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It was a year ago that El Areeb last raced at Laurel Park, running away from nine rivals in the James F. Lewis Stakes and onto the Triple Crown trail. A knee injury derailed his classic hopes following the March 3 Gotham Stakes and El Areeb now makes his comeback in the $100,000 City of Laurel Stakes on Saturday.
Sitting there on the stakes schedule, the seven-furlong, 3-year-old-restricted City of Laurel surely looked like an attractive spot in which to bring El Areeb back, but the field is strong for the class level.
“The race came up a little tougher than we expected,” said Cal Lynch, who trains El Areeb for Mohammad Al-Gadhi’s M M G Stables.
The same could be said of all six stakes on Laurel’s 10-race Saturday card. The $75,000 Geisha for Maryland-breds kicks off the sequence in race 2, and the five $100,000 races – all on dirt and all deep, competitive, and playable – go as races 5 through 9. The Laurel main track should be rated fast under sunny skies. First post is noon Eastern.
Saturday is Ben’s Cat Day at Laurel, and patrons can claim mementos of the famed Maryland-bred sprinter, who was retired in June and weeks later suffered a fatal case of colic. Ben’s Cat’s ashes will be interred next to the Laurel paddock during a ceremony honoring the horse.
As for El Areeb, he’s the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the City of Laurel (race 6, 2:30) but could go off at longer odds than that – provided he starts. Lynch on Thursday said El Areeb remained a likely runner but that a final call on his participation wouldn’t be made before he conferred Thursday evening with the colt’s owner.
El Areeb, who had surgery to remove a bone chip and clean up the affected joint, began swimming in July and has logged six workouts.
“He’s working fantastic,” said Lynch. “He had an easy little blow [Wednesday]. It’s a similar work pattern to most of his races.”
El Areeb has won going six furlongs and 1 1/16 miles, and the seven-furlong trip should be no issue. El Areeb does prefer forward placement, and in his first start back, he might be sharp enough to get into a pace dispute that wouldn’t help his chances.
Tale of Silence has a great chance if he can work out a trip from post 1, a tricky spot at this distance.
“You have a horse that likes the outside, and you get the inside, and if they like the inside, they get the outside,” said trainer Barclay Tagg.
Tale of Silence was fourth, beaten a nose for third by American Anthem, in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens when last seen Aug. 26 at Saratoga. Practical Joke, who won, and Takaful, who was second, are stronger rivals than anything Tale of Silence meets Saturday.
“He’s just grown up since winter,” Tagg said. “He’s doing quite well right now.”
Edgar Prado is named on Tale of Silence but is riding elsewhere Saturday. Joe Bravo has the mount, Tagg said.
No Dozing, 2 for 2 at Laurel, has raced 11 times but still needs to grow up, according to trainer Arnaud Delacour, who has added and taken blinkers off No Dozing this year and tried him on turf last out.
“There’s a few things we can still probably improve with him,” Delacour said. “He’s still very immature in the way he races and acts.”
Honor the Fleet and Price of Hempt, who is unbeaten in three starts, scored open-lengths allowance wins last out but get a class test here.