AFLEET EXPRESS (Afleet Alex) was a very impressive winner of his last start at Belmont Park. He won a first-level allowance race on the main track going seven furlongs, which he covered in the excellent time of 1:21.72. On a surface that was not yielding fast times, his effort earned him an astounding BRIS Speed rating of 113.
Last Saturday, trainer James Jerkens had him down at Monmouth Park where Afleet Express was to make his two-turn debut in the Pegasus S. (G3) at 1 1/16 miles. His rivals included Jackson Bend (Hear No Evil), who finished third in the Preakness S. (G1) in his last start, and Schoolyard Dreams (Stephen Got Even), who just missed in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3).
Sent off at 2-1 as the second choice behind odds-on Jackson Bend, Afleet Express broke a half step slow but quickly recovered. Javier Castellano had to step on the gas going into the first turn but he adroitly dropped in behind the front runners despite a very slow pace. Nearing the far turn, Castellano went up three wide to stalk Schoolyard Dreams and Jackson Bend, who were not backing up.
Afleet Express took over turning for home and promptly moved over to the rail, which has not been the place to be at this year's meet. He had every right to tire at that point but he pulled away in the stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Afleet Again (Afleet Alex) in the final time of 1:45.44.
Considering how fast he ran in his prior start, it was very impressive that he was able to relax over a very dull track, get dirt in his face, rally wide on the turn and find another gear in the deep stretch. For Jerkens, it was the next step in developing Afleet Express into one of the better second-half sophomores. The Haskell Invitational (G1) would be a logical next start.
It was no surprise that Afleet Express was able to handle two turns the first time he tried it due to a gene pool that contains lots of stamina. His sire, Afleet Alex, is off to a great start at stud with only two crops to race and his horses have gotten better as the races have gotten longer. Led by Grade 1 stakes winner Dublin, Afleet Alex has five graded stakes winners, seven stakes winners and 12 stakes horses in his first crop of horses to race and reigns as North America's leading second-crop stallion. Already, his average winning distance is a very healthy 7.6 furlongs.
Afleet Alex won the Preakness and Belmont S. (G1) easily and now his offspring are doing their best in route races. He has joined A.P. Indy, Street Cry (Ire) and Tiznow as sources of stamina for main track racing.
AIKENITE (Yes It's True) made his first start since the Preakness at Belmont Park last Saturday in an allowance race on the main track going one mile. The multiple Grade 1-placed colt from Dogwood Stable was able to rally from far back to win going away in the good time of 1:35.32 over a fast track.
Safety Check (Empire Maker), who looked so good breaking his maiden, set the early pace before finishing dead last. Considering his sire, it looked like stretching out to a mile should have been right up his alley so we'll wait and see where Alan Goldberg runs him next.
Jay Em Ess Stable is having a good meet at Hollywood Park with RAIL TRIP (Jump Start) coming off wins in the Californian S. (G2) and Mervyn LeRoy H. (G2). Rail Trip will be looking to defend his title in the upcoming Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) in a few weeks so all is good for the Siegel family.
On Saturday, they sent out GOLDEN ITIZ (Tiznow) for the Affirmed H. (G3). An 11 1/4-length winner of his two-turn debut 52 days prior to the Affirmed, the Ron Ellis trainee was making his stakes debut in the familiar blue and lime green silks but the betting public wisely made him the 9-10 favorite.
BRIS Ultimate Past Performances show Ron Ellis wins with 23 percent of his starters coming off long layoffs and Andy Harrington's National Turf Clocker Report had his last two works as being very strong.
With regular rider Tyler Baze in the irons, Golden Itiz was wide on both turns and with a furlong to go it looked like he had too much to do with not enough time to do it. Second choice Skipshot (Skip Away) had opened up a clear lead but Golden Itiz was able to run him down and win by a half-length.
His final time for the 1 1/16-mile distance was 1:42.84 and he earned a 97 BRIS Speed rating. The Swaps S. (G2) could be next for him and I wouldn't rule out a trip east to contest the Travers S. (G1) in late August. Like Afleet Express, Golden Itiz is by a sire who is a consistent producer of horses with stamina on the main track so the best may yet to come.
by Dick Powell
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