Our first Derby prep review takes us on the A train to Aqueduct to recap the Jerome (G3, 1 mile 70 yards), won by El Areeb, up from Maryland for trainer Cathal Lynch.
Fractions – 23.28, 48.11, 1:14.39, 1:14.63, 1.46.17
Winning Beyer – 91
Winning Margin – 11 1/4 lengths
Pace – The pace was legitimate with Takaful, a Shadwell/Kiaran McLaughlin speedster zipping out to the lead and going 23.28 to the quarter mile.
For comparison, and this is a little tricky, in 22 races at this distance at the current inner track meet (which began on December 7th), only one of them (the fifth race on December 8th) had a quicker quarter (23.11). The final time of that race, an allowance race for 2 year old state-bred fillies), was 1:46.26, or .09 seconds slower than this race. That race got a 57 Beyer, and this race got a 91 Beyer. That means that this track was about 34 Beyer points slower than that one, so from a pace figure standpoint, this pace is significantly faster despite being a tad slower on the raw time.
Looking at the half-mile time of 48.11 seconds, only five of the 22 had a faster half-mile time and all of them save one, the aforementioned 5th race on December 8th) was a faster final time race than this one.
No matter how we slice it up, the pace was at least legitimate. The issue with the race is what happened after that first half mile.
On the Winner – El Areeb ran well, tracking the snappy pace set by Takaful, easily moving by that one on the turn, and drawing off to crush the field. He was stretching out from a few six furlong races, and drew off nicely. He has every right to be a nice horse, especially in what is a pretty wide open group of eastern three-year olds (non-Classic Empire division).
On the Others – Takaful, who was the deserving favorite, had nothing, and while he may prove to be a sprinter, the way he stopped, especially after he hung in pretty well going 1 1/8 miles in the Remsen, shows that it was more than the distance that got him beat on this day.
Runner-up Bonus Points had a clean inside/out trip but didn’t make up any ground late and third place finisher Win With Pride was a bit wide early but didn’t do much running at all, regressing his figure from the Remsen after showing improvement going into the race. Everybodylovesrudy, who was my alternative to Takaful, had something of a wide trip but was all in pretty early on the turn and didn’t have anything. Certainly the poor performances of these horses could have, at least in part, been the muddy, sealed track (though Bonus Points did break his maiden on one and Everybodylovesrudy was a decent second to eventual Remsen winner Mo Town on one). But ultimately, El Areeb was the only one that did any running.
Overall Take – El Areeb ran well, but his task was made easier when Takaful offered nothing on the turn and in reality, with Takaful not doing any running, it was a muddy track win over suspect competition. It was a good performance, but one we will be skeptical of when he shows back up, possibly in the Withers at Aqueduct on February 7th.