Afleet Express fits the profile of a late-developing
3-year-old who wasn't ready for the Triple Crown series, but has emerged as a
contender for the Travers.
The turning point came on May 22 when Afleet Express romped
in a seven-furlong open allowance race at Belmont Park.
Jerkens knew it was time to stretch him out.
“Until he won that race, I really wasn’t thinking of
anything past that,” Jerkens said. “Then I said, ‘Well, it looks like he’s the
real deal, might as well try to get him going around two turns.’ We pitched the
race in Jersey and he ran very well.”
Afleet Express finished third in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and
convinced Jerkens that the Travers was the next logical step. The way Jerkens
describes it, he changed his mind on the Travers from no to yes in the final
stages of the Jim Dandy.
“I wasn’t happy until the last sixteenth of a mile,” Jerkens
said. “I didn’t know what was going on around that turn, but he really spit the
bridle out and quit running and dropped back a few spots. To be able to come
back on like he did, usually when horses do that they don’t get it back
together again, but he did.
“I still don’t know what to make of it. I don’t know why he
did it. I think it was just getting hit with so much dirt for so long during
the race. It took us forever to get his eyes cleared up. Who knows? He might
not have been able to see when he was getting hit with so much dirt. Who wants
to run into something they can’t see see?”
“I don’t know why, but he found a way to get going again in
the stretch. That was good to see.”
Afleet Express will start from post seven in the Travers and
will be ridden by jockey Javier Castellano, who has been aboard for his last
three races. Jerkens sent the colt to the gate for some schooling and then out
for a gallop Thursday morning.