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Afleet Alex retires

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2005 9:00 pm    Post subject: Afleet Alex retires Reply with quote

Afleet Alex retires
About.com, 12/01/2005

After months of waiting and hoping, Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex was retired. Trainer Tim Ritchey had shipped him to Gulfstream Park just this week and was preparing him for a start in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita, when the announcement was made. He had not raced since winning the Belmont Stakes, having suffered hairline condylar fracture of the left front cannon bone during a July workout. He appeared to be back, with two straight bullet works at Belmont, five furlongs in 59.85 seconds on Sept. 30 and then a half mile in 46.02 seconds on October 7, after which he was taken off the track for the last time.

The son of Northern Afleet out of the Hawkster mare Maggy Hawk retires with 8 wins in 12 starts, with earnings of $2,765,800. If not for a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, he would have been racing's 12th Triple Crown winner. Along with the two classics, Afleet Alex scored in the Arkansas Derby and the Mountain Valley Stakes at Oaklawn, He started off his career with four straight wins, including the Sanford and the Hopeful at Saratoga, before finishing second in both the Champagne Stakes and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He is the favorite to win the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old.

Ritchey said about the retirement, "This is going to be like sending your son off to college or seeing him get married. He's absolutely a part of our family, and this has been one of the most enjoyable years I've ever had. I was just so lucky to come across a horse like this that has affected my life, the owners' lives, my family's lives, and the lives of a lot of other people, especially those involved with Alex's Lemonade Stand and the children we visited in the different hospitals. He touched so many lives and he'll really be missed. The Preakness, everybody who saw it, even the people who watched the highlights of it, it's something they'll never forget. I told my two sons that even after I'm dead and buried, as long as they're alive they'll probably see that highlight every time they go to see a Preakness."

Dr. Patricia Hogan of the New Jersey Equine Clinic, also famous for treating Smarty Jones as a juvenile, explained the extent of the injury. She said the injury probably occurred during the Preakness when he clipped heels with Scrappy T at the 1/4 pole and almost fell, but miraculously stayed on his feet and drew away to a 4 1/4 length win. "The wedge (of bone that abutted the original fracture) is essentially an island of brittle bone that was once badly bruised, and over time has slowly lost its blood supply. As a result, the bone has become brittle and has lost its spongy characteristics. In medical terms, it is called avascular necrosis. It is in a location at the bottom of the cannon bone toward the back where it was almost impossible to see. We talked to Dr. (Larry) Bramlage about it and he said if it ever healed at all it would have taken months, and I don't think we'd ever feel confident radiographically that it would look normal enough for the horse to return to racing. The quality of this wedge of bone is so poor that the healing process would be very slow. Typically, this type of injury may take months before a hairline fracture occurs." Hogan added, "Had this injury been apparent earlier, our focus would have been in an entirely different direction, one pointing Alex toward a career at stud instead of a return to racing."

Chuck Zacney, managing partner of Philadelphia-based ownership group Cash is King Stable, said, "We're all very disappointed and frustrated. We were really looking forward to racing Alex next year and to showing just how great a horse he was. I don't think horse racing fans saw the best of Alex. They saw a lot of very good races, but, the way he was growing and maturing, I really feel the best was yet to come. The truth of the matter is we've been getting calls from day one to sell Alex. We received so many lucrative offers for him as a 2-year-old, but we decided not to sell because of our love for horseracing. We were told after the Belmont that that was the time to sell. We knew the risks involved, but we felt his 4-year-old campaign would be very successful and that he would go down in the archives as one of the greatest racehorses. Unfortunately, we're given no choice at this time and we do have to retire him, based on the recommendation of both Dr. Hogan and Dr. Bramlage. The next step is to find a good home for Alex."
Peter Gibbons
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