12/01/2005 12:00AM

Afleet Alex retired from racing

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Afleet Alex, winner of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, has been retired from racing due to the degeneration of bone in his left foreleg, doctors said. The injury is believed to be what caused the hairline fracture Afleet Alex suffered in July.

According to Dr. Patty Hogan, who performed surgery on Afleet Alex in July, Afleet Alex has developed avascular necrosis, a loss of blood supply to the bone. Thus, the bone becomes more brittle and less able to withstand the rigors of racing. It is a similar injury suffered by multiple-sport star Bo Jackson, who had to retire from baseball and football in the 1990's.

"It's in the spot where condylar fractures begin," Hogan said. "I think he would have another one."

Afleet Alex is currently stabled at Gulfstream Park in south Florida and will remain there until stud plans are finalized.

"He's been good to us. We're going to try and be good to him, find the ideal situation for him to be successful at stud," trainer Tim Ritchey said Thursday from Oaklawn Park., where he also has a string of horses. "I always thought it was the best thing for the horse, the best thing for the owners, the best thing for racing if he could have come back at 4. I still feel too many of these horses are being retired too early."

Afleet Alex won 8 of 12 career starts and banked $2,765,800 for the Cash Is King Stable, a partnership headed by Chuck Zacney and four of his friends from the Philadelphia area. Afleet Alex was purchased for $75,000 at the Timonium 2-year-old-in-training sales.

Afleet Alex earned national prominence this spring with his performance in the Triple Crown series. After finishing third, beaten one length in the Kentucky Derby, Afleet Alex won the Preakness by 4 3/4 lengths despite being dropped to his knees after receiving a hard bump from Scrappy T at the top of the stretch. Three weeks later, Afleet Alex romped to a seven-length victory in the Belmont Stakes, where he ran the fastest final quarter [24.50 seconds] since Arts and Letters in 1969.

Ritchey and Hogan said Afleet Alex's injury may have actually started as a result of the bump in the Preakness.

In addition to the Preakness and Belmont, Afleet Alex won the Mountain Valley Stakes and Arkansas Derby at 3. As a 2-year-old, Afleet Alex won the Sanford Stakes and Hopeful at Saratoga.

"The Preakness, everybody who saw it - even the people who watched the highlights of it - it's something they'll never forget," Ritchey said. "I told my two sons that even after I'm dead and buried, as long as they're alive they'll probably see that highlight every time they go to see a Preakness."