Saturday, January 3, 2015

El Kabeir takes first step on New York road to the Derby

Saturday, January 3, 2015


El Kabeir takes first step on New York road to the Derby


By Jenny Kellner


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - El Kabeir took the first step on New York's road to the Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack, sweeping three wide at the top of the stretch and pulling clear to a 4 ¾-length victory over Nasa to win the Grade 3, $200,000 Jerome for 3-year-olds.


Sent off as the 3-2 favorite in the field of eight, El Kabeir quickly righted himself following a slight misstep emerging from the gate and cruised along in third outside Ostrolenka and Nasa as they led through opening fractions of 23.79 seconds for the first quarter-mile, 48.47 for the half and 1:13.75 for three-quarters. Given his cue by jockey C. C. Lopez on the turn, the gray son of Scat Daddy powered to the lead as the field turned for home and hit the finish line in 1:44.69 for the mile and 70-yard contest.


For the Zayat Stables color-bearer, it was the second straight stakes win and with the 10 points earned he has now has amassed 21 points towards a potential berth in the Run for the Roses on May 2 at Churchill Downs.


"It's a long way away, but as long as he stays healthy, we have a runner here," said trainer John Terranova of El Kabeir, who closed out his juvenile campaign with a front-running win in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on November 29 at Churchill. "Let's hope we continue on this path. It was nice seeing him sit off horses for the first time. I was kind of curious about that because I didn't know if that scenario played out how he'd react this time, but certainly it worked out fine.


"That's what we've been seeing in the mornings; his maturity level has just gotten [better]," he added. "He's gotten a bit more focused and is doing everything a bit better and more productive in his training. He's always had the talent but everything has been focused in the right direction."


El Kabeir, now 3-1-1 in six career starts, returned $4.90 for a $2 win wager. The winner's purse of $180,000 pushed his lifetime earnings to $448,892.


An eye-catching 10 3/4-length winner of his second start, El Kabeir was a disappointing fourth in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park and next was second to Blofeld in the Grade 2 Nashua at the Big A prior to the race in Kentucky.


"That's the whole key with these young, fast 3-year-olds, is if they're going to be able to relax enough to stretch out and carry it," said Terranova. "He's certainly bred to, and he trains like he should. We'll see; hopefully he'll keep progressing. He's gotten bigger and more filled out since the Kentucky race. He's eating like there's no tomorrow."


In addition to expressing his pleasure with the way the colt has been progressing over the intervening weeks, Terranova said he would seriously consider keeping El Kabeir in New York with an eye towards either the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on February 7 or the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham four weeks later, both of which lead to the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on April 4, Aqueduct's final major prep for the Derby.


"Obviously we'll discuss it with the Zayat family, see what everyone feels is best and try to make the best call where to race. It may be the Withers back here or maybe we'll skip it and go to the Gotham, maybe we'll go out of town, but I have no problems staying here," said Terranova. "I love having horses here in New York. He's thriving and he's got a great foundation under him now."


Nasa was 7 ¾ lengths ahead of third-place finisher General Bellamy. Ackeret checked in fourth, and was followed in turn by Ostrolenka, Mini Cosmo, Now We Are Free, and Royal Burgh. Tencendur was scratched.





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