07/28/2004 11:00PM

Afleet Alex takes Sanford

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - After watching Afleet Alex win his first two races at Delaware Park by a combined 23 1/4 lengths, trainer Tim Ritchey shipped the 2-year-old colt to Saratoga for Thursday's $150,000 "to find out what you really have."

What Ritchey and owner Chuck Zacney's Cash is King Stable have is a potential star.

Under Jeremy Rose, Afleet Alex toyed with a seemingly deep field, making a four-wide sweep around the turn and pulling away in the stretch to a 5 1/4-length victory in the Grade 2 Sanford. Flamenco finished second, a neck in front of Consolidator.

Lunarpal, who had won his four previous starts including three stakes, finished a well-beaten sixth.

Afleet Alex, a Florida-bred son of Northern Afleet, set a stakes record by covering six furlongs in 1:09.32 over a fast track. The Sanford has been run 84 times at this distance. He returned $8 as the favorite.

"He's a beast," said the 25-year-old Rose, who hit Afleet Alex just twice in the stretch. "The only reason I hit him twice was because I knew what was on the line; otherwise, I would have hand rode him. He's a nice horse - he'll go all day. You're going to see a lot of this one."

Said Ritchey: "I thought he had a pretty good chance in the race, it was just matter of whether the shipping, the different racetrack, and the little tougher competition was going to get to him. We haven't got to the bottom of this horse. The two races he ran at Delaware, [Rose] just sat on him."

Zacney, who only got into the game in May, said he has turned down offers as high as $650,000 for Afleet Alex, for whom he paid $75,000 at auction earlier this year.

"We're in a position now, we want to see how far we can go with the horse," said Zacney, a businessman from the Philadelphia area. "Money's nice, but I guess we'll see how far we can take this horse."

Ritchey said Afleet Alex would likely return to Saratoga for the Grade 1 Hopeful on Aug. 21.