Multiple Grade 3 hero El Areeb returned to the work tab on Friday, breezing a half-mile in :51.40 for trainer Cal Lynch over Laurel Park’s fast main track.
It was the first move from the gray son of Exchange Rate since he had a four-race win streak broken when third in the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct.
Lynch’s son and assistant, Charlie, was aboard as El Areeb galloped a mile before putting in his work in company with Winter, who is herself riding a three-race win streak that includes the Maryland Racing Media Stakes and Nellie Morse Stakes in her past pair of starts.
Winter earned the same time as El Areeb and is expected to put her win streak on the line in the $200,000 Top Flight Invitational Handicap (G3) on April 2 going nine furlongs at Aqueduct.
“We two-minute licked him a mile and then finished up the last half-mile, and he did everything right. We were very pleased with him and Winter, as well,” Cathal Lynch said. “We just wanted to put a little bit more pressure on him and start to make him get a little bit more out of his works.
“That was his first work since he ran so it was just an easy work today. We put him in company to keep his attention a little bit. Maybe we got a little soft with him and were trying to baby him a little bit, and that’s not what got him here.”
El Areeb is now under consideration for either the $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct or the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland. Each race takes place on April 8 and is run at 1 1/8 miles.
“The Wood looks like the option, but I’ve still got to talk to the owners and he’s got to work another time or two before we’re satisfied that he’s good to go,” Lynch said. “He’s got enough points now that if they want to just wait and go there we can do that, but the Wood would be the logical spot.”
El Areeb currently sits in seventh on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 30 total points toward a starting berth in the May 6 Kentucky Derby (G1).
The sophomore was favored at 2-5 in the Gotham last out, but tired to third after setting a swift early pace of :23.58 and :47.70 under regular rider Trevor McCarthy. Prior to that, El Areeb romped by a total of 20 3/4 lengths in the Withers Stakes (G3), Jerome Stakes (G3) and James F. Lewis III Stakes.
“Trevor and I have talked about it a few times, but :23 and :47 on a track where everything else was :49 and :50 all day long, that’s just a lot to ask for a young horse that’s still relatively inexperienced,” Lynch said. “He’ll come forward for the race and lives to fight another day. He came back good and that’s all that matters.”
Lynch has two more works planned for El Areeb, tentatively scheduled for March 23 and 29, at his Laurel Park home base.