Sunday, June 12, 2005

Afleet Alex puts the hammer down.

Zoom zoom zoom.

PSAYINGS.5Q.25. What kind of a horse is this? If you ever had any questions about it -- which we never did -- they're answered now:

NEW YORK (AP) - This ride was as smooth and impressive as his Preakness win was harrowing.

Scattering rivals with a stunning move on the far turn, Afleet Alex rolled to a seven-length victory in Saturday's Belmont Stakes, the last and longest of the Triple Crown legs.

Jockey Jeremy Rose turned him loose on the turn for home and Afleet Alex responded with locomotive-like power to blow away Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo and nine helpless rivals.

"He's a beast, he's a freak of nature, he's made out of steel," Rose said. "He's the best three-year-old in the country."

There will be those who continue to regret that the Churchill Downs stewards decided to frame this year's Kentucky Derby as a wild west stampede rather than a horse race, but in retrospect the Triple Crown that wasn't seems more powerfully evocative under the circumstances than a perfect threefold victory would have been. Alex's namesake knew more than most of us ever want to know about loss -- loss unfair, agonizing, and permanent -- but her memory is full of light because she overcame loss to create an unexpected legacy of hope. And so, too, with Afleet Alex, the superhorse. Somehow, his exorbitant determination and brilliance in the wake of defeat lend a unique glow to his mere Double Crown that make it shine brighter than a one-two-three statistic. He has become instead a story that people will tell and retell with so much enduring emotion that they will exalt him, in the end, to the stuff of myth. A Triple Crown is a pretty thing, but the legend of Afleet Alex will be a thing of beauty.

Congratulations to this marvelous horse, his jockey, his owners, and the people of the Delaware Valley. (Congrats, too, to the NY Times, which published a stunning series of pictures about the Belmont. Take a look at both the article and the 'slide show.'.)

The last laugh is the best laugh.

We have one more idea to share. How about a match race between Afleet Alex and Smarty Jones? It would be a local affair, just for fans in the Philadelphia-Delaware Valley region. No one else need come. The track has to be Delaware Park, and for once it would be filled with the kinds of sports aficionados our area is known for -- great big half-naked fat guys wearing funny things on their heads and screaming continuously and unintelligibly. Rude signs on bedsheets, booing, and jumbo beers are all allowed, of course, if not actively encouraged, because this time Philadelphia can't possibly lose, and both horses will always be winners, no matter what happens between them. Gate receipts could be donated to the Lemonade Fund.

And in tribute to our reputation as the most impudently ungrateful sports fans in America, we'd call the event SMARTY VS ALEX. Admit it. It's perfect.

Smarty vs. Alex
A match made in heavenPhiladelphia.

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