06/01/2005 12:00AM

Afleet Alex puts on his game face

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Preakness Stakes winner Afleet Alex has his final timed workout for the Belmont Stakes on Wednesday at Pimlico, going five furlongs in 1:01.60 under regular rider Jeremy Rose.

It had been a week and a half since the Preakness Stakes, and it was another week and a half until the Belmont Stakes. So on Wednesday, midway between the final two legs of the Triple Crown, Afleet Alex went through the lone workout he will have between those two races, breezing five furlongs in 1:01.60 at Pimlico Race Course with his regular jockey, Jeremy Rose.

"He came out of it well and cooled out perfect," his trainer, Tim Ritchey, said from Baltimore. Pimlico clocker Bryan Walls recorded fractions of 14 seconds, 26.40 seconds, 38 seconds, and 49.80 seconds, and had Afleet Alex going out six furlongs in 1:14.20.

Afleet Alex had been back at the track for about a week since his remarkable victory in the Preakness on May 21, going through his regular routine of jogs and gallops, sometimes twice a day. The June 11 Belmont is 1 1/2 miles, the longest of the Triple Crown races. Ritchey said he was more concerned with stamina than speed for that demanding test, hence less emphasis on works, and more on jogs and gallops that will give Afleet Alex an even more solid foundation.

"He won't breeze again," Ritchey said. "He might go the last half-mile of a gallop next week in 55 seconds or something like that. Because the Belmont is a mile and a half, it's not important to breeze him. I want to get more miles under him, more endurance."

Ritchey originally wanted to send Afleet Alex to Belmont Park last weekend, but he has remained at Pimlico while New York Racing Association officials combat an outbreak of strangles at Belmont Park. Ritchey said the latest plan is to send Afleet Alex by van to Belmont Park on Saturday, one week before the Belmont Stakes.

"That's the tentative plan," Ritchey said. "I'd like to get up there and get some gallops over that track."

In the Preakness, Afleet Alex stumbled badly when clipping the heels of Scrappy T at the top of the stretch, but he recovered in an instant and went on to a runaway victory. Ritchey said he was "very surprised" Afleet Alex was not as sore as he expected in the days following the race.

"The first two days he went back to the track, he was a hair stiff, but that's me being a bit fussy because I know him so well," Ritchey said. "He walked well the first two days after the race, and all he had was one tiny scrape, which was surprising because a lot could have happened."

Afleet Alex is in the stakes barn at Pimlico, which was filled to the brim the week of the Preakness.

"All the other horses were gone the next day," Ritchey said. "It's very laid back now. We can take him out and graze him during the day. It's like our own private barn."

A field of 11 is currently pointing for the Belmont - Afleet Alex, Andromeda's Hero, A. P. Arrow, Chekhov, Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, Pinpoint, Reverberate, Scrappy T, Sort It Out, Southern Africa, and Watchmon.

In other Belmont developments:

* Sort It Out, who was 17th in the Derby, arrived in New York on Tuesday after a flight from California. His trainer, Bob Baffert, on Wednesday said he was "just waiting to see how things shake out" before committing to the Belmont. Sort It Out is a New York-bred, and thus eligible to a series of statebred races in New York this summer.

* Don't Get Mad and Buzzards Bay, fourth and fifth in the Derby, will skip the Belmont, their trainers said.

- additional reporting by David Grening

Belmont contenders

Horses pointing for the 137th Belmont at Belmont Park on June 11.

HORSETRAINERJOCKEYLAST RACE
Afleet AlexT. RitcheyJ. Rose1st, Preakness
Andromeda's HeroN. ZitoR. Bejarano8th, Ky. Derby
A.P. ArrowD. W. LukasUndecided1st, CD maiden
ChekhovP. BianconeG. Stevens4th, Peter Pan
GiacomoJ. ShirreffsM. Smith3rd, Preakness
PinpointN. ZitoUndecided1st, Sir Barton
ReverberateS. RussoJ. Santos2nd, Peter Pan
Scrappy TR. BailesR. Dominguez2nd, Preakness
Sort It OutB. BaffertUndecided17th, Ky. Derby
Southern AfricaM. PuhichJ. Court1st, LS Derby
WatchmonP. ReynoldsUndecided2nd, Bel alw.