While Laurel Park is gearing up for its fall stakes program, trainer Cal Lynch is excited about another looming comeback.
Lynch welcomed back M M G Stables' multiple grade 3 winner El Areeb, who returned to his barn over Labor Day weekend after an injury knocked him off the Triple Crown trail in late March.
El Areeb, a gray or roan son of Exchange Rate, had been with trainer Bruce Jackson at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. since mid-July continuing his recovery from a knee injury suffered during a March 29 workout at Laurel during his preparations for the April 8 Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G2).
At Fair Hill, El Areeb was able to utilize the AquaTred, an underwater treadmill that eases the stress on a horse's joints. El Areeb had a small fracture of his knee repaired April 3 at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Penn. by renowned surgeon Dr. Dean Richardson.
"He looks good and he's doing well, so fingers crossed. He had six weeks on the AquaTred and came back to us the first of the month," Lynch said. "He's been back to the track and he looks great. It's great to have him back."
Lynch said it didn't take long for El Areeb to settle in and display his familiar feistiness around the barn.
"They weren't' sorry to see him leave the farm," Lynch joked. "He's a handful but he's himself, just like always. He's filled out pretty nicely and grown up and matured so we're very, very pleased with him. Everybody did a great job with him and we couldn't ask for him to look any better."
El Areeb put together a four-race win streak starting with his maiden victory and his first stakes triumph, the James F. Lewis III Stakes, both last fall at Laurel. He kicked off 2017 with successive wins in the Jerome Stakes (G3) and Withers Stakes (G3) prior to finishing third as the favorite in the Gotham Stakes (G3) March 4, his most recent start.
"He's just jogging and galloping. He had six weeks of jogging on the AquaTred and now he's just galloping. It'll be 30 days or so before we start looking to do anything serious with him," Lynch said. "We'll re-X-ray everything once he's been training for about a month before we do anything fast at all. For now it's just slow and steady."
M M G's Mohammad Al-Gadhi continues to be very patient with the handling of El Areeb, purchased for $340,000 at the 2016 Ocala Breeders' Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale, who has earned $364,200 with four wins in seven starts.
"The horse will dictate how fast or slow we go here," Lynch said. "The boss man has been very, very adamant that we go as absolutely slow as possible and give him every chance to be as good as he was. We're excited and glad to have him back in his stall."