04/25/2005 11:00PM

Afleet Alex motors on in latest work

Afleet Alex, Jeremy Rose up, works five furlongs in a bullet 59 seconds Tuesday at Churchill Downs. Trainer Tim Ritchey said Afleet Alex will likely breeze once more before the Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - On a dank and chilly morning that seemed to yield few hints that the 131st Kentucky Derby is just around the corner, Afleet Alex was the hottest thing going when he glided through a five-furlong breeze in a bullet 59 seconds Tuesday at Churchill Downs.

"Everything went very well," said trainer Tim Ritchey, who, astride his stable pony, accompanied Afleet Alex and jockey Jeremy Rose to about the 5 1/2-furlong pole before the workout. "He started out a little slower than usual, finished well, galloped out well, and pulled up fine. He got back to the barn and really wasn't breathing very hard. Everything's on schedule."

Following a leisurely once-around tour of the track, and over a surface rated fast, Afleet Alex proceeded through fractions of 12.40, 24, 35.40, and 46.60 seconds before galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.40. His time was the fastest of 29 workers at the distance for the day.

Rose and Ritchey, both of whom will be in their first Derby on May 7, were surrounded by about a dozen media members for post-work interviews in what passed for the most notable news of an otherwise uneventful morning.

Ritchey said that if all goes well, Afleet Alex probably will breeze one more time before the Derby, "either Monday or Tuesday."

Afleet Alex, who figures no worse than the third wagering choice off his eight-length victory in the April 16 Arkansas Derby, picked up at least one additional fan over the weekend: John Servis, who, like Ritchey, is a veteran trainer based in the Delaware Valley. Servis, who trained Smarty Jones to win the Derby last year, no longer has a prospect for the Derby following the defection of Rockport Harbor, who finished sixth Saturday in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes.

"John said he is now on the Afleet Alex bandwagon," Ritchey said later on a national teleconference call. "He said he'll be watching us and cheering for our horse."

An easy six for General John B

General John B worked a smooth six furlongs Tuesday at Santa Anita, and even if he is overmatched in the Kentucky Derby, he will enter with a conspicuously improving pattern. General John B, runner-up by a half-length at 64-1 in the Santa Anita Derby, was on the track Tuesday at 8 a.m. and worked in 1:13 under Tony Farina.

"He was just cruising," said trainer Roger Stein. "He's doing so good."

The work was his second since the Santa Anita Derby. Stein said General John B would ship to Churchill Downs on Saturday, work five furlongs Monday, and take his best shot next Saturday.

"This year there's one standout - Bellamy Road - and all the geniuses say he's not going to run back," Stein said, referring to Bellamy Road's victory in the Wood, in which he earned a 120 Beyer. "If he does, he buries the field. If he really cannot run back to that race, it's good for us. Then we have a chance, that's all. My horse was about 80 percent last time, now he's about 95 percent."

Owned by Ross McLeod, General John B won the Turf Paradise Derby by six lengths and enters the Kentucky Derby having won 3 of 7. He will be the first Derby starter for Stein and first Derby mount for jockey Jon Court.

Storm Surge unlikely for Derby

Trainer Dallas Stewart said Tuesday he is "doubtful" that Storm Surge will run in the Derby, although "it's something I still have to talk about" with the colt's owner, Overbrook Farm.

Storm Surge has the 12th-highest graded earnings among Derby hopefuls, so his defection would be meaningful to other "bubble" horses, including B. Wayne Hughes's Don't Get Mad, who might run back in the Derby if it appears likely that Hughes's other horse, Greeley's Galaxy, will be excluded. First, Don't Get Mad will race Saturday in the Derby Trial on opening day of the spring meet at Churchill. The Trial will be televised live on a one-hour program that starts at 5 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

Trainers still searching for Derby pilots

Coin Silver, winner of the Lexington for trainer Todd Pletcher, is one of several Derby prospects without a confirmed jockey assignment.

"I was without a rider for the Coolmore Lexington until 10:30 morning of entry, so I'm not worried about that," said Pletcher. "You've got plenty of talented riders out there - Alex Solis, Pat Valenzuela, Jose Santos. There's a lot to choose from."

Likewise, Nick Zito said he intends to "play it close to the vest" before naming a rider for Andromeda's Hero, the only one of his five contenders without a confirmed jockey. Also, Going Wild, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, needs a rider.

* Pletcher, responding to a question on a Tuesday conference call about whether deep-pocketed owners will keep giving him promising young horses even if he does not win the Derby: "I'd like to think that if I don't win the Derby, I'm still going to have a job the next day."

- additional reporting by Brad Free

3-year-old graded stakes earnings

The leading contenders for the 131st Kentucky Derby based on earnings in graded stakes races, the tiebreaker if the field exceeds the maximum 20 entries:

1Afleet Alex$1,245,000
3High Fly 796,500
5Bellamy Road570,000
7High Limit510,000
8Flower Alley500,000
9Buzzards Bay480,000
10Sun King402,500
11Greater Good391,344
12Storm Surge215,140
13Coin Silver201,500
14Noble Causeway190,000
16Closing Argument165,000
17General John B150,000
18Spanish Chestnut124,000
19Andromeda's Hero115,000
20Sort It Out 65,000
21Don't Get Mad60,000
22Going Wild57,250
23Greeley's Galaxy *300,000

* - not nominated to Triple Crown