El Areeb Top Choice in Gotham Stakes

El Areeb Ready Goes for 5th Straight Win in Gotham

El Areeb is the heavy 6-5 favorite for Saturdays’ $300,000 Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct. The gray son of Exchange Rate was not expected to run this month, but El Areeb’s trainer Cal Lynch says the horse is ready to roll against eight rivals on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

“He was bucking and squealing and jumping around [Thursday] morning after galloping a mile and three-quarters,” Lynch said from his base at Laurel Park. “If he wasn’t, we wouldn’t be going there.”

El Areeb handily won the Jerome and Withers on Aqueduct’s inner track in his last two starts and has won four in a row. El Areeb can secure his spot in the May 6 Kentucky Derby with a first- or second-place finish in the Gotham. The Gotham is run at 1 1/16 miles and offers 85 qualifying points (50-20-10-5) to its top four finishers toward the Derby under a system used by Churchill Downs to determine the field in case more than 20 horses enter the race. El Areeb currently has 20 points.

El Areeb has faced much softer competition thus far, but his trainer makes no apologies.

“My job is to make money and do right by the horse,” said Lynch, who trains El Areeb for Mohammed Al-Gadhi’s M M G Stables. “It’s not my fault. He’s done everything right. If he cranks out another graded stakes in New York, I’d be delighted.”

Among El Areeb’s nine rivals are So Conflated (8-1), the winner of the Grade 3 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields for the connections of 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist. So Conflated was scratched from the Risen Star last Saturday after drawing post 14. Breaking from the outside post is Action Everyday (10-1), who is 2 for 2 but “has to step up” says his trainer Todd Pletcher. True Timber (6-1) and J Boys Echo (8-1), second and third behind El Areeb in the Withers, also are back. Chad Brown-trained Cloud Computing (5-1) will get some play following his 5 furlong win last time out. Long shot maiden Glennrichment was entered but since scratched for the Gotham.

The Gotham appears to be void of true speed, and El Areeb is likely to be up front challenging the leaders. He has shown his versatility by stalking the leaders in the Withers before making his move in the upper stretch. But Lynch said he has told jockey Trevor McCarthy: “If he wants to go to the lead, he can go to the lead. It’ll be up to Trevor. That’s why he gets paid.”

El Areeb’s last three Beyer Speed Figures have been 92-91-94. He worked 6 furlongs in 1:00.89 at Laurel Park on Sunday. He’ll follow the Gotham with a run in the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) on April 8, a 100 points-to-the-winner Derby qualifier.

But a win in the Gotham virtually assures El Areeb or another horse a position in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

Gotham Stakes (G3)

Aqueduct Racetrack, Saturday, March 04, 2017, Race 8
  • 1 1/16m
  • Inner track
  • $300,000
  • 3 yo
  • 4:50 PM (local)

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