Updated on 09/17/2011 5:19PM

Afleet Alex zig-zags way to victory


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - At the eighth pole of Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 , as Afleet Alex was getting out from jockey Jeremy Rose's left-handed whip and Devils Disciple was pulling clear of Flamenco, even the staunchest supporters of Afleet Alex had a hard time keeping the faith.

That included Rose himself and trainer Tim Ritchey.

"I didn't think he could make that kind of surge in that short a period of time to still win the race," Ritchey said.

Somehow, Afleet Alex did it. Straightened out by Rose inside the sixteenth pole, Afleet Alex lengthened his stride and nailed Devil Disciple by a neck to take the Grade 1, $250,000 Hopeful Stakes at sloppy Saratoga. It was 1 3/4 lengths back to Flamenco in third.

It was 11 more lengths back to Consolidator, who was followed by Storm Surge, Wild Nature and Winning Expression.

The Hopeful was the fourth win from as many starts for Afleet Alex, who earlier in the meet dominated 10 rivals while setting a stakes record in the Grade 2 Sanford. The win cemented his status as the East Coast's top 2-year-old colt.

Rose said Afleet Alex didn't care for the mud hitting him in the face as he raced in fourth position along the inside down the backstretch. Winning Expression, Flamenco, and a slow-starting Devils Disciple dueled through four furlongs in 44.79 seconds.

Rose guided Afleet Alex into third turning for home as Devils Disciple and Flamenco took their battle into the stretch. In an effort to get Afleet Alex away from the mud, Rose socked him left-handed and Afleet Alex drifted out badly. Rose actually hit Afleet Alex four times left-handed.

"It worried me because when he hit him left-handed it kind of shocked him a little bit and he ducked out, and right away they lose all their momentum, which you can't lose within an eighth of a mile of the finish line," Ritchey said.

But, Rose went back to the right-handed whip twice approaching the sixteenth pole, and Afleet Alex responded to get the job done. Afleet Alex, a son of Northern Afleet, covered the seven furlongs in 1:23.58. He returned $3.40 as the 7-10 favorite.

"When I hit him left-handed and he drifted outside on us, I said I'm going to run second here," Rose said. "And I hit him right-handed, and that's when he took off. I said now he's got a shot, I'm going to keep hitting him and he just got there.''

Ritchey said he is "90-percent" certain Afleet Alex would make his next start in the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne at Belmont Park on Oct. 9.