tampabay.com

Horse follows Smarty Jones' lead

By BRANT JAMES
Published May 7, 2005


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Everyman stories have ruled the Kentucky Derby the past two years.

A small group of high school friends calling themselves Sackatoga Stables won in 2003 with their first horse, New York-bred Funny Cide, trained by former steeplechaser Barclay Tagg.

Last year, a plucky Pennsylvania-bred, Smarty Jones, owned by Philadelphians Pat and Roy Chapman, trained by anonymous John Servis and ridden by even more unknown Stewart Elliott, captured America's attention with a run for the Triple Crown.

Chuck Zacney hopes the nation, and the odds, have not tired of that story line as he and four Philadelphia-area friends comprising Cash Is King Stable enter Florida-bred Afleet Alex as one of the favorites in today's Derby.

"We actually had the pleasure of meeting them (the Sackatoga Stable partners) at the Breeders' Cup," Zacney, 43, said. "They are sincere good guys, I think a lot like us."

Afleet Alex has won six times in nine starts, including the Arkansas Derby, which launched Smarty Jones last year.

Afleet Alex's run has served as an inspiration to his 60-year-old breeder, Lake Worth's John Silvertand, who was diagnosed with colon and liver cancer and given three months to live more than two years ago. Silvertand lost the colt to his partner in a coin flip when dividing their crop of five foals for sale. He loved the fickle little guy. His adopted daughter, Lauren, then 8, fed Afleet Alex using a sterile Coors Light bottle before he would nurse from a mare.

Upon learning of Silvertand's story from trainer Tim Ritchey , Cash Is King began inviting him to races. Silvertand, who got permission from his oncologist to miss a chemotherapy session, was scheduled to arrive by car Friday.

The colt got his name from his sire, Northern Afleet, and from Zacney's son and two partners' daughters, all named Alex. Another Alex became an integral part of the colt's story when Zacney read of an 8-year-old Philadelphia girl, Alex Scott, who began the Alex's Lemonade Stand for Pediatric Cancer Research.

"I never had the pleasure of meeting her," Zacney said of Alex, who died Aug.1. "Her parents, Liz and Jay Scott, are carrying it on and I believe now they are over $1.6-million and the goal for the year, I believe, is $3-million and we're just happy to be part of it. Every time Alex runs I give a share of my earnings to this great charity."

Zacney is hoping to write a massive check today. The winner's share of the Derby purse is $1.6-million if 20 horses start.

FILLIES: Summerly, who lost by more than 19 lengths to Sis City at the Grade I Ashland in April, upset the heavily favored filly in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, the filly companion of the Derby.

In the Gold was second, with Gallant Secret third. Sis City, part-owned by Yankees manager Joe Torre, slumped down the stretch, finishing fourth.

"It was exciting. Of course, I'm disappointed we lost," Torre said in a statement released through a Yankees spokesman. "You just hope you're at the top of your game when the race is run."

Summerly and jockey Jerry Bailey took the lead in the opening strides and never trailed, covering the 11/8 miles in 1:50.23. The Steve Asmussen-trained daughter of Summer Squall paid $11.20, $5 and $4. In the Gold, 2 lengths back, paid $6.20 and $5. Gallant Secret was another 13/4 lengths back and paid $9.20.

Bailey won the Oaks for the third time, tying Bill Shoemaker. Eddie Arcaro and Manuel Ycaza are the only jockeys to win the Oaks four times. The 47-year-old Bailey is one of six jockeys who's won the Oaks and Derby in the same year. He's also the last one to do it, winning with Dispute and Sea Hero in 1993. Bailey rides High Fly in today's Derby.

In the Gold's Nick Zito missed a chance to become the first trainer in 53 years to pull the Oaks-Derby double. He has five horses entered in the Derby, including Bellamy Road.

The Oaks drew a track record 111,243 fans.

BITS: All 20 Derby horses had light workouts Friday. Spanish Chestnut was scheduled to van to Churchill Downs this morning from Keeneland in Lexington. Trainer Patrick Biancone followed the same procedure last spring with Lion Heart, another speedster who finished second to Smarty Jones. ... Wilko, a 20-1 pick who breaks from the 14th post, will try to become the first winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile to win the Derby.