Three-year-olds Embark on Derby Trail

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Ted Black

February 5th, 2017

In the span of roughly two hours late Saturday afternoon, thoroughbred racing fans witnessed a trio of early Kentucky Derby prep races and two of the winners traveled along a similar path.

Oddly enough, chronologically speaking, the first of the three Derby preps was actually held in California when Santa Anita hosted the annual Grade III Robert Lewis Memorial. Rail bound Royal Mo broke alertly to gain command soon after the break and led throughout and edged clear late to score by three lengths in 1:43.44.

A sophomore son of Uncle Mo trained by John Sheriffs, Royal Mo garnered his first stakes tally and now sports a 2-2-0 slate and $144,000 bankroll from four starts. Royal Mo will likely try another local prep and then perhaps the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on his road to Louisville, Kentucky for the run for the roses.

Less than 30 minutes later, El Areeb (Trevor McCarthy) lived up to his role as the 1-2 favorite when he bided his time three-wide from a stalking spot down the backside, surged to command at the top of the lane and drew clear in the lane to a four-length score in the Grade III Withers Stakes. Trained by Cathal Lynch, El Areeb has won a pair of Grade III stakes this year and boasts four wins from six career outings.
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Then just over an hour later, Irish War Cry gained command soon after the break and led throughout to capture the Grade II, $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Irish War Cry maintained the perfect start to his career with his third straight score, foiling the sophomore debut of two-year-old champion Classic Empire, who finished a listless third as Delta Jackpot winner Gunnevera gained the place spot.

Both El Areeb and Irish War Cry are actually based in Maryland and both garnered their diploma and then first stakes score at Laurel Park. El Areeb, who is based at Laurel, has won twice in New York this winter, while Irish War Cry, who is based much of the year at the Fair Hill Training Center, crushed his Holy Bull rivals while racing on Lasix for the first time for trainer Graham Motion.