- Afleet Alex was on the track at Belmont Monday morning, galloping not once, but twice around the huge mile and a half oval….and that was just a couple of hours after a mile and a half jog on a very warm and humid morning on Long Island.
So, in total, Afleet Alex trained an unbelievable 4 1/2 miles on the hottest morning of the year by far. When he returned from his gallop, his nostrils were flared and bright red, and you could clearly see every vein on his body. After being hosed down, he seemed to cool out well and was none the worse for wear. It actually may have taken Ritchey longer to cool out, as he returned on the pony with sweat pouring off him. This horse continues to amaze, as he does things you just don't see other horses do.Tim Ritchey notes an important difference between Alex and the last two Belmont favorites. "My horse relaxes….I don't think Funny Cide ever relaxed in that race, and we know that Smarty Jones didn't. In a mile-and-a-half race, you have to have a horse that will relax early.” [Newsday]
Ritchey said today's move will be Alex's final stiff gallop before the race. "I wasn't planning on working him again, so I wanted him to stretch his legs a little bit this morning, and show some acceleration, which he did," Ritchey said. "The only thing is, it got hotter that I anticipated, so we just have to make sure he gets some cold water on him, and we'll get some fluids in him, and everything should be good. The heat is always a concern, but it's never bothered him. He ran during the summer months at Delaware Park and Saratoga last year, so I don't foresee it being a problem.
"I'll cut down on his training after today. That was his major move, five days before the race, and we'll start jogging and slow galloping once a day from now until the race." [Bloodhorse]
- Southern Africa’s trainer Mike Pulhich sounds extremely confident about the G3 Lone Star Derby winner, who worked 6f in 1:13 at Arlington yesterday. "He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:25 and we're ready to roll.” [Bloodhorse] He’ll ship to Belmont on Wednesday. Southern Africa is the only graded winner in the field other than the top two choices, but is a bit under the radar screen, having beaten up on second/third stringers in the Lone Star race. He won the Borderland Derby at Sunland in February against even lesser. He earned a lifetime best 96 in the LS Derby, and zipped home in :30 2/5 for the last 2 1/2 furlongs, though as we noted a few days ago, the Lone Star strip has been lightning fast. He shows the kind of tracking speed that generally serves horses well in the Belmont, but has never won over 1 1/16th; he’s 0-2 at 9 furlongs. He’s by Cape Town (Seeking the Gold), who won the Florida Derby at 9 furlongs; his most famous offspring is champion Bird Town, who also won up to 1 1/8 miles, setting a stakes record in the Kentucky Oaks. His foals have an average winning distance of 6.8 furlongs, and I don’t see much to go by in his female family, so I’m not drawing any conclusions from his breeding about his ability to get the distance or not. He's a bit of a mystery to me.
Southern Africa is not to be confused with South Africa, either the minor stakes winner also by Cape Town, nor the country, whose president Thabo Mbeki was in Washington to meet with our president last week. The latter confirmed after the meeting that the U.S. would not go along with Tony Blair’s appeals to double hunger relief aid to Africa by $25 billion, saying that "It doesn't fit our budgetary process," demonstrating his ever-increasing vocabulary [NY Times]. It’s in the most bipartisan of spirit that I say that there’s something tragically wrong with a world in which we spend many times more than that to develop weapons to kill and mutilate people, because surely even the most ardent supporters of the adventure in Iraq would agree that there's something wrong with that, right? Especially, and here comes the more partisan portion of the blog, when the current war was initiated under false pretenses that the press won’t focus on even when it’s spelled out in writing, as in the Downing Street Memo. More on that at The Snarky Cat, AfterDowningStreet.org, and the Big Brass Alliance.
- From the White House to a white horse - The White Fox, one of only 17 pure white Thoroughbreds that have ever been registered in the 300 years of recorded Thoroughbred breeding, finished third in his career debut as the 9-10 favorite in Sunday's first race at River Downs. [Bloodhorse] He has his own website at www.thewhitefox.com.
- A couple of early Belmont predictions from Newsday’s weekly triple crown panel:
- I know Afleet Alex has been training well since the Preakness, but I still suspect that the Triple Crown's first two legs will have a wearying effect in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont. So whom to pick? Giacomo's late-running style, despite the added distance, is still not the way to win the Belmont. My hunch is that it will be trainer Nick Zito's turn in the Belmont again - with new shooter Pinpoint, who ran a good race on the Preakness undercard.
- Afleet Alex is remarkably resilient but comes off a career-best effort in pace and final time and was interrupted by the terrifying incident for which the 2005 Preakness will be forever remembered. A regression would be only natural. Giacomo keeps running the same race and is always at the mercy of the pace. Kentucky was the right place at the right time, but this is not a horse that will win many races. Pinpoint, Reverberate and Southern Africa are up-and-coming colts. Afleet Alex is clearly the one to beat, but from a bettor's perspective, a vulnerable favorite nevertheless. [Newsday]