- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2005

BALTIMORE — For a brief moment, jockey Jeremy Rose’s idea of a good finish was anywhere other than a hospital room.

Afleet Alex was going down and Rose’s only thoughts were how to use the colt as a shield against 12 trailing horses. The 130th Preakness Stakes was irrelevant. The two might have died right there at the top of the Pimlico stretch yesterday if Rose hadn’t instantly reacted to a collision with Scrappy T.

“The thought process was I was going to get run over,” Rose said. “The instinct was to hang on. He was about eight inches from going down. It’s the closest I’ve been to not going down. I was sure I was going down.”

Afleet Alex trainer Tim Ritchey screamed an obscenity from the clubhouse seats. The Preakness favorite appeared to be going from potential winner to likely victim.

“I’ve never seen a horse stumble that badly and lose his momentum that much and come back and win in a Grade I race like this,” Ritchey said.

Racing hasn’t suffered a fatality in a televised major stakes since Go for Wand broke down in the Belmont Park stretch during the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The Triple Crown was free of major collisions since Alysheba clipped heels with Bet Twice at the top of the stretch before rallying to win the 1987 Kentucky Derby.

Somehow, Afleet Alex managed to rise despite falling to his knees at 30 miles per hour. He never even seemed bothered by the spill. Instead, the Derby’s third-place finisher quickly dug in to run past Scrappy T for a 4 3/4-length victory. His 1:55.04 over 1 3/16 miles was faster than Smarty Jones’ runaway Preakness victory last year.

Afleet Alex went to the edge and survived.

“It’s 90 percent horse,” Rose said of the recovery. “If he goes down, I don’t have any chance.”

Scrappy T caused the collision after shying from jockey Ramon Dominguez’ left-handed whip. The Triple Crown newcomer seemed distracted by the infield crowd while hugging the rail leaving the turn. The majestic black colt looked every bit the winner after taking the lead moments earlier. Dominguez didn’t want Scrappy T relaxing with Afleet Alex and Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo not far behind.

The left-handed whip wasn’t unusual. The colt’s reaction was.

“It caught me completely off guard,” Dominguez said.

Afleet Alex’s left front heel intertwined with Scrappy T’s right rear heel. That entanglement was enough to cause both to stumble, though Scrappy T wasn’t bothered.

“I didn’t feel a bump, but he did lose his rear action,” Dominguez said. “I’m just happy Jeremy and me didn’t come off.”

Said Rose: “There was quite a bit of contact. Clipping is a huge deal. One of the worst things in racing is clipping heels.”

There have been many post-race fights in the jockeys room over such encounters. However, Rose quickly defended Dominguez. They often ride together at Pimlico and Delaware Park and the friendship wasn’t broken in one moment.

“Trust me, Ramon didn’t do it on purpose,” Rose said.

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