El Areeb set – maybe – to make return in City of Laurel
From a Maryland Jockey Club release
M M G Stables’ “bigger and stronger” multiple Grade 3 winner El Areeb is entered to make his first start since being knocked off the Triple Crown trail this spring in Saturday’s $100,000 City of Laurel on Ben’s Cat Day at Laurel Park.
The City of Laurel for 3-year-olds and $100,000 Safely Kept for 3-year-old fillies, both at seven furlongs, are among six stakes worth $575,000 in purses on an 11-race program that includes a tribute to the life and career of late Mid-Atlantic legend Ben’s Cat, who died this summer at the age of 11.
Won last year by multiple graded-stakes winner Sharp Azteca, a narrow second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) last weekend, the City of Laurel attracted a field of nine 3-year-olds led by El Areeb, unraced since finishing third in the Gotham (G3) March 4.
Dr. Dean Richardson performed surgery to fix a minor knee injury the gray or roan Exchange Rate colt suffered in late March while training for the Wood Memorial (G2). He was given plenty of rest and rehabilitation and has been working steadily since returning to trainer Cal Lynch’s Laurel barn in September.
“We put him in there, so we’ll take a look and I’ll talk it over with the bosses and we’ll go from there,” Lynch said. “He’s doing fantastic. If he wasn’t doing as good as he is, we wouldn’t even be thinking about this race. I like the seven-eighths and I like the thought of staying at home. Ben’s Cat has been very good to Maryland and we want to respect those kinds of horses, pay our dues here at Laurel and maybe win one for the home team.”
El Areeb put together a four-race win streak including the James F. Lewis III at Laurel to cap his juvenile season and the Jerome (G3) and Withers (G3) to open 2017 and rank him among the top 3-year-old prospects in the East. He was third after setting a pressured pace in the Gotham, a race where runner-up Cloud Computing returned to win the Preakness Stakes (G1).
“He’s come along faster, but he does everything like that. He’s been a little different horse to train from the get-go but that’s the way he is. He does a lot more than you expect,” Lynch said. “He had a couple of easy halves and a couple easy three-eighths and he just started working faster but he does it by himself, that’s the thing. We x-rayed everything and made sure everything is the way it’s supposed to be and Dr. Richardson said everything looks good. We’re happy with him so far.”
El Areeb drew Post 2 and was assigned topweight of 122 pounds including jockey Jevian Toledo. Trevor McCarthy, working his way back from June shoulder surgery, had ridden El Areeb in each of his first seven starts, four of them wins.
“He’s bigger and stronger than he was before. He’s had some time to develop and he’s quite a bit bigger, carrying more weight. There’s just more of him now. He hasn’t lost his attitude,” Lynch said. “There’s a few really nice horses in there and Sharp Azteca won this race last year so it’s a good spot for a 3-year-old at the end of the year.”
Lynch also entered Charles Biggs’ Two Charley’s, also coming off a layoff, not having run since beating older horses in a second-level optional claiming allowance July 7 at Laurel going seven furlongs. The Hansen colt is 2-for-6 in 2017 after running second to El Areeb in the Lewis, fourth to multiple graded winner Irish War Cry in the Marylander and third to City of Laurel rival No Dozing in an entry-level allowance at 2.
“He had a couple of really solid works here the last few weeks and it’s really one of the last chances for 3-year-olds to run against straight 3-year-olds,” Lynch said. “He’s a warrior. He’s been a great little find that we didn’t expect. We were just hoping for a bit of fun with him. He didn’t cost a whole lot of money and we’re ecstatic with the way he performs and tries every single time he goes over there. He’s just a tough nut.”
Lael Stables’ homebred No Dozing, off the board in back-to-back New York stakes this summer and fall, returns to Laurel where he has in 2-0 including a victory in the seven-furlong Concern July 22 over an off track. He has finished second or third in three graded stakes and came within a head of being Grade 1-placed in the 2016 Breeders’ Futurity won by eventual juvenile champion Classic Empire.
Frank V. Demarco’s Honor the Fleet, second in the Concern and third to Timeline in the Pegasus (G3), enters the City of Laurel off a front-running 6 ¾-length romp in a seven-furlong second-level optional claiming allowance Oct. 22 at Laurel. He has been first or second in all five career tries at Laurel, three of them wins.
“He’s turned out to be quite a nice horse for us. We’re very pleased with him,” trainer Louis Albertrani said. “We’re excited about it. It should be a good race.”
Also entered are Sonic Mule, winless in five starts since taking back-to-back stakes at Gulfstream Park over the winter; Tale of Silence, second and fourth in successive graded stakes behind Practical Joke including the H. Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga; Prince of Hempt, undefeated in three starts making his stakes debut; Delaware Park stakes winner Winplaceorshowono, fourth in the Maryland Million Sprint Oct. 21; and Indian Lover.