Updated on 09/17/2011 9:12PM

Afleet Alex better than ever

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Proving his loss in the Rebel was a fluke, Afleet Alex wins the Arkansas Derby by a record eight lengths.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Take a deep breath. Afleet Alex is back.

Afleet Alex, compromised by a lung infection in the Rebel Stakes last month, rebounded with the best performance of his career on Saturday, racing to an authoritative eight-length victory in the Grade 2, $1 million at Oaklawn Park.

The margin of victory was an Arkansas Derby record.

An announced crowd of 71,010, the second-largest in Oaklawn's history, sent Afleet Alex off as the 2-1 favorite, with Greater Good next at 5-2. Afleet Alex ($6.80) did not disappoint them.

Under jockey Jeremy Rose, Afleet Alex settled into midpack in the 10-horse field as longshot Batson Challenge led through fractions of 23.03 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 47.91 seconds for a half-mile, and 1:12.78 for six furlongs. As the field neared the far turn, Afleet Alex made a powerful move while four paths wide to go up and engage the leaders.

Flower Alley, who had been racing just back of Batson Challenge while three paths wide on both turns, moved with Afleet Alex a quarter-mile out, and Canteen tried to go with them, too, but after straightening away into the lane, Afleet Alex bounded clear in an overpowering performance.

Afleet Alex completed 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track in 1:48.80.

Flower Alley, seeking to give trainer Todd Pletcher a sweep of the day's major 3-year-old races, held on for second, three-quarters of a length in front of third-place Andromeda's Hero. Real Dandy was fourth and was followed, in order, by Greater Good, Canteen, Rush Bay, Wild Desert, Cat Shaker, and Batson Challenge, who was vanned from the track after the race. Stewards reported he was lame in his right front leg.

Greater Good, who had captured the Rebel and Southwest stakes earlier this meet, was very washy before the race, raced wide on both turns, and never fired. Rush Bay broke poorly and never threatened.

Afleet Alex, a son of Northern Afleet, has now won 6 of 9 starts. He has finished second in two other races. But the worst performance of his career came in the Rebel, in which he finished last of six as the 3-5 favorite while being ridden for the first and only time by John Velazquez.

"We had a little bump in the road, but the horse overcame it," trainer Tim Ritchey said on the ESPN telecast.

Velazquez chose to ride Bandini in the Blue Grass victory on Saturday for his main client, Pletcher. Like Afleet Alex, Bandini also won convincingly. But Velazquez's decision enabled Rose to get back on Afleet Alex, whom he has ridden in every race but the Rebel.

After the race, on ESPN, Ritchey would not say whether Rose would retain the mount for the Kentucky Derby on May 7.

Afleet Alex is owned by the Cash Is King partnership, a group of five friends from the Philadelphia area. The managing partner is Chuck Zacney.

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