Updated on 09/17/2011 10:19PM

BC Classic: Don't count out Alex just yet

Email
Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Afleet Alex, parading at Saratoga on Sept. 3 with Angel Cordero Jr., remains a remote possibility to get race-ready in time to run in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

It's a longshot. Maybe not Arcangues at $269.20, but a longshot nonetheless. Longshots, though, do come in. And trainer Tim Ritchey is still holding out hope that Afleet Alex, who has pulled off some remarkable achievements this year, can do it again by making it back from a hairline fracture in time for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park on Oct. 29.

The situation seems Herculean. Afleet Alex had his surgery two months ago, and has not even advanced from jogging to galloping, though that could change imminently. Ritchey also wants to get a prep race into Afleet Alex. Do the math - this year's World Thoroughbred Champion-ships are a bit more than six weeks away - and the window of opportunity seems barely open.

Afleet Alex was scheduled on Thursday to have X-rays taken and then sent via e-mail to Dr. Larry Bramlage, the highly regarded veterinarian, in Kentucky, Ritchey said. If Ritchey gets the okay from Bramlage, Afleet Alex will be galloping at Belmont Park on Friday morning.

"We will know more after he starts galloping," Ritchey said. "He has been jogging a mile and a half early in the morning, and then another mile and a half later in the morning, for the past two weeks. Once I start galloping him, and get a breeze into him, we will know more about him in terms of fitness. I want to get a prep into him, either a sprint at six or seven furlongs on dirt, or even a mile on grass, to get him to the Classic. I could wait until as close as two weeks out.

"Obviously, though, we're not going to risk anything. We're going to err on the safe side. He's going to run as a 4-year-old."

In Afleet Alex's favor, he got race ready earlier this year with a minimum of workouts, he gets fit quickly, and he thrives on his two-a-day training sessions. The sands of time, and prospective competitors who have not had their seasons so rudely interrupted, are working against him. But after watching Afleet Alex remarkably win the Preakness Stakes after nearly falling, then crushing his rivals in the Belmont Stakes while looking stronger at the end of the Triple Crown than at the beginning, he very well might be the kind of horse who can overcome all these obstacles.

Officials at the Breeders' Cup and Belmont Park must certainly be hoping he makes it. Afleet Alex is one of the few nationally recognized horses still with a chance to make the Breeders' Cup in a year that has seen a number of top runners - such as last year's Classic winner, Ghostzapper - fall by the wayside. If Afleet Alex doesn't make it, the marquee runner on Breeders' Cup Day will be the unbeaten sprinter Lost in the Fog.

This year's Breeders' Cup will be the fourth held at Belmont, which played host in 1990, 1995, and 2001, and the fifth in New York; Aqueduct played host in 1985. The Classic will be the last of the eight Breeders' Cup races, but in a change of policy from previous years, the order of the seven preceding races will not be determined until after pre-entries are announced on Oct. 19.

Saint Liam, the winner of last week's Woodward Stakes, is the early favorite for the Classic. His trainer, Rick Dutrow Jr., on Wednesday said Saint Liam will head straight to the Classic without another prep.

"He came out of the race great and went back to the track today," Dutrow said from Aqueduct, where he is stabled. "I didn't want a race where he had to run hard. He won as easy as possible. He has been a real pro his last three races."

Sun King, who won the Pennsylvania Derby, also will likely train straight into the Classic, trainer Nick Zito said.

Belmont's final prep for the Classic is the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 1. Flower Alley, the Travers Stakes winner, will face elders for the first time in that race. His rivals are expected to include Borrego, the winner of Del Mar's Pacific Classic, and Imperialism.

At Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, Hollywood Gold Cup winner Lava Man and Santa Anita Handicap winner Rock Hard Ten are expected to meet in the Grade 2, $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap on Oct. 1.

Perfect Drift, who was second to Borrego in the Pacific Classic, is heading to the Grade 2, $750,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup on Sept. 24.

The Grade 2, $350,000 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park on Saturday is scheduled to be topped by Grand Reward, the Oaklawn Handicap winner, and Shaniko. Last year's race was won by Roses in May, who subsequently finished second to Ghostzapper in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Classic
Contenders
3-year-olds & up, 1 1/4 miles. Purse: $4 million

RANKHORSETRAINERODDS
1Saint LiamR. Dutrow Jr.8-5
Good, consistent, and though 0 for 1 at distance, he should get the trip
2Lava ManD. O'Neill6-1
If he's really okay after Pacific Classic, he has a big shot to win this
3Rock Hard TenR. Mandella5-1
King of California early in year; his only prep is to be the Goodwood
4Sun KingN. Zito15-1
Anyone who wins from post 14 at Philly Park like he did merits respect
5Flower AlleyT. Pletcher8-1
Travers-Jim Dandy winner may be most improved 3yo in the nation
6Perfect DriftM. Johnson12-1
Doesn't win very often, but he holds good form and loves the distance
7BorregoC. B. Greely15-1
Finally won a big one in Pacific Classic; okay, let's see him do it again
8ImperialismK. Mulhall15-1
Quite possible he may be most effective as a closing sprinter/miler
9Roman RulerB. Baffert12-1
Better than his flat Travers; also may be better at 9 furlongs or less
10Afleet AlexT. Ritchey8-1
Has slim chance to make this, but deserves to be listed, nevertheless

The top 10 contenders for each of the eight Breeders' Cup races are ranked by Mike Watchmaker, who set the odds and wrote the comments. Actual Breeders' Cup fields will have up to 14 starters.