11/05/2005 1:00AM

Alex's next race will be in early 2006

Afleet Alex will prepare for his 4-year-old campaign in Florida.

Afleet Alex is done running on the track in 2005. But his connections say they believe he remains in the running for Horse of the Year honors.

Trainer Tim Ritchey said Saturday that Afleet Alex's fractured left ankle still has not healed sufficiently to make the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 26, thus he and the owners, the Cash Is King Stable, have decided not to run the Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner again this year. Afleet Alex will get 30 days off, and will shortly be shipped to Gulfstream Park to prepare for a 4-year-old campaign.

"The last set of X-rays were better than the set before, but still not 100 percent and he would have to be 100 percent to get to the Cigar Mile," said Ritchey, who vanned Afleet Alex from Belmont Park to Delaware Park last Thursday. "As late as it is in the year we decided to stop on him and we will look forward to a 4-year-old season.''

Ritchey said he would try to get Afleet Alex ready for the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic, scheduled for Jan. 28 at Santa Anita. If Afleet Alex needs more time, there is the $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream on Feb. 4.

Afleet Alex was injured while training at Belmont Park in late July and underwent surgery on July 27 to have a screw inserted into his left ankle. Afleet Alex resumed training in September and had two strong workouts on Sept. 30 and Oct. 7 in hopes of making it to the Breeders' Cup. That plan was scrapped when a set of X-rays taken after the second work revealed the fracture had not totally healed.

Ritchey said he would like to have a six or seven-race campaign with Afleet Alex next year that culminates in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Ritchey also said he would like to run Afleet Alex on the turf.

By virtue of his wins in the Preakness - in which he collided with Scrappy T at the head of the stretch - Belmont Stakes, and Arkansas Derby, Afleet Alex is a virtual certainty to be voted champion 3-year-old. But Ritchey said he feels Afleet Alex deserves strong consideration for Horse of the Year as well. One of his points is that Afleet Alex twice whipped Flower Alley while Saint Liam - the leading contender for Horse of the Year - beat Flower Alley by only one length in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

"To me, Horse of the Year should be the most dominant performance by a horse in a year," Ritchey said. "[Afleet Alex] equaled a stakes record first time out going three-quarters, came back and won the Arkansas Derby by a record nine lengths, came back with his circus act in the Preakness, which was probably the race of the year, and then won the Belmont finishing [the last quarter] faster than any horse since Arts and Letters in 1969."