10/10/2005 12:00AM

Afleet Alex out of Breeders' Cup


ELMONT, N.Y. - The connections of Afleet Alex have pulled the plug on getting the Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner to the Breeders' Cup.

A set of X-rays taken over the weekend revealed that Afleet Alex's fracture in his left ankle was not 100 percent healed. Though trainer Tim Ritchey said he expects Afleet Alex to return to the races - possibly later this year, in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile - he wrote in a posting on afleetalex.com that time had run out on trying to make the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 29.

"We feel it is in Alex's best interests to miss the Breeders' Cup races," the posting read, attributed to Ritchey and Dr. Patricia Hogan of the New Jersey Equine Clinic. "Unfortunately, the timing is just a little too close to demand the enormous athletic effort that would be required to race at that elite level of competition. Although perhaps a disappointment for racing, it is only a temporary one. The prognosis remains excellent for a return to Alex's elite level of competition."

Ritchey took a set of X-rays over the weekend, following Afleet Alex's second workout since returning to training in early September. Ritchey said the X-rays revealed that a faint line exists that indicates "the bone is still in the end stages of the healing process. We are 99 percent there, but for this horse we require 100 percent," the Web site posting said.

Last week, it looked as though Afleet Alex could make it back from the fractured ankle, which he suffered in late July while training for the Haskell Invitational. That injury required surgery in which a screw was inserted to stabilize the bone.

Afleet Alex returned to training in early September, and by the end of the month he breezed five furlongs in a bullet 59.85 seconds. Last Friday, he breezed another bullet half-mile in 46.02 seconds. Ritchey had planned to run Afleet Alex this week in one of several spots, including the Grade 2 Perryville Stakes Friday at Keeneland.

Following Friday's work, both Ritchey and jockey Jeremy Rose raved about how well Afleet Alex was doing physically.

Ritchey said that Afleet Alex remains in training and that he jogged four miles Monday over a muddy main track at Belmont Park. Ritchey said the wet track precludes him from training Afleet Alex the way he would like to. Ritchey did not rule out getting him back to the races later this year.

"We're going to pass for the time being," Ritchey said by phone Monday afternoon. "One race isn't worth jeopardizing the rest of his career; with the muddy racetrack I'm going to jog him quite a bit. He'll go out every single day."

Afleet Alex remains a leading contender for champion 3-year-old and Horse of the Year. After finishing third, beaten one length in the Kentucky Derby, Afleet Alex came back to win the Preakness Stakes in dramatic fashion, overcoming a severe bumping incident with Scrappy T at the top of the stretch before recovering and drawing clear to a 4 3/4-length victory.

Three weeks later Afleet Alex crushed the field in the Belmont Stakes, running away in the stretch to score a seven-length victory.On the road to the Triple Crown series, Afleet Alex won the Mountain Valley Stakes sprinting and the Arkansas Derby going nine furlongs. His only bad performance came in the Rebel Stakes, in which he finished last. He was reported to have come out of that race with a lung infection.

Afleet Alex is owned by the Cash is King stable headed by Philadelphia resident Chuck Zacney. Zacney has said repeatedly that he wants to race Afleet Alex next year.