©2017 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby takes us to Empire State, Saturday, where El Areeb has been tagged as the 6-5 morning line favorite in the 64th running of the $400,000 Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack. Post time is 4:50 p.m. ET.
El Areeb, ranked fourth in the Kentucky Derby point standings, comes into this race for trainer Cathal Lynch with a 4-1-0 record in six starts including an 11-length blowout win in the Jerome Stakes (G3) and a 4¼ length win in the Withers Stakes (G3). Here’s the video and chart call of the Withers:
EL AREEB three wide through the first turn, settled tracking three wide in range of the leader, was patiently handled until nearing the quarter pole, came under urging continuing three wide into upper stretch, rallied to take over command with three sixteenths to go, drew clear under a vigorous hand ride through to the wire.
El Areeb has won his last four races by a combined 29¼ lengths and with an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® he has the breeding to be competitive on the Kentucky Derby Trail.
Exchange Rate, the sire of El Areeb, was a graded stakes winner who compiled a 6-2-2 record in 15 starts with $479,803 in career earnings. He fared best mostly in sprint races finishing second in both the Hollywood Juvenile Championship Stakes (G3) and Best Pal Stakes (G3) as a two year old.
At the age of three, Exchange Rate was able to stretch out and win the 8½-furlong Risen Star Stakes (G2) en route to a fourth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2), a ninth-place finish in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) and a 12-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Exchange Rate’s only stake win came as a five year old in the seven furlong, Tom Fool Handicap (G2).
El Areeb has been training well and a recent bullet work out could have him ready to run another good race.
J Boys Echo (8-1) comes into this race with a 1-1-1 record in four starts for trainer Dale Romans, including a 5½ length maiden win at Keeneland (video) on October 27 and a third-place finish in the Withers Stakes (G3). Here’s the video and chart call of the Withers:
J BOYS ECHO three wide through the opening bend, settled three to four wide in pursuit from mid pack, came under encouragement at the five-sixteenths, swung four wide at the head of the stretch, offered up a mild kick to procure the show honors.
J Boys Echo was gaining ground at the end but it was too little too late. With an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, J Boys Echo has nice breeding and should have run much better.
When horses like J Boys Echo fail to run close to their Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® score, then the issue[s] preventing them from reaching their full potential needs to be investigated. And there can be many contributing factors for a horse not running to his profile score – Effinex is a good example of that.
Mineshaft, the sire of J Boys Echo, was an outstanding route racer who compiled a 10-3-1 record in 18 lifetime starts. He began his racing career in England at the age of three, winning a maiden weight for age race at Newmarket. In November, Mineshaft was shipped to America where he won two more races to close out the season with a 3-1-1 record in nine starts.
As a four year old, Mineshaft really proved himself as a champion and compiled a 7-2-0 record in route to earning Horse of the Year and Champion Older Horse honors. In nine starts, Mineshaft won the New Orleans Handicap (G2), Ben Ali Stakes (G3), Pimlico Special Handicap (G1), Suburban Handicap (G1), Woodward Stakes (G1) and the Jockey Club Gold Club Stakes (G1).
Jockey Robby Albarado retains the mount and if he can keep J Boys Echo closer to the pace he could finish much better than he did in the Withers.
True Timber (6-1) comes into this race for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin with a 1-1-1 record in four starts including a third-place finish in the Jerome Stakes (G3) and a second-place finish in the Withers Stakes (G3). Here’s the video and chart call of the Withers:
TRUE TIMBER stumbled at the start pecking the ground, came under coaxing to scrape the paint inside of JAIME’S ANGEL and take command into the first turn with seven and a half furlongs to run, settled into a comfortable rhythm showing the way in hand along the inside under the watchful eyes of JAIME’S ANGEL to the outside through sensible splits, began to come under challenge midway through the far turn, came under coaxing at the five-sixteenths, cut the corner into upper stretch under threat, got displaced three-sixteenths from home, ran on to secure the place honors.
True Timber was much more engaged in this race taking the lead at the start but he could not hold off El Areeb who was too dominant. However, with a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® True Timber is a proven, consistent competitor.
Like J Boys Echo, True Timber was also sired by Mineshaft and he has been training well at Belmont. A recent bullet work could have True Timber ready to run a good race.
Cloud Computing (5-1) comes into this race off of a maiden win for trainer Chad Brown. Here’s the video and chart call:
CLOUD COMPUTING off to a stutter step beginning, got checked and pulled off another right afterwards, raced towards the inside down the backstretch, picked up interest leaving the half mile pole, vacated the rail in the vicinity of the five-sixteenths marker without loss of momentum, spun approximately four wide into the stretch and after being set down took off in earnest after the front runners, headed the second-place finishers with a sixteenth or so to go, cemented itself to the front and edged away, kept to urging to the end.
With an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, Cloud Computing has the breeding to be competitive in this race and it will be interesting to see if he can step up in class and earn graded stakes honors off of his maiden win.
Under the points system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the winner of the Gotham Stakes (G3) will receive 50 points, the second-place finisher will receive 20 points, the third-place finisher will receive 10 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive five points.
Beginning with the UAE Derby (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 25, the points will increase to 100 points for the winner, 40 points for second place, 20 points for third and 10 points for fourth place.
Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2017 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Girvin, 50, Joe Sharp, $249,800
2. Classic Empire, 32, Mark Casse, $1,493,820
3. Untrapped, 24, Steve Asmussen, $120,000
4. El Areeb, 20, Cathal Lynch, $300,000
5. McCraken, 20, Ian Wilkes, $285,048
6. Gormley, 20, John Sherriffs, $260,000
7. Guest Suite, 15, Neil Howard, $144,040
8. Gunnevera, 14, Antonio Sano, $807,200
9. Practical Joke, 14, Chad Brown, $690,000
10. Lookin At Lee, 12, Steve Asmussen, $325,600
11. Uncontested, 11, Wayne Catalano, $100,729
12 One Liner, 10, Todd Pletcher, $300,000
13. Irish War Cry, 10, Graham Motion, $272,660
14. Mastery, 10, Bob Baffert, $240,000
15. Mo Town, 10, Tony Dutrow, $188,000
16. Royal Mo, 10, John Sherriffs, $90,000
17. Local Hero, 10, Steve Asmussen, $40,000
18. Petrov, 8, Ron Moquett, $150,000
19. Irap, 8, Doug O’Neill, $90,000
20. Wild Shot, 7, Rusty Arnold, II, $97,200
x-Not This Time, retired to stud at Taylor Made Farm.
In addition to the current top 20, Churchill Downs has partnered with the Japan Racing Association to feature the Cattleya Sho Stakes and Hayacinth Stakes as two qualifying races in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. The horse with the most points from those races will receive an invitation to compete in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Here’s the video of the Cattleya Sho Stakes. Here’s the video of the Hayacinth Stakes.
2017 JAPAN ROAD TO KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Epicharis (JPN), 50, Kiyoshi Hagiwara, $450,374
2. Mont Saint Legame (JPN), 40, Koji Maki, $90,154
3. Adirato (JPN), 20, Naosuke Sugai, $154,951
4. Caucus (JPN), 16, Hideaki Fujiwara, $35,850
5. Foggy Night (JPN), 5, Noriyuki Hori, $23,801