El Areeb Wins Jerome, Becomes Viable Derby Prospect

M M G Stables’ El Areeb conquered two turns and stamped himself as an early Kentucky Derby prospect when the son of Exchange Rate captured the G3 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack Jan. 2.

El Areeb is one of several successful racing prospects Glen Brok of Diamond B has purchased on behalf of M M G Stables.

Brok bought El Areeb for $340,000 under the M M G name at the 2016 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s March sale of 2-year-olds in training, where he was consigned by Eisaman Equine, agent.

“He seemed like a big, strong horse that got over the ground well,” Brok said. “I loved him from the beginning and felt like he was the best horse I had ever bought. So far he has proved me right.”

The Jerome is a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race, awarding 10 points to the winner, four to second, two to third, and one to fourth. The points are used to determine the field should more than 20 horses be entered in the 1 1/4-mile classic.

The Jerome proved to be El Areeb’s best start to date, as he bested six other 3-year-olds in the one-mile and 70-yard contest to score a dominating 11 1/4-length victory. The effort marked a successful graded stakes debut for the gray or roan colt, who has won his last three consecutive starts for trainer Cathal Lynch.

“We’ve been training this horse since the March sale and he’s just been getting better and better,” Lynch told The Blood-Horse. “We have a lot of 2-year-olds, maybe 20, 22 each year, and he’s probably the best horse I’ve trained in 20 years. I think today he’s proved he’s a legit contender.”

El Areeb completed the Jerome distance in 1:46.17 on the muddy and sealed track.

“Cathal [Lynch] has done a great job with him and the owners [M M G Stables] have had so many good horses, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to ride for them and win some good races for them,” jockey Trevor McCarthy told The Blood-Horse. “It was a big deal today and a big performance by him that we were expecting.”

While El Areeb would take three starts to earn his first career victory, the gray or roan 3-year-old has figured things out. He scored a front-running, 8 3/4-length victory in a maiden special weight test at six furlongs Oct. 15 at Laurel Park before taking the James F. Lewis III Stakes there Nov. 19 by 5 1/4 lengths on the front end, also at six furlongs.

“We’ve been working him two turns in the morning … he really seems to finish and like the two turns, so hopefully it goes forward like that,” McCarthy told The Blood-Horse. “We’ve worked him on dead tracks and fast tracks, and it seems like he gets over on anything. He can run on broken glass. Anything you ask him to do, he’ll do for you. It’s super exciting for the whole barn.”

The colt’s 2017 debut would prove his most impressive effort to date as he rated just off the early pace set by Takaful and Jose Ortiz and responded impressively in the far turn. He has won his past three starts by a combined 25 1/4 lengths.

“He’s a fast horse but he can carry his speed,” Lynch said. “We’ve worked him long and we expected him to go long sooner; we just didn’t get the opportunity. The races at Laurel come up three-quarters and that’s our home track.

“We’ve [sat him off horses] in the morning. We’ve worked three or four babies and he’s had no problem sitting behind. He can rate. He’s shown a lot of speed the last two times and everyone thought he had to be on the lead, but he’s ratable. [A wet track] is still not his preference. He’s just a good horse. Good horses run through their class.”

El Areeb is the first stakes winner for the winning A.P. Indy mare Feathered Diamond. While El Areeb is Feathered Diamond’s first stakes winner, all four of her starters are winners.