LAUREL, MD – With an eye on returning to New York for the Grade 2 Wood Memorial on April 8, M M G Stables’ multiple Grade 3 winner El Areeb breezed Thursday morning at his Laurel Park base for trainer Cal Lynch.
Regular rider Trevor McCarthy, fresh off a nine-win weekend at Laurel to pad his lead atop the current winter-spring meet standings, was up for the work in company with 4-year-old stablemates Winter and Vorticity.
El Areeb was credited with a half-mile time of 49.40 seconds, seventh-fastest of 14 horses at the distance. It was his second work since having his four-race win streak snapped when finishing third as the favorite in the Grade 3 Gotham on March 4 at Aqueduct. Winter and Vorticity were each timed in 50.00.
“He worked a mile and an eighth and finished up really, really well. We were very pleased. Everything’s good,” Lynch said. “I’ll talk to the owners after his work next week and we’ll make a plan, but it looks like the Wood’s on schedule unless something changes.”
El Areeb is scheduled to work again on March 29 and April 4 leading up to the Wood, weather permitting. Thursday’s move was his second straight in company, having gone four furlongs in 51.40 seconds with Winter on March 17.
“I put him in behind horses today. He was like two or three lengths behind those two horses and then finished up a little stronger than they did,” Lynch said. “I just wanted to make sure Trevor felt the horse relaxing for him. It’s going to be him on him in the afternoon, so I just wanted to give him the feel of a race scenario and have him on there to know how he felt. He was very good today. I was very pleased.”
El Areeb, winner of the Grade 3 Jerome and Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct to kick off his 3-year-old campaign, set a demanding pace in the Gotham, going 23.58 seconds, 47.70, and 1:13.59 before tiring to third, beaten 11 lengths by J Boys Echo.
Winner of the James F. Lewis III Stakes to cap his juvenile season, El Areeb remains among the leading contenders on the Triple Crown trail. He ranks ninth with 30 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.
‘I’m pleased with him. We were pleased with how he came out of the race, it was just one of those things with the pace scenario, unfortunately,” Lynch said. “He’s always been a nice horse, and he’s continued to be. We’re just optimistic he shows up with a little different pace scenario next time and we’re hopefully looking at a different result.’
Also on Laurel’s work tab Thursday morning was 26-time stakes-winning multi-millionaire gelding Ben’s Cat, going a half-mile in 48.80 seconds gearing up for his 11-year-old debut. The time ranked fifth of 14 horses at the distance.
Bred, owned, and trained by Hall of Fame horseman King Leatherbury, Ben’s Cat has had three works this month at Laurel since returning from his annual winter vacation. He breezed three furlongs in 37.40 seconds on March 11 and went four furlongs in 52.60 on March 18.