Rose 'stayed out of the way' aboard Alex in Belmont
NEW YORK - Perched peacefully atop Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex on Saturday, Jeremy Rose savored a victory every bit as sweet as his Preakness win -- and an awful lot safer.
The uneventful ride to a seven-length victory in the 137th running of the last leg of the Triple Crown was a welcome change for Rose after his daredevil trip in Maryland three weeks ago. At the Preakness, his horse's nose nearly kissed the dirt before Afleet Alex straightened up and charged to victory.
This ride was so smooth that Rose had a chance to look back at the field and wave to the wildly cheering crowd of 62,274.
"The only thing that could get him beat was me, so I stayed out of the way," Rose said, showing that he was a stand-up guy while still sitting aboard Afleet Alex.
Rose, seconds after winning his second Triple Crown race, then said only one thing stood between his horse and racing immortality:
"You can't blame (the trainer), and you can't blame Afleet Alex," Rose said of the third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby to start the Triple Crown. "So if you have to blame someone, blame me."
Rose, a former 103-pound high school wrestler in Pennsylvania, felt his horse was good enough to win the Derby even with its crowded 20-horse field. The loss kept him from becoming the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978.
"Whether I did anything wrong, I don't know," Rose said of the Derby. "But he's the best 3-year-old in the country, and he should have won."
There was no finger-pointing after this race, when Rose waited until the 11-horse field turned for home and then turned his horse loose. "He exploded," the jockey said.
That the self-deprecating Rose would defend his horse is no surprise. The chatty jockey told anybody with a microphone or notepad this week at Belmont that he was totally confident in Afleet Alex against Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo and anyone else.
Trainer Tim Ritchey felt the same confidence in his jockey.
"Jeremy Rose has now ridden three Triple Crown races like a Hall of Famer," the Maryland resident said.
He complimented the jockey for exhibiting the patience needed for the grueling 1 1/2-mile Belmont on a track with big, wide turns.
"He was dynamite," Ritchey said of his horse. "He finished like a freight train."
Rose found the finish to be more like cruising down the highway in a Tony Soprano-sized luxury SUV, checking the rear view mirrors for those left in his wake.
"I was worried about how fast I could finish, and if anybody could catch me," Rose said. He finished fast. And nobody could catch him.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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