Breeder follows Afleet Alex's run

Silvertand set to cheer for 2-year-old in Juvenile

Breeders' Cup notebook

Horse Racing

October 27, 2004|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - John Martin Silvertand plans to fly to Texas to root on Afleet Alex in the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Saturday at Lone Star Park. Silvertand, who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., bred Afleet Alex, one of the nation's most promising 2-year-olds.

Silvertand plans to follow Afleet Alex through the spring preps leading to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. What's more, Silvertand has a weanling filly on the farm who's a half sister to Afleet Alex, and he can't wait to watch her mature and run.

"I try to set goals for myself," Silvertand said.

In October 2002, Silvertand, who is 60, was found to have colon cancer. It had spread to the liver. After nearly a year and a half of chemotherapy and debilitating treatments, Silvertand said enough. In June, he stopped all treatments. In August, doctors told him he had seven months to live.

"If you met me, you'd never know I was sick," Silvertand said by telephone. "I'm 6-3 and 200 pounds. I am a fighter. I will fight as long as I can."

Silvertand bred his mare Maggy Hawk to the Florida stallion Northern Afleet to produce Afleet Alex. When the foal was born, however, Maggy Hawk refused to feed him. For nearly two weeks, Silvertand said, workers at the farm in Florida - as well as his daughter Lauren, 9 at the time - fed Afleet Alex milk from a bottle. He lived in a stall by himself until a nurse mare was found, about 12 days after his birth.

"He didn't even know he was a horse for the first 12 days of his life," Silvertand said. "He thought he was human, he had so much human contact."

The young Afleet Alex was a "scrawny little brat," he said. But he grew into a sweet, swift yearling, and Delaware Park trainer Tim Ritchey bought him for $75,000 last May at Timonium.

The bay colt won his first four races as a 2-year-old, including the Grade II Sanford and Grade I Hopeful, both at Saratoga. On Oct. 9, Afleet Alex's winning streak ended when he finished second in the Grade I Champagne at Belmont Park.

On Monday, he breezed five furlongs in a sizzling 58 2/5 seconds at Lone Star. Ritchey said if it had been another horse, then he might say that was too fast. But Afleet Alex, he said, "looked like he was just galloping."

That's good news for Silvertand, a native of England. He was an officer and pilot in the Royal Air Force and a wine merchant in Bermuda. He moved to the United States in 1984. He assists his wife in her interior-design business. He has three daughters.

If Afleet Alex wins, then Silvertand will pose in the winner's circle. "It is the Breeders' Cup," he said, "and I am the breeder."

If Afleet Alex doesn't win, then, spoken like a true horseman with a good young horse, he said: "There's always next year."

Azeri in Classic

The biggest question of the 21st Breeders' Cup was answered yesterday when D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of Azeri, announced that the 6-year-old mare will compete in the Classic against males and not in the Distaff against females.

"This is Texas," Lukas said. "The Breeders' Cup is kind of a `Texas Hold 'Em,' and we're going all in."

Azeri, 2002 Horse of the Year, could become the first female to win the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic, the richest race in North America.

"She's already won the Distaff [IN 2002]," Lukas said. "She's the leading [North American female] money-winner of all time. We'll step out of the box and see if we can do something that's never been done before. We're going to play our queen."

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