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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – M M G Stables’ El Areeb picked up 10 points towards securing a spot in the starting gate at the 2017 Kentucky Derby, recording his third straight victory with an 11 ¼-length romp in the mud in Monday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Jerome at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Breaking from post 6 with Trevor McCarthy, El Areeb quickly regained his balance following a slight bobble from the gate to settle in second through the early going as even-money favorite Takaful took the field through an opening quarter-mile in 23.28 seconds and the half in 48.11. El Areeb pounced on Takaful in the far turn, easily taking the lead near the three-eighths pole.
Holding a clear advantage as the field reached the top of the stretch, the Cathal Lynch trainee drew off to a comfortable victory on the muddy and sealed inner track, completing the mile-and-70-yard route in 1:46.17.
The win was the third in a row for El Areeb, but his first around two turns, following an 8 ¾-length maiden-breaking score in October and his 5 ¼-length win in the James F. Lewis III on November 19, both going six furlongs, gate to wire, and at his Laurel Park home base.
“We’ve been working him two-turns in the morning and it he turns off so well, he really seems to finish and like the two-turns, so hopefully it goes forward like that,” said McCarthy. “We’ve worked him on dead tracks and fast tracks, and it seems like gets over on anything. He can run on broken glass. Anything you ask him to do, he’ll do for you. It’s super exciting for the whole barn.”
The gray colt by Exchange Rate returned $7.60 for a $2 win wager as the 5-2 second choice. A $340,000 2-year-old-in-training purchase last spring, El Areeb earned $90,000 for the Jerome win to boost his lifetime bankroll to $184,200.
“We’ve been training this horse since the March sale and he’s just been getting better and better,” said Lynch. “He’s worked a couple really good mile-and-an-eighths at Laurel [in] 1:55. The last couple of works have been quite impressive. We have a lot of 2-year-olds, maybe 20, 22 each year, and he’s probably the best horse I’ve trained in 20 years. I think today he’s proved he’s a legit contender.”
Bonus Points closed from last early to finish second and earn four points toward a Derby berth, while True Timber earned two points and Win With Pride picked up a point for their respective third- and fourth-place finishes. Everybodyluvsrudy, The Walk and Takaful rounded out the order of finish.
The Grade 3 Withers, the next official prep race for the Kentucky Derby at the Big A, will be held on February 4.
Cathal Lynch, winning trainer of El Areeb (No. 6): “We’ve been training this horse since the March sale and he’s just been getting better and better. He’s worked a couple really good mile and an eighth at Laurel [in] 1:55. The last couple of works have been quite impressive. We have a lot of 2-year-olds, maybe 20, 22 each year, and he’s probably the best horse I’ve trained in 20 years. I think today he’s proved he’s a legit contender.”
“I thought the other horse [Takaful, No. 3] would stay there a little longer. Kiaran [McLaughlin”s horse is well bred. He’s a Shadwell, he’s got the pedigree but our horse is a gent. I think he’s proven that. His last race was a 94 Beyer. At Laurel, he ran faster than the [Frank J.] De Francis [Memorial Dash on November 19]. He’s a fast horse but he can carry his speed. We’ve worked him long and we expected him to go long sooner, we just didn’t get the opportunity. The races at Laurel come up three-quarters and that’s our home track.”
“We’ve [sat him off horses] in the morning. We’ve worked three or four babies and he’s had no problem sitting behind. He can rate. He’s shown a lot of speed the last two times and everyone thought he had to be on the lead, but he’s ratable. [A wet track] is still not his preference. He’s just a good horse. Good horses run through their class.”
“I’ll speak to the owners and we’ll get together and we’ll discuss where we want to go next. We’ll just see how he comes out of it first.”
Trevor McCarthy, winning jockey aboard El Areeb (No. 6): “We’ve been working him two-turns in the morning and it he turns off so well, he really seems to finish and like the two-turns, so hopefully it goes forward like that.”
“We’ve worked him on dead tracks and fast tracks, and it seems like gets over on anything. He can run on broken glass. Anything you ask him to do, he’ll do for you. It’s super exciting for the whole barn.”
“We were hoping that [trainer Kiaran] McLaughlin’s horse [Takaful] went, and we could just stalk and lay the pressure on him. That’s how it ended up. He’s been fit. Cathal [Lynch] has done a great job with him and the owners [M M G Stables] have had so many good horses, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to ride for them and win some good races for them. It was a big deal today and a big performance by him that we were expecting.”
Manny Franco, jockey aboard runner-up Bonus Points (No. 1): “I just let him fall back, I wanted to be behind the speed after the first turn. I just let him be comfortable and made a move when I thought was the time. He handled it [two turns] well and did everything right.”
Jose Ortiz, jockey aboard beaten favorite, Takaful (No. 3): “He came back sound and wasn’t making any noise. Last time, he stumbled a little bit but today he broke well. He relaxed for me in the first turn even though the 6 horse [El Areeb] was close to me. Last time, he was a little keen on me, but today I got him [relaxed]. We went to the backside and he switched leads. I threw my hands and he relaxed well but we hit the three-eighths pole and he was empty. He did everything right, just empty.”
Winning margin: 11 ¼ lengths
Final time (1 mile 70 yards): 1:46.17
Fractions: :23.28, 48.11, 1:14.39
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