08/05/2004 11:00PM

Coin toss yielded Afleet Alex


Afleet Alex, the unbeaten 2-year-old who won Saratoga's Grade 2 Sanford Stakes, is still another chapter in the story of the horse who got away.

John Silvertand is the owner of a design/decorator business in Boca Raton. Business dropped off after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Silvertand made some business adjustments. One of these was to foal-share with his mares. Maggy Hawk, dam of Afleet Alex, was one of these mares.

The deal for Maggy Hawk was a coin flip - the winner got the foal she was carrying and the loser got the next one. Silvertand lost the toss for Afleet Alex, the bay colt by Double Diamond Farm's young sire Northern Afleet. The mare has since produced foals by the Irish Acres Farm stallion Tour d'Or and is currently in foal to Quiet American.

Robert Scanlon is an agent who specializes in preparing young horses for the 2-year-olds in training sales. It was he who next became a part of this ongoing story of Maggy Hawk's colt.

"Saw him in a field, and thought he was one of the best-looking weanlings I had ever seen," said Scanlon. "I recommended him to a client, and we bought him out of the pasture."

Afleet Alex, however, did not go from an attractive weanling to a handsome yearling. On the contrary, nature tossed the colt a curve.

"I couldn't believe what was happening," Scanlon said. "When I say he was a really good-looking foal, he was that. But here it is in the fall of his yearling year, and his pasterns are long and weak, his body has a look of immaturity, and he certainly became if not an ugly duck, then close to it.

"Couldn't get Afleet Alex into any of the selected 2-year-olds in training sales because he did not look the part," Scanlon said. "The Maryland open sale of 2-year-olds in training is where we had to go with him. He went to this sale training out of this world, and after going a quarter in 22.20 in the under-tack show, we were able to sell him for $75,000."

Hickey on the move

Noel Hickey has sold the remaining section of his Irish Acres Farm to developers of boutique horse ranches. Ocala and Marion County is being developed at an accelerating rate. No four-lane roadway is immune to the gated community or what are advertised as five- to 10-acre horse ranches. Hickey's Irish Acres Farm, built by Hickey and his wife, Bobbi, more than 30 years ago, is at the foot of advancing development.

Hickey, however, is not getting out of the business - not by a longshot. He has found his new Irish Acres Farm, 120 acres, several miles west of his present location in an area that is considered one of the more attractive settings in north Florida's horse country.

The terms of the sale allow Hickey to continue to operate at the original Irish Acres training center, which has two training barns and a six-furlong dirt track encompassing a five-furlong turf course.

"I'm going to continue, as I always have, breaking and training for my own stable, the 2-year-old sales, and my clients," said Hickey. The new Irish Acres Training Center will, according to Hickey, have a five- or six-furlong dirt track surrounded by a turf track that features an Irish rail so that the course can be constantly adjusted for use.

Hickey said that nowadays it is very important to determine a horse's turf potential, and that he constantly gets inquiries as to whether or not he has turf training capabilities.

"Had a fellow call me last week from Illinois," said Hickey. "Said he had a yearling by Giant's Causeway, and he wanted this colt to be tested on dirt and turf to see which way to go with him. With all the turf racing we have, an owner should know which way to go, and that's why I am going to continue my turf program at the new Irish Acres Farm."

Hickey, who made national headlines with Buck's Boy, a homebred he bred and trained to win the 1998 Breeders' Cup and Eclipse Award as champion turf horse, has high hopes for the half-brother to Buck's Boy, Princeofthestage, a 3-year-old son of Theatrical.

"Buck's Boy was something special," said Hickey. "I think this horse could be as well."