07/28/2005 11:00PM

Afleet Alex on the mend

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Afleet Alex was resting comfortably at his Belmont Park base on Friday, the day after it was announced he would miss both the Haskell Invitational and Travers Stakes with a hairline condylar fracture to his left front cannon bone. His connections said a fall comeback has not been ruled out for the colt, who won this year's Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

The injury, near the bottom of the cannon bone, was detected Tuesday, and on Wednesday, Afleet Alex had a screw placed across the fracture in a 35-minute procedure at New Jersey Equine Clinic in Clarksburg, N.J.

"He's going to be fine," said Tim Ritchey, who trains Afleet Alex for Cash Is King Stable. "It was caught at such an early stage, [the fracture] is really tiny - an inch and a half at the very most."

Ritchey said the fracture was non-displaced, and that the screw will stabilize it and keep the crack from spreading further. The screw also ensures that the cannon bone will be as strong as it was before the injury. Ritchey said Afleet Alex will have stall rest for the next week, then will begin walking two to three times a day, for about a week to 10 days.

Following that stage of rehabilitation, Afleet Alex will undergo another set of X-rays, said Ritchey.

"We'll re-evaluate him; consult with the experts," said Ritchey, who will discuss Afleet Alex's condition with both Dr. Larry Bramlage of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., and Dr. Patty Hogan of the New Jersey Equine Clinic.

If given the green light, Afleet Alex would begin walking under tack, then training, said Ritchey.

Ritchey first noticed something was amiss with Afleet Alex on Tuesday morning, following a training session at Belmont. Ritchey said the colt was not lame, but was just not walking like his normal self while cooling out after exercise. A set of X-rays were taken at Belmont, and although nothing definitive came of them, Ritchey sent Afleet Alex to New Jersey Equine Clinic for further diagnostics.

Ritchey is not exactly sure what caused the fracture. Sometimes a simple misstep during a routine gallop can result in this type of injury.

"It could have been anything," said Ritchey.

Ritchey said that if Afleet Alex is to run in the Breeders' Cup, he will have to have a prep race first. Ritchey and Chuck Zacney, managing partner of Cash Is King, both said that decisions on Afleet Alex's next start will be made based on how the horse progresses. Zacney also said that as long as Afleet Alex is healthy, the plan is still to race him at age 4.