and the colt gets on a plane at 2 o'clock in the morning and flies across country to run against Afleet Alex, a horse who beat him by almost 10 lengths a couple of weeks ago in Baltimore.
Something's up here.
If Giacomo's Derby was such a fluke, then why would his cautious, patient trainer go to all the trouble to fly him back across the country to get his [not that big] butt whipped by Afleet Alex again? [Asbury Park Press]
- Zito’s three entrants in the Belmont gives him a record 11 starters in one Triple Crown series.
D. Wayne Lukas has the record for starters in a Triple Crown series at 10 in 1996, including Derby winner Grindstone and Belmont winner Editor's Note. But one precedent Zito doesn't want to establish is the most starters without a win -- let alone without an in-the-money finish. [Courier-Journal]His Pinpoint comes out of his win in the Sir Barton on Preakness Day, the same race he used to prep 3rd place finisher Royal Assault last year, and the race that Sarava came from in 2002. He’s a son of Canadian champ Peaks and Valleys, a winner up to 9 furlongs, out of a Halo mare, and big surprise, his breeder Arthur Hancock said "He's probably bred to get the distance if anything is. He's a big free-galloping horse.”
If Zito does not get one of these in the money, it would certainly be a dubious distinction. NYRA’s Belmont Stakes website has another:
Bob Ussery can lay claim to a peculiar honor in the Belmont. He finished absolutely last on Jade Amicol in 1968, Bonjour in 1963 and on Folk Dancer in 1962. He missed being dead last on Fleet Shoe in 1966 when he finished tenth in an eleven horse field. [NYRA]