Withers romper El Areeb has ‘done everything we’ve asked of him, and then some’
Story and photo by Teresa Genaro
At the Ocala Breeders’ Sale of two-year-olds in training last March, trainer Cathal Lynch and bloodstock agent Glenn Brok went to $625,000 to buy a son of Curlin. Named Undulated, he went on to finish second in the Laurel Futurity and win the Swynford Stakes.
But it’s the horse that they purchased later in the sale, the horse that they weren’t sure they had the budget for, that’s put them on the road to the Kentucky Derby.
On Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack, El Areeb got his fourth straight facile victory when he won the Withers (G3) by 4 1/4 lengths, following up his win in the Jerome (G3), also over Aqueduct’s inner track, last month. El Areeb earned 10 points in the Kentucky Derby, giving him a total of 20 points.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked of him, and then some,” said Lynch.
Owned by MMG Stables, the nom de course of Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Gadhi, El Areeb – whose name means “skillful” – had caught Brok’s and Lynch’s eyes at Barry Eisaman’s farm over the winter, and they were even more impressed after seeing him at the sale.
“We weren’t sure we could afford him after we bought the horse, but thank goodness Mohammed said, ‘If you guys like him, buy him,’” said Lynch, who went to $340,000 to secure the son of Exchange Rate out of the A.P. Indy mare Feathered Diamond.
“He was my favorite horse,” said Brok.
Prior to this year, Lynch had one graded stakes win to his credit, that in the Grade 3 General George Handicap in 2013. Thanks to El Areeb, he’s now got two more.
Though the Gotham is next in the series of Derby preps at Aqueduct, Lynch said that he’s likely to skip that and point straight to the Wood Memorial, citing, without quite saying it, the rigors of the Triple Crown trail.
“If we’re going to take a shot at those other three things,” he said, refusing to name the three races of the Triple Crown, admitting, “I’m superstitious.”
Trainer Dale Romans, an unusual site at Aqueduct in the winter, had no such reservations.
“He’s staying on the Derby trail,” said Romans of his J Boys Echo, who finished third, beaten a half-length for second, earning two Derby points. “I really think a lot of this horse.”
Owned by longtime Romans client Albaugh Family Stable, J Boys Echo wasn’t slated to run here until earlier this week, when Romans learned about a Brook Ledge plane headed north.
“It’s his first start this year, and he was between an allowance and running against the champion,” said Romans, referring to Classic Empire in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park, where Romans’ stable is based. “This all just fell into place. He ran well.”
Conceding that his colt seems to like the cold weather, Romans is nonetheless unsure whether the son of Mineshaft will head back to the Big A for his next race.
Also earning points toward a start in the Kentucky Derby were longshot True Timber, who finished second (four points) and fourth-place finisher Bonus Points (one point).