El Areeb Works at Laurel Toward Wood Memorial
Photo: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
El Areeb works a half-mile time in :49 2/5 at Laurel Park

With an eye on returning to New York for the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) April 8 at Aqueduct Racetrack, M M G Stables' dual grade 3 winner El Areeb breezed March 23 at his Laurel Park base for trainer Cal Lynch.

Regular rider Trevor McCarthy, fresh off a nine-win weekend at Laurel, was up for the work in company with 4-year-old stablemates Winter and Vorticity.

El Areeb was credited with a half-mile time of :49 2/5, seventh-fastest of 14 horses at the distance in the second work since his four-race win streak was snapped when he finished third as the favorite in the Gotham Stakes (G3) March 4 at Aqueduct. Winter and Vorticity were each timed in :50 flat.

"We were very pleased. Everything's good," Lynch said, noting that El Areeb finished up well. "I'll talk to the owners after his work next week and we'll make a plan, but it looks like the Wood's on schedule unless something changes."

El Areeb is scheduled to work again March 29 and April 4 leading up to the Wood, weather permitting. Thursday's move was his second straight in company. He went four furlongs in :51 2/5 with stablemate Winter March 17.

"I put him in behind horses today. He was like two or three lengths behind those two horses and then finished up a little stronger than they did," Lynch said. "I just wanted to make sure Trevor felt the horse relaxing for him. It's going to be him on (El Areeb) in the afternoon, so I just wanted to give him the feel of a race scenario and have him on there to know how (the horse) felt. He was very good today. I was very pleased."

El Areeb, who kicked off his 3-year-old campaign by winning the Jerome (G3) and Withers (G3) stakes at Aqueduct, set a demanding pace of :23.58, :47.70, and 1:13.59 in the Gotham before tiring to third, beaten 11 lengths by J Boys Echo.

The winner of the James F. Lewis III Stakes to cap his juvenile season, El Areeb remains among the leading Triple Crown contenders. He ranks ninth with 30 qualifying points for the May 6 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).

"I'm pleased with him. We were pleased with how he came out of the race, it was just one of those things with the pace scenario unfortunately," Lynch said. "He's always been a nice horse and he's continued to be. We're just optimistic he shows up with a little different pace scenario next time and we're hopefully looking at a different result."

Also on Laurel's work tab Thursday morning was 26-time stakes winner Ben's Cat, who went a half-mile in :48 4/5 to gear up for his 11-year-old debut. The time ranked fifth of 14 horses at the distance.

Bred, owned, and trained by Hall of Fame horseman King Leatherbury, Ben's Cat has had three works this month at Laurel since returning from his annual winter vacation. He breezed three furlongs in :37 2/5 March 11 and went four furlongs in :52 3/5 March 18.

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