Multiple Grade 3 winner El Areeb has been knocked off the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail with a slight knee fracture.
On Wednesday at Laurel Park, the gray son of Exchange Rate put in his penultimate breeze for the April 8 Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct. El Areeb worked in company with stablemate Winter, going nine furlongs and clocking the final half-mile in :51.60.
Trainer Cal Lynch revealed that X-rays showed his Triple Crown hopeful exited the move with a slight fracture to his knee. El Areeb worked under Charlie Lynch, his conditioner’s son and assistant.
“There was a little heat in his knee when we checked him his morning and we took some X-rays of it and didn’t like what we saw,” Lynch said. “Charlie worked him yesterday and if he had hurt himself or gone down yesterday it would have been a hell of a lot worse. As long as he’s all right and everyone’s safe, that’s the main thing. Athletes get injuries, and that’s the way it goes.
“Thank God it’s not career-ending or anything like that and the prognosis is good,” he added. “We’re just grateful that he’s all right and he’s going to be OK. His health and welfare is more important than any one race. He’ll have a career, and a life.”
El Areeb is scheduled to have surgery on Monday and will leave Sunday for the New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Dr. Dean Richardson will perform the surgery.
“We’ll see how the surgery and everything goes and whatever Dean Richardson says, that’s what he’ll get. Usually it’ll be six months,” Lynch said in regards to recovery time for El Areeb. “It’s just one of those things. It’s part of racing. The owners were really, really good about it. They took everything really well. (They said) do the right thing by the horse and we’ll get him back here in a few months and go from there.”
El Areeb jumped into Kentucky Derby consideration after a pair of romping wins at Laurel Park, breaking his maiden by 8 3/4 lengths and taking the James F. Lewis III Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths to close out his juvenile campaign.
The Kentucky-bred colt returned January 2 to earn his first points toward a Kentucky Derby berth when cruising to an 11 1/4-length victory in the Jerome Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct, then posted a 4 1/4-length score in the Withers Stakes (G3) to further enhance his credentials.
El Areeb ran third, beaten 11 lengths, in the Gotham Stakes (G3) last out and currently boasts a 7-4-1-1 career mark to go along with $364,200 in lifetime earnings.
“He’s had a couple of brilliant works the last few weeks and he’s been great,” Lynch said. “We’ll fix him and get him back in a few months. It’ll go faster than you think. We’ll have a winter campaign instead of a summer campaign, that’s all.”