Midlantic Triple Crown update: El Areeb off trail
El Areeb, the Laurel Park-based runner whose four-race win streak moved him near the top of the top three-year-old list earlier this season, is off the Kentucky Derby trail.
The son of Exchange Rate exited a 1 1/8 mile work yesterday with a slight fracture to his left knee, said trainer Cal Lynch. Lynch’s son Charlie was aboard for the work, which at the time appeared uneventful.
“There was a little heat in his knee when we checked him his morning and we took some X-rays of it and didn’t like what we saw,” Cal Lynch said. “Charlie worked him yesterday and if he had hurt himself or gone down yesterday it would have been a hell of a lot worse. As long as he’s all right and everyone’s safe, that’s the main thing. Athletes get injuries, and that’s the way it goes.”
El Areeb needed three tries to break his maiden, but the sophomore, owned by M M G Stables, then mounted a four-race win streak. That streak included a pair of Grade 3 wins at Aqueduct, in the Jerome and the Withers, as well as a November 2016 win in the James F. Lewis III Stakes at Laurel Park. He had been pointed to the Grade 2 Wood Memorial prior to his injury.
Lynch said El Areeb will leave Sunday for the New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Penn., where Dr. Dean Richardson will perform surgery Monday. The timetable for recovery and return remains uncertain.
“We’ll see how the surgery and everything goes and whatever Dean Richardson says, that’s what he’ll get. Usually it’ll be six months,” Lynch said. “It’s just one of those things. It’s part of racing. The owners were really, really good about it. They took everything really well. [They said] do the right thing by the horse and we’ll get him back here in a few months and go from there.”
RECRUITING READY COULD BE TESIO-BOUND
Recruiting Ready caught everyone’s eyes when he debuted. The Algorithms colt won at first asking, motoring 4 1/2 furlongs in 51.78 seconds at Pimlico last May to break his maiden by 10 lengths.
It was what came next that was a bit more problematic: five consecutive stakes starts, with a record of 5-0-1-2. That ledger included placings in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor and Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes.
Back in Maryland, the Sagamore Farm runner found the range again, taking an allowance/optional claiming race March 10 by a hard-fought length in a sharp time of 1:09.18 for six furlongs. Now, after a bullet four-furlong breeze this morning in which he stopped the timer in 47 1/5 seconds, Recruiting Ready is back, says trainer Horacio De Paz.
“It was a huge thing for his confidence,” DePaz said. “He’s always been the kind of horse that puts in very good efforts and then gets caught a few strides before the wire or right at the wire. For his mental standpoint he needed that boost of confidence and hopefully, moving forward, he can build off of that.”
Next up could be a date in the $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes April 22. That 1 1/8 mile race is a “Win and You’re In” event granting entry to the Grade 1, $1.5 million Preakness May 20.
De Paz said that his preference at this point is to keep Recruiting Ready with three-year-old company.
“We’re looking at all options, whether it’s at Oaklawn or the Tesio, just different things,” he added. “I’m not absolutely sure yet. We’re just kind of seeing how he’s doing. Obviously off of this work the options are pretty wide open for him.”
Oaklawn has three three-year-old stakes still to come: the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby April 15, the $150,000 Northern Spur that same day, and the $150,000 Bachelor — a six-furlong race — April 13.
IRISH WAR CRY POSSIBLY HEADED TO WOOD MEMORIAL
Maryland’s remaining Derby hopeful is the New Jersey-bred, Fair Hill-based Irish War Cry, and he may be pointed to the Grade 2 Wood Memorial April 8.
Trainer Graham Motion’s charge won the first three starts of his career, including an ultra-impressive score in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park February 4. But in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth March 4, the Curlin colt was pressued early and folded his tent, fading to a well-beaten seventh.
Motion has already passed on what might have been the next logical spot, the Grade 1 Florida Derby, also at Gulfstream. That leaves the Wood, at Aqueduct, and Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes as the most likely next spots.
“I think I’m leaning towards going to the Wood,” Motion told The Blood-Horse. “I really wanted to give him an extra week (between races). I was worried about coming back in four weeks again (April 1 for the grade 1 Xpressbet.com Florida Derby) off a bad race. We could go to Keeneland (for the grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes), but I kind of like the idea of training at Fair Hill and running closer to home.”