El Areeb Comes Through in Withers
By: EverythingEQ News Team
M M G Stables’ El Areeb justified his favoritism with bettors in the $250,000 Gr.3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday, February 4. The three-year-old son of Exchange Rate played with his nine rivals before dismissing them and proving to be much the best, taking his fourth straight win by 4 ¼ lengths.
Longshot True Timber hurried to the lead despite stumbling at the start, leaving room for the competition to settle into place behind him. Under jockey Trevor McCarthy, El Areeb tracked from third, running three wide, waiting as the clock ticked through fractions of :24.29, :49.31, and 1:14.06. As the field turned for home, the tables turned, and the winning duo got down to business. With three-sixteenths of a mile to go, there was nobody ahead of them and McCarthy gave his mount a hand ride to the wire to stop the clock in 1:44.47 for the 1 1/16 mile contest over the inner track.
“I kind of stayed out of his way today,” McCarthy said following the race. “I got him to relax, settle and sit three-wide, and then I pushed the button on him and he accelerated. He didn’t prefer the surface in the Jerome. Today, I felt a different horse underneath me. He had a bigger stride and was really running at the end.”
El Areeb picked up 10 more qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby from his victory, giving him a total of 20 points. He currently sits at second place on the leaderboard behind Classic Empire, with 32 points, who continues to maintain his position in first.
“I thought he did it a little easier today,” trainer Cathal Lynch said. “I know he didn’t win by as far, but Trevor tapped him once on the neck, he said, just to keep his attention. He’s shown maturity there, when he sat behind those guys. He’s just a lovely horse.”
From his six starts to date, the colt has four wins and a second, with earnings of $334,200. He debuted last summer at Parx, where he ran fourth, and followed that with a second place finish at Laurel. At third asking, El Areeb broke his maiden, and then moved into stakes company in the James F. Lewis lll Stakes. His next start came in the Gr. 3 Jerome, where he beat his foes by 11 ¼ lengths.
El Areeb, who is out of the A.P. Indy mare Feathered Diamond, was bred in Kentucky by Dixiana Farms. He was first purchased by Eisaman Equine for $100,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Lanes End. Following that sale, the colt was consigned by Eisaman Equine at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s March Sale of 2-year-olds in training, where he was bought by his current connections for $340,000.
“If we’re going to take a shot at [the Triple Crown], it’d probably be nice to have a little break before we do. I’ll talk to the owners, and we’ll sit down and talk about where we’ll go next,” Lynch said. He indicated that the April 8 Wood Memorial is likely, but would not commit to it or the March 4 Gotham Stakes. “We’ll see how he comes back the next few days and make a decision.”