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2005 Arkansas Derby and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes

By

Alfeet Alex

Afleet Alex winner of the Arkansas Derby with Jeremy Rose up.

Cindy Pierson Dulay
Updated April 17, 2005
Before a crowd of 71,010, the second largest in Oaklawn Park history, Cash Is King Stable's Afleet Alex, the 2-1 favorite, won the 69th running of the Arkansas Derby Saturday afternoon by a widening eight lengths -- the largest winning margin in the history of the race. Moreover, Afleet Alex's winning time of 1:48.80 for the mile and a furlong, accomplished under young Jeremy Rose, was 0.61 second faster than Smarty Jones' winning time in the 2004 Arkansas Derby.

Batson Challenge broke on top from the one-hole in the Arkansas Derby, with Canteen and Flower Alley making up the second flight. Meanwhile, Afleet Alex, who had broken alertly, settled into fifth place in the 10-horse field entering the backstretch. As the horses bunched up nearing the end of the backstretch, Rose asked Afleet Alex, and the bay son of Northern Afleet responded with an explosive four-wide move that blew the doors off the race. He opened two lengths leaving the 3/16 pole, and coasted to the wire, increasing his margin with every stride. Results chart

The victory thrust Afleet Alex into the thick of the Kentucky Derby picture. Trainer Tim Ritchey said after the race that he will keep Afleet Alex here at Oaklawn for three or four days, and then ship him directly to Churchill Downs for the May 7 Derby. Following an impressive victory in the six-furlong Mountain Valley Stakes here, he dropped off the charts when he finished dead last as the 3-5 favorite in the Rebel Stakes. Trainer Ritchey blamed Afleet Alex's poor showing in the Rebel on a lung infection, an explanation that was met with much skepticism. "It's very satsfying to silence the doubters," Ritchey said moments after the Derby. "Winning solves everything. Now, it's on to Kentucky."

In addition to collecting the $600,000 first prize in the $1 million Derby, the consortium of five east coast businessmen who own Afleet Alex also collected on a $50,000 bet from Daniel Borislow, the co-owner of Wild Desert. It was a head-to-head wager with the winner the connections of the horse who finished ahead of the other horse. It was no contest. Afleet Alex finished first while Wild Desert finished eighth. "The $50,000 will go to various charities," Ritchey said.

Flower Alley, trained by Todd Pletcher, checked in a distant second, 3/4 length before Andromeda's Hero. Pletcher said of Flower Alley, "He's an improving horse and he'll get a mile-and-a-quarter, so I think we'll give it a try." Greater Good's trainer Bob Holthus is also sending his colt to the Derby, saying "He has done a lot in his career so far and we'll get another chance."

On to the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes

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