Kentucky Derby

Gotham Stakes Preview: El Areeb Looks to Keep Rolling

Chelsea Durand/NYRA

With a four-race win streak under his belt, M M G Stables’ Grade 3 Withers and Jerome hero El Areeb will look for win number 5 when he makes his third stop on New York’s Road to the Kentucky Derby. He is the 6-5 morning line favorite in a field of 10 for the 65th running of the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The 1 1/16-mile Gotham, which serves as the local prep for the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial on April 8, will offer the winner 50 qualifying points as the first Kentucky Derby Championship Series qualifying event of the Aqueduct season. Additionally, the runner-up will receive 20 points, with 10 points going to third and five points to fourth. The previous preps, including the Jerome and Withers, were worth 10-5-2-1 points to the top four finishers.

Already armed with 20 qualifying points to the “Run for the Roses” on May 6 at Churchill Downs, trainer Cathal Lynch initially intended to pass on the Gotham and point El Areeb to next month’s Wood Memorial, worth 100-40-20-10 points. However, the horse’s recent training – including last Sunday’s bullet work at Laurel Park, where he covered five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 – persuaded her to reconsider.

Top Choice

#4 El Areeb – Comes into this one looking for FIVE wins in a row! He’s been nothing but dominant at Aqueduct in the first two Derby preps of the season, and he once again looks like a standout from a numbers perspective. Most of the horses he’s beaten are entered back in this spot today, so we know he can destroy them. The new shooters, while more intriguing to me than the others, still don’t look to match up with El Areeb. As I’ve said for weeks, there is no way you can knock this horse, but there is also no way to tell how he’ll match up with the big-time horses outside of Aqueduct. Time will tell.

Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers

#8 So Conflated – Sneaky entry here for Doug O’Neill, who is shipping in to get this horse on the Derby trail. Last time out, he was victorious in a 100k stakes race on the synthetic surface at Golden Gate, and two races back, he was moved up to first in a race where he finished behind Dabster by a nose. Dabster is a horse that I think is flying under the radar nicely, so this is what intrigues me about So Conflated. We’ll see what happens here as he changes back to the dirt, but I think the talent is there.

#9 Cloud Computing – Not much to go off of form-wise with this guy, as he’s only had one lifetime race. Of course, that race was a nice maiden win over the Aqueduct oval, but it was just at six furlongs, so this two-turn event is a real question mark. However, you cannot doubt a trainer like Chad Brown, and it’s not like him to push a horse into a race like this one unless he thinks very highly of him. Could definitely flop, or could run huge and win the thing. A must-play on your Pick 4 tickets, as he could truly go either way.

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Exotic Plays

#10 Action Everyday – It’s always dangerous not picking Todd Pletcher in theses types of races, but in my opinion, he’s running his second string this weekend. Action Everyday doesn’t look bad, as he’s had two nice wins at Tampa Bay Downs leading up to this race. However, if you look through the recent history of this race, you quickly notice that Pletcher doesn’t send his best up north until the Wood Memorial. I’m banking on that staying true once again this weekend.

Party Crashers

#3 Miggsy – Strong connections and a solid local win last time at the distance makes me mildly interested in this colt. The breeding is strong with this one, so that adds to the intrigue. With El Areeb in this race, it puts the others pretty far behind, but if he stumbles, then this horse could pick up the pieces at a price that will be better than some of the other logical win contenders. Aqueduct can by a quirky track that favors speed, so in that regard, Miggsy has an advantage over some of the competition.

Throw Outs

#1 J Boys Echo – I’ve gone with the idea of not liking much that has come out of the New York races so far (other than El Areeb), which is why I’ve thrown out J Boys Echo and others in this spot. I’m giving the new east coast shooters a try this time around.

#7 Apartfromthecrowd – Had a lot of hype surrounding him last time out in the Grade 3 Withers, but ran poorly and finished fifth. It’s possible that he could rebound in this one, but overall, he may just not be good enough.

#6 True Timber – El Areeb has beaten him twice by open lengths, so it’s clear he is not competitive against him. I prefer giving others a try underneath El Areeb this time.

#2 Gaetano – Won last time out at Parx in a starter allowance, but that was only his second in ten starts. Will most likely be outclassed in a race of this caliber.

#5 Glennrichment – Still a maiden, but last time out, he was close to beating Miggsy, who I have listed as a “Party Crasher” today. Even though that’s a good sign, I can’t go with a maiden to beat a horse like El Areeb.

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