February 28, 2024

El Areeb the iron-hot horse of the Gotham

The Laurel-based El Areeb has been on a roll this winter at Aqueduct (Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Run them when their good. That’s the philosophy that finds El Areeb among the entries for Saturday’s $300,000 Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct, a 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Derby (G1) prep in which the gray son of Exchange Rate figures to be a heavy favorite.

No three-year-old in the country might be doing better than El Areeb, who is riding a four-race winning streak into the Gotham. All have been open-lengths wins, including the latter two of the Jerome (G3) and Withers (G3), the first two of four Derby preps held at The Big A.

“He’s in good form and the horse is doing well, that’s why we’re going ahead and decided we’d take a shot at the Gotham rather than wait any longer,” said trainer Cal Lynch after El Areeb worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Laurel on Sunday.

Following the Withers, there had been talk of El Areeb resting until the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) on April 8, a 100 points-to-the-winner Derby qualifier. A win in the Gotham, worth 50 points to the winner, would virtually assure El Areeb, or someone else, a position in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. El Areeb has won four of six starts and presently has 20 points after his two earlier victories.

True Timber, who surprisingly showed speed and held on well to be second in the Withers at odds of 29-1, is back for the rematch as is J Boys Echo, who finished third in the Withers in his first start since November, and fifth-place finisher Apartfromthecrowd.

Among the new shooters to Aqueduct’s Derby preps is the Doug O’Neill-trained So Conflated, who took the $100,000 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields last time. Owned by Paul Reddam and ridden by Mario Gutierrez, these are the same connections that won the Derby with I’ll Have Another (2012) and Nyquist last year.

The Chad Brown, Todd Pletcher, and Rudy Rodriguez barns are generally ones to fear, and all three send out progressive colts that could make a run at minor honors. Brown’s Cloud Computing exits a solid debut victory over six furlongs, while the Pletcher-trained Action Everyday is two-for-two after wins at Tampa Bay Downs and adds blinkers for the Withers. Miggsy was a track-and-distance maiden winner, albeit by a nose, for Rodriguez in early February.