September 28, 2023

El Areeb records sharp half-mile, trainer mulling next start

El Areeb working under assistant trainer Charlie Lynch at Laurel Park on Saturday, February 18 (Screenshot)

Multiple Grade 3 hero El Areeb posted his first move on Saturday since taking the February 4 Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct by 4 1/4 lengths.

The gray son of Exchange Rate breezed a half-mile over Laurel Park’s fast main track in :47.80, earning the second best work at that distance on the day. Charlie Lynch, assistant and son of trainer Cal Lynch, was holding the reins on El Areeb.

“Charlie was on him today because I wanted him to go a little slower. When (regular rider) Trevor (McCarthy) gets on there (El Areeb) knows he’s up for a work and he’ll try to go a little quicker,” Cal Lynch explained.

“He did it all by himself today. It was a little quicker than he probably needed to, but it’s not unusual for him.

“Everything went really well,” Lynch added. “He galloped out (five furlongs) in a minute and 1:13 for three-quarters, but that was very easy under a hand ride. It was effortless for him.”

El Areeb is riding a four-race win streak, all of which came by open lengths. In addition to his Withers score, the Kentucky-bred broke his maiden last October at Laurel by 8 3/4 lengths in his third lifetime try, captured that track’s James F. Lewis III Stakes one month later to close out his juvenile campaign and opened 2017 with an 11 1/4-length romp in the Jerome Stakes (G3) over Aqueduct’s inner dirt on January 2.

Lynch is now mulling El Areeb’s next start on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The Triple Crown nominee could return to Aqueduct for either the $300,000 Gotham Stakes (G3) on March 4 going 1 1/16 miles or the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) sending runners nine furlongs on April 8. The $1 million Blue Grass Stakes going 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland on April 8 is also under consideration.

“Right now I’m kind of in-between the Gotham and the Wood or just the Wood or the Blue Grass in Kentucky. Those are the three,” Lynch said. “The next choice I have to make is whether we’re going to go ahead and run in the Gotham.

“I was planning to give him some time between the races. If he insists he doesn’t need any more time and we want to run then he’ll go in the Gotham. That’s something that’s not based on today’s work. It’ll be another work or two before we make a final decision.

“The only thing about going to Kentucky is that we would go there and maybe fly or drive there I’m not sure, maybe get him used to some different things and throw some other stuff at him,” he added. “He’s handled everything we’ve thrown at him so far really well. He’s still a young horse and we have to test him every time we do something different. So far he’s passed with flying colors. He’s a 4.0 student.”