Sway Away and Elite Alex, a pair of Afleet Alex colts, kept their Triple Crown hopes alive with solid stakes finishes over the Presidents' Day weekend.
Sway Away had a tough task in the Grade 2 San Vicente at Santa Anita on Feb. 20. He was facing a very fast horse in The Factor, and a track that has been speed biased for the winter meet. With The Factor free-running on the lead, Sway Away settled near the back of the field for the run up the backstretch in the seven furlong event. Going three-wide on the turn, he began to make up ground. Once he straightened up for the run down the stretch, the bay colt really got moving and was closing rapidly but ran out of ground, coming up just three-quarters of a length back of the winner.
The finish was encouraging and bittersweet for trainer Jeff Bonde, whose colt earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for the gallant effort.
“It’s heartbreaking to lose, but that’s the way the game goes,” Bonde said. “This horse is the best (Kentucky) Derby chance I’ve had in many years. He maybe got back a little too far today, but he showed me enough that I’m still a believer in him. He’s eligible to all the (3-year-old) stakes here (at Santa Anita), all the (3-year-old) stakes at Oaklawn. Whichever one looks good for us, that’s where we’ll be.”
Sway Away is now 1-2-0 in three starts. He finished second in last year's Best Pal S. (G2) at Del Mar. He as earned $75,100 for a partnership headed by Batman Stable.
In the $250,000 Southwest S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 21, Elite Alex also came from far back to finish third with a flourish in the one mile race. After getting away last in the field of 11, the bay colt was hung five wide going into the first turn. Jockey Calvin Borel never got a chance to get clear of horses, and was even wider in the final turn. Despite the setbacks, Elite Alex rallied past most of the field to be beaten just 2 1/4-lengths.
Borel knew the trip cost him and looked forward to another chance. “I just couldn't get out when I needed to. This colt is going to be alright. He wants to stretch out. I was a little wide and it hurt us.”
Elite Alex was a $300,000 purchase at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale. He is owned by Elite Alex LLC and trained by Tim Ritchey, who also trained his sire.
Elite Alex broke his maiden in his debut last July at Delaware Park. His lifetime record now stands at 1-1-1 in three starts, with earnings of $55,300.
Sway Away and Elite Alex are among six 2011 Triple Crown nominees by dual Classic winner Afleet Alex.