NYRA Press Release: Trainer Cathal Lynch doesn’t plan on venturing far from the tried-and-true formula that has already gotten his multiple Grade 3 winner El Areeb to 6-5 favoritism in Saturday’s Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.
Lynch said the horse will train at his Laurel Park home base on Friday and ship up with Lynch’s son and assistant, Charlie, later that day, the same procedure El Areeb followed prior to his victories in the January 3 Jerome and the February 4 Withers.
“So far, it’s the same routine,” said Lynch. “We try to keep everything the same. Fingers crossed, everything’s good. He breezed good on Sunday and went back to the track the last couple of days so everything’s going according to plan, you know how that goes in horse racing.”
The 1 1/16-mile Gotham, which serves as the local prep for the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial on April 8, will offer the winner 50 qualifying points as the first Kentucky Derby Championship Series qualifying event of the season at the Big A. Additionally, the runner-up will receive 20 points, with 10 points going to third and five points to fourth. The previous round of preps, including the Jerome and Withers, was worth 10-5-2-1 points to the top four finishers.
The Irish native has charted El Areeb’s course down the Derby trail with cautious optimism, originally expecting to skip the Gotham and target next month’s Wood instead, worth 100-40-20-10 points, as the colt’s final prep for a possible “Run for the Roses” on May 6 at Churchill Downs, but was ultimately persuaded to reconsider by the horse himself, who posted a sharp pair of recent workouts at Laurel.
“[He’s been] acting like he wants to go do something, so I didn’t know if I really felt like sitting on him for another four weeks if he’s going right,” said Lynch.
El Areeb enters the Gotham with 20 qualifying points from his two local prep wins, to rank him fourth on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard this week, and a strong showing on Saturday could clinch his spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. Lynch hopes that another good effort will further bolster El Areeb’s credentials and offer the colt’s connections greater flexibility heading into the spring racing season.
“If we’re lucky enough to jump up there and be first or second, it gives you 50 or 20 points and that should be enough to get you in based on the last few years,” said Lynch, who is assisted at Laurel by his sons Charlie and Anthony. “Then it gives you the option if you have to go to the Wood or not.
“The horse is going to take us there, we’re not going to take the horse to the Derby,” he added. “We’re not going to force anything. If it happens, we’ll be delighted to go. We’re not going to put any more pressure on the horse, he’s carrying enough weight already.”
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