03/03/2005 1:00AM

Afleet Alex entered in Mountain Valley


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Afleet Alex will have three for the Kentucky Derby after trainer Tim Ritchey on Thursday entered him in Saturday's $50,000 Mountain Valley Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

A six-furlong race for 3-year-olds, the Mountain Valley drew a field of six, with Afleet Alex set to break from post 5 under Jeremy Rose. Ritchey confirmed that John Velazquez will be aboard Afleet Alex later this month, when he starts in the Grade 3, $250,000 Rebel Stakes on March 19. The $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 16 will be Afleet Alex's final stop before the Kentucky Derby.

Afleet Alex's entry was a surprise, a move kept close to the vest by Ritchey.

"I had it in the back of my mind for the last month and a half," he said. "That way we'll have three races before the Derby, which is what I kind of had planned all along. I just didn't have him ready for the Southwest. So, he'll run Saturday, and hopefully I'll be able to get permission from the stewards to let him gallop out seven-eighths."

Afleet Alex has had two strong works since a troubled second in the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Oct. 30, traveling four furlongs in 47 seconds on Feb. 16 and six furlongs in a bullet 1:13.80 on Feb. 25. Both works came at Oaklawn.

Overall, Afleet Alex has won 4 of 6 races and $680,800, with his biggest win coming in the Grade 1 Hopeful. He was runner-up for champion 2-year-old of 2004, and he races for Cash Is King LLC.

The rest of the field for the Mountain Valley, from the rail with riders: Dr. Meatball, Calvin Borel; Rocky River, Terry Thompson; Razor, Roman Chapa; Sir Laff Alot, John McKee; and Smoke Smoke Smoke, Seth Martinez.