Afleet Alex is an American thoroughbred race horse who, in 2005, won two of America's classic races, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. He is owned by the Cash Is King Stable partnership, was trained by Tim Ritchey and was ridden by Jeremy Rose.
Early Life and Racing Career
Bred in Florida by John Martin Silvertand, Alex is out of the winning mare Maggy Hawk and counts multiple Grade 2-placed Unforgettable Max as a full brother. Maggy Hawk is by Hawkster, a world record holder on turf at a mile and a half. His maternal granddam is 1983 Demoiselle Stakes (G1) winner Qualique. Qualique was sired by Hawaii, a multiple grade one (G1) winner and marathon turf specialist. Also on his dam's side is Sir Gaylord, half-brother to Secretariat, who sired his fourth dam, Gaylord's Touch. Maggy Hawk has three foals of racing age, two runners, two winners and two stakes horses, including Afleet Alex. He was sired by Northern Afleet, a stakes winner from seven furlongs to nine furlongs, who was the son of the 1987 Canadian Horse of the Year, Afleet. Afleet was by the leading sire Mr. Prospector.
Alex was foaled May 9, 2002 at John Martin Silvertand's farm in Florida. At the outset, this plucky colt faced adversity: his mother could not nurse, depriving him of infection-fighting colostrum and endangering his life. Silvertrand's daughter Lauren (then nine) fed Alex from a Coors Light bottle until a nurse mare could be found twelve days later. He was sold in the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May two-year-old in training sale for $75,000.
As a two-year-old, Afleet Alex ran well enough to collect wins in the G1 Hopeful Stakes and G2 Sanford Stakes (in stakes record time) and second place finishes in the G1 Champagne Stakes and the G1 Breeders Cup Juvenile, along with strong maiden and allowance race scores in his first two starts. Afleet Alex started his three-year-old campaign on the Derby Trail, winning the listed Mountain Valley Stakes at Oaklawn Park in very fast time. Suffering from a lung infection, he finished last in the Rebel Stakes under jockey John R. Velazquez, but rounded back into form with a powerful win in the G2 Arkansas Derby, which he won by a record eight lengths under his regular jockey Jeremy Rose. Coming off two strong wins and discarding his Rebel Stakes mishap, Alex was one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby, run May 7, 2005.
Alex finished third in the 2005 Kentucky Derby by less than a length. Yet his showing was more than respectable when one considers that not one, but two rabbits (speedballs entered into a race in order to wear out the most threatening horses) set a blinding pace that killed off the rest of the favorites that day. In addition, Rose later admitted that he had not given Afleet Alex the best ride of his life, perhaps depriving Afleet Alex of a victory. Two weeks later, Alex went on to win the second leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, the G1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, leaving Giacomo, winner of the Kentucky Derby, third. In his Preakness victory, he, as well as possibly the entire field, narrowly escaped disaster when Scrappy T, who was in the lead, swung out at the top of the stretch as a result of an aggressive smack of his jockey Ramon Dominguez's whip, veering straight into Alex just as he made his move and clipping heels with him. This, in turn, caused Alex to stumble so badly that his jockey Jeremy Rose was thrown far over his neck, Alex nearly went to his knees and his nose came within an inch of the dirt. In a feat of athleticism by both horse and rider, Alex picked himself up and recovered his momentum, drawing away from Scrappy T for a 4 3/4 length victory. He finished the mile and three-sixteenth distance of the Preakness in 1:55, the fastest Preakness of the past eight years, turning in one of the fastest final three-sixteenths in Preakness history.
On June 11, 2005, Afleet Alex passed Giacomo and the rest of the field in the final turn at Belmont Park to win the G1 Belmont Stakes by seven lengths, running the fastest final quarter (:24 2/5) in that race since Arts and Letters in 1969. The announcer said while commentating, "And Afleet Alex ran right by Giacomo like he was standing still!" He is the last Belmont Stakes winner to date to have run in all three Triple Crown races.
The Lemonade Connection
Afleet Alex was named for his sire, Northern Afleet, and for the children of his owners, several of whom were named Alex. Afleet Alex's owners subsequently pledged a certain percentage of the colt's earnings to be donated to Alex's Lemonade Stand, after the name connection.
The End of Great Promise
The colt's fall campaign was derailed when he was found in late July 2005 to have a hairline fracture in his left front cannon bone, near the ankle. This injury is not an uncommon injury nor a very serious one if treated properly. Luckily, the fracture was discovered very early, and the prognosis was good for a return to his previous level of performance. Once fully healed, the colt returned to working for the Breeder's Cup Classic, putting in two bullet works in preparation for that race. However, Tim Ritchey decided to take the conservative path with the colt and shelved him for the year. Later on in the year, avascular necrosis (the dying of tissue in the bone, creating a brittle patch) was discovered and diagnosed. The necrosis was probably due to an undetected deep bruise sustained when he caught himself and exerted the tremendous effort needed to save himself and his jockey with his left front leg in his near fall in the Preakness. It is believed the necrosis caused his summer condylar fracture. Tim Ritchey and Cash is King Stable announced his retirement from racing on December 1, 2005.
Several awards were granted to Alex after his retirement:
He was runner-up for the 2004 Eclipse Champion Two-Year-Old Colt or Gelding award and won the Florida Two-Year-Old Champion Male that year.
In the 2005 World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings, Afleet Alex was the World's Top Ranked Three-Year-Old Intermediate Distance Horse. He was ninth place overall, with a rating of 124 for his Preakness, sharing that spot with Deep Impact (2005 Japanese Champion Three-Year-Old Colt and Horse of the Year), Bago (2004 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner and 2004 Cartier Champion Three-Year-Old Male), Leroidesanimaux (2005 U.S. Champion Turf Male), and Starcraft on that ranking sheet, not far behind the top ranked horse and three-year-old. He was the 2005 Florida Champion Three-Year-Old Male and Horse of the Year.
In January 2006, he also won the Eclipse Award for 2005 Champion Three-Year-Old Colt or Gelding and finished second to Saint Liam in the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year balloting. His dramatic victory in the 2005 Preakness Stakes has been voted the National Thoroughbred Racing Association "Moment of the Year." Cash Is King Stable received a special Eclipse Award for its generous contributions to Alex's Lemonade Stand.
In twelve lifetime starts, Alex won eight times (six times in stakes, three times in G1 stakes), placed twice (both in G1 stakes), and came in third once (in a G1 stakes) over 12 starts, for total lifetime earnings of $2,765,800.
The Beginning of New Promise
Afleet Alex is currently standing stud at Gainesway Farm in Lexington, Kentucky where he commands US$30,000 for a successful live cover breeding. His first foal, a colt, was born on January 21, 2007 at Derry Meeting Farm near Cochranville, Pennsylvania. Bred by Derry Meeting and Brian O'Rourke, the colt is the second foal out of the winning Tale of the Cat mare Baby Lets Cruise. The colt's dam is a half-sister to Grade I winner Jade Hunter.