06/12/2005 11:00PM

Rose gave Alex a ride - and vice versa

Jeremy Rose, who gave Afleet Alex a perfect ride in Saturday's Belmont, has one lingering regret - that the horse failed to win the Triple Crown.

ELMONT, N.Y. - With all day to think about riding the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes aboard even-money favorite Afleet Alex, how did 26-year-old Jeremy Rose spend the hours leading up to the race, his only mount on Saturday's 13-race card?

"Slept," Rose said. "I did a couple of interviews and then I went up and slept."

From all accounts, it was a peaceful nap at that.

"If I didn't call him, they would have had to get a rider for the horse," said John Palmieri, who serves as Rose's valet when he rides in New York.

Rose's easygoing approach to the Belmont was a result of the confidence he had in his horse and himself to get the job done in the most demanding of the three Triple Crown races. Rose bided his time before asking his horse to run entering the far turn. When Rose did ask, Afleet Alex took off and ran by the opposition instantly en route to a dominating seven-length victory.

"He was the best horse," Rose said. "I knew that if I didn't do something stupid, I was going to win this race. He's just that good."

Afterward, Rose blamed himself for Afleet Alex not winning the Triple Crown. Afleet Alex finished third, beaten a length, in the Kentucky Derby, before winning the Preakness in dramatic fashion, overcoming a severe stumble at the head of the lane when Scrappy T ran into him.

"I know there's something there I could have done to win the race," Rose said of the Derby. "I just don't know what, other than I should have stayed left-handed. He deserves to be a Triple Crown winner."

In the Derby, Rose went to the right-handed stick in deep stretch, and Afleet Alex drifted down to the rail. Still, it seemed that Giacomo and Closing Argument were going better than Afleet Alex was late and it wouldn't have made a difference.

Only Rose could find fault in his performance during the Triple Crown. Rose hardly said a word when the connections of Afleet Alex took him off the colt earlier in the year in favor of the more experienced John Velazquez. Rose regained the mount when Velazquez had to ride Bandini for his main client, Todd Pletcher.

Jose Santos, who failed to win the Triple Crown when he lost the Belmont two years ago aboard Funny Cide, said Rose was impressive throughout the Triple Crown.

"I don't think nobody could do any better than what he did," said Santos, who rode Reverberate in Saturday's Belmont. "The connection those two have, the horse and the jockey, is unbelievable. He knows the horse very well. I was riding next to him and he didn't ever panic. A lot of people that come in to ride that race, they panic and start moving early. He just wait, wait, wait, wait until everybody got tired, and then he picked up his horse and he responded beautiful. He did a great, great, great job."

Rose doesn't anticipate this Triple Crown run taking him out of the mid-Atlantic region anytime soon. He'll remain at Delaware Park this summer with occasional trips to Monmouth Park and Saratoga when Tim Ritchey, the trainer of Afleet Alex, and perhaps trainer Scott Lake need him.

"I'd have to have a real good reason," Rose said when asked if he would consider moving his tack to a larger circuit such as New York. "I'm not going to just come up and try to work my way in. If somebody wants to come up - if Tim wants to come up and give me a shot at that, that's fine. I'm not going to push it; that's how your business stops real quick."