LAUREL, MD – M M G Stables’ multiple Grade 3 winner El Areeb, based at Laurel Park with trainer Cal Lynch, will return to Aqueduct Racetrack for his next start in the $300,000 Gotham (G3) March 4.
El Areeb has won four consecutive races dating back to last year including the Jerome (G3) and Withers (G3) this winter at Aqueduct to make himself one of the leading contenders on the Triple Crown trail.
“I wanted to make sure and give him the time coming out of the last race just to make sure everything was OK,” Lynch said. “I spoke to the bosses this morning and told them I was comfortable that the horse was doing really well, so I didn’t see any reason not to go ahead and take a run at the Gotham.”
A sophomore son of Exchange Rate, El Areeb had his first work back since the Feb. 4 Withers last Saturday at Laurel, going four furlongs in 47.70 seconds and galloping out five furlongs in 1:00 and six furlongs in 1:13.
“The horse came out of his work really good. He’ll have one more work and then we’ll go to the Gotham,” Lynch said. “We’re still going race by race. We’ve got no plans beyond this one race.”
El Areeb broke his maiden Oct. 15 and captured the James F. Lewis III Nov. 19 in his stakes debut, both at Laurel, to cap his juvenile season. He opened his 3-year-old campaign with an 11 ¼-length romp in the one-mile, 70-yard Jerome Jan. 2 and returned with a 4 ¼-length score in the 1 1/16-mile Withers Feb. 4.
Like the Withers, the Gotham is run at 1 1/16 miles and serves as the final prep for Aqueduct’s 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial (G2) April 8.
“There’s a few less variables for us going there,” Lynch said. “Knowing that your horse likes the inner track is definitely an advantage. That can be a quirky track sometimes; some horses handle it and some don’t. We’ve been lucky this year; most of our guys seem to like it up there so we’ll go back again.”
Lynch said El Areeb is expected to have his final pre-Gotham work Sunday at Laurel with regular rider Trevor McCarthy up. Maryland’s leading rider in 2014 and 2016, McCarthy’s 24 wins tops Laurel’s current winter-spring meet.