May 2015 Issue - page 4

Page 4
May 2015
Ten Years After Afleet Alex’s Conquests, Son Materiality is on the Triple Crown Trail
by Terry Conway
Hard to believe it's been
nearly ten years. For as long as
they run races at historic Pimlico
Race Course, it surely will be
remembered as the single most
amazing athletic feat by a thor-
Afleet Alex was storming
into the top of the stretch in the
2005 Preakness Stakes when
frontrunner Scrappy T.'s jockey
Ramon Dominguez unleashed
a roundhouse left-handed whip
on his mount. It caused his colt
to veer sharply to his right, and
directly into the path of Afleet
Alex. Clipping heels, Afleet Alex
stumbled badly, his face and knee
only inches from the ground. As
for his jockey, Jeremy Rose was
staring straight down into the
brown dirt between the horse's
With the air sucked out of
the record racetrack crowd of
115,318, somehow Rose grabbed
hold of Alex's mane, clamped
his legs and pulled. The tena-
cious colt reached out with his
front feet, vaulted forward and
immediately got right back to
business. His ears pinned, Afleet
Alex smoothly switched leads
and drew off to win by 4 3/4
lengths. A horrific tumble by
Afleet Alex could have caused
one of the worst catastrophes in
Triple Crown history.
"I think my heart stopped,"
Rose said after the race. "I have
no idea how I stayed on, I was
basically hanging on to the mane
in fear. He's an amazing horse.
I've never seen a horse stumble
like that and then win a race like
Two weeks earlier Afleet
Alex, the son of Northern Afleet
out of Maggy Hawk, had the lead
in the stretch and it looked like
he would be the 2005 Kentucky
Derby winner if he could hold
off Closing Argument. But the
real threat was the fast-closing
Giacomo, who came up on Afleet
Alex’s outside to win the race.
Closing Argument, who was
on the rail, edged Afleet Alex
for second with all three horses
finishing within a length of each
A crowd of 62,274 turned
out for the Belmont Stakes on
the steamy, overcast afternoon of
June 12. The relentless colt was
owned by a partnership of five
Philadelphians and trained by
Tim Ritchey, a former three-day
event rider. That day Afleet Alex
once again proved to be the best
of his crop, whipping the pants
off his rivals, much the way
he had in the Preakness. After
weaving his way through the
field from the back of the pack,
at the top of the stretch the colt
uncorked an electric turn of foot
and pulled away to win by seven
lengths. His final quarter-mile in
:24.50 was the fastest for a colt
since Arts and Letters in 1969
(although filly Rags to Riches
came home in :23.83 in the 2007
It would be the last time
race fans would see the beloved
champion. Afleet Alex suffered a
hairline condylar fracture of the
left front cannon bone that July,
perhaps caused by his Preakness
acrobatics. New Jersey Equine
Clinic's Dr. Patty Hogan oper-
ated on Afleet Alex to repair the
fracture and said the degenerative
condition probably would have
led to another fracture had the
colt continued to race.
How tough was Afleet Alex?
The surgeon said she had to
go through several drill heads
because Alex’s bone was so hard,
so dense. He headed off to stud
with a brilliant 12-8-2-1 racing
record with $2,765,000 in career
earnings. Of his eight victories,
six were in stakes competition
with three Grade 1 victories.
Twelve Month Whirlwind
Chuck Zacney, the owner
of a medical-billing company in
Oreland, Pa., was managing part-
ner of the five-person ownership
group known as Cash Is King.
Today, he owns 14 racehorses in
training with a couple of babies
and mares. Six of the runners are
offspring of Afleet Alex.
"This is a tough business and
the longer you are in the game
you see how difficult it is to get
to that big stage," said Zacney,
(Continued on page 37)
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