03/07/2015 6:50PM

El Kabeir flashes new style in Gotham victory

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Tom Keyser
El Kabeir wins the Gotham Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths Saturday at Aqueduct.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – El Kabeir unveiled an entirely new running style Saturday and may have run himself into the top echelon of Kentucky Derby contenders with a 2 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

Having won a graded stakes in gate-to-wire fashion at 2 and then from just off the pace to begin his 3-year-old season, El Kabeir rallied from next to last in the 10-horse Gotham and exploded in the stretch under C.C. Lopez to win. Tiz Shea D, a supplement to the race, finished second by a head over Classy Class.

It was three-quarters of a length back to Toasting Master, who was followed in order by Tencendur, Dontbetwithbruno, Uninfluenced, Blame Jim, Combat Diver, and Lieutenant Colonel.

El Kabeir added the Gotham to stakes victories in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill and the Grade 3 Jerome here in January. He was coming off a second-place finish in the Withers last out.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

In the Withers, El Kabeir had jumped into the race after the first quarter, and a prolonged duel with Classy Class may have cost him in the end, finishing second behind Far From Over.

In his two workouts between the Withers and Gotham, El Kabeir had started well behind a workmate and showed the ability to relax and finish. That style served him well in the Gotham when Toasting Master and Blame Jim flew out of the gate and went in fractions of 23.00 seconds for the quarter and 46.63 for the opening half-mile over an inner track labeled muddy.

“He broke good, and those horses broke better and showed more gas,” said C.C. Lopez, the rider of El Kabeir. “He got quickly shuffled back going into the turn. I just tried not to panic. I ride the best horse in the race. He was much easier behind horses to throttle his speed back.”

Down the backstretch, Lopez snuck El Kabeir into contention along the inside. Around the far turn, Lopez tipped El Kabeir out four wide, and he came into the stretch in the clear and just a few lengths off the pace.

El Kabeir made an eye-catching move from the quarter pole to open up a two-length lead at the eighth pole as he shot over to the rail. Kept under a busy ride by Lopez, El Kabeir completed the 1 1/16-miles in 1:45.56 and returned $4.60 as the favorite.

Based on his perception of how the track was playing, John Terranova, the trainer of El Kabeir, came into the paddock thinking he might want Lopez to use his colt’s speed, but when he saw the early fractions, he was glad Lopez didn’t.

Still, Terranova thought, “He was still pretty far back and was taking a lot of mud, and the track had not been playing that way at all today. I had not seen any deep closers do anything.”

In the Gotham, Terranova saw El Kabeir do something he hadn’t done before, and now he’ll allow himself to start thinking about the Kentucky Derby.

“Certainly we’re getting closer as long as we stay healthy, as long as we get through our next spot,” said Terranova, who said he would like to run the horse back in the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on April 4. “We’ll see if he continues to move forward off of this. If so, sky’s the limit.”

Tiz Shea D, in the second start of his career and first for new connections, may have earned himself a supplemental nomination to the Triple Crown, according to part-owner Adam Wachtel. Wachtel purchased Tiz Shea D off a maiden win at Parx and transferred him to Bill Mott.

“We’d love to run in the Wood Memorial. It’s our hometown,” Wachtel said. “He’s proven he’s the real deal.”

slewof damascus More than 1 year ago
While El Kabier was getting a golden trip, the 2nd and 3rd place finishers got bottled up inside behind tiring horses, but once clear they finished more than willingly and I dare say that one (#6) or both (#3) may have a higher ceiling when the distances get longer. I'm not taking anything from EK, that was a flashy move, but it was enhanced because his main competition had nowhere to run. When Classy Class got clear he showed another gear, and probably could have run 2nd with a more engaged rider, as she was hand-ridden to the finish. And the Tiznow colt showed tremendous maturity by rallying up a tight, congested rail. Tiz Shea D was looking primed for a perfect trip until his jockey went brain dead and allowed him to be completely stymied turning for home; it was inexcusable. However, it might prove to be beneficial because of the experience he got from that point onward. This one could take a giant step forward in the Wood or even the Derby, itself. I wouldn't count out CC either from taking a step forward off this race.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I predict this will be the final year for horse racing. Its fixed races / betting corruption will come to a grinding stop. America is no longer interested in fixed gambiling horse races or the people who are involved in it. I for one will be glad to watch it's demise. All the people in horse racing can then go to work at mcdonalds or burger king, thats what they deserve. Lol.
mike More than 1 year ago
Idiot! If they were to work at Burger King wouldn't you be out of a job?
tommy More than 1 year ago
How is that so ? The race track is operating a business over 100 years that lasted through the Great Depression!!!
slewof damascus More than 1 year ago
Congrats for one of the most moronic posts in DFR/com history. When Seabiscuit beat War Admiral in their match race for the ages during the Great Depression, it has been deduced that 60% of American adults were listening to the live radio broadcast, which is bigger than the Super Bowl even now. Horse racing is in the DNA of Americans, which can be seen annually in TV ratings and record handle (perennially) for the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown races as well as the 2-day Breeder's Cup, staples of the American racing scene. Alive and well.
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Great job Chuckie.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
good group of 3 yos..this derby is going to be tough.right now I would say DORTMUND is probably the top horse but theres a lot of talent just below..DORTMUND..UPSTART..EL KABEIR..AMERICAN PHAROE..INTERNATIONAL STAR..FAR FROM OVER..CARPE DIEM... WHERES THE MOON...TEXAS RED...KEEN ICE..are my top 10 ..some of the others although talented have serious distance issues.
tommy More than 1 year ago
He got me a little worried but finished great. Zayat stables have American pharaoh, mr Z and el kabier!!!
Scott More than 1 year ago
I do like that he has a race over the Churchill surface and find no fault whatsoever with his performance today, but I'm just not sold yet. No offense to the horses up North, but I just think that the Florida runners are the most talented on the East Coast right now. The good news for us fans (and handicappers) is that one of the big players from Florida is considering the Wood for his next start: Upstart. It's been a long time since the Wood Memorial produced a serious Derby contender (I Want Revenge doesn't count due to the scratch, but he would have been the favorite on Derby Day, so he was the last serious player). If Upstart and El Kabeir meet up in the Wood, then that could change, especially if they run 1 - 2 or one of them just stomps the field. If El Kabeir can beat Upstart, then I would definitely take him as a serious player. A lot of "ifs", but that's what this time of the year is about. Quick review of today's players (ranked by performance in my opinion): 1) Dortmund - He actually was relaxing on the lead while putting up nice fractions and still had more than enough to two back not one, but two serious challenges in the stretch. He IS the best in the West right now with American Pharoah still a no show and Texas Red seemingly being bitten by the BC Juvenille bug. 2) Carpe Diem - His performance was just a little better in my eyes than El Kabeir's, because he was making his 3 year old debut off a long layoff. I loved the way he rated and then easily destroyed a field that clearly weren't in his class. 3) El Kabeir - Showed a new dimension and did nothing wrong, but as I stated before I'm still not sold. That said, I'm watching him a little closer and hoping Upstart comes a calling in the Wood to prove whether he's fact or fiction. I do like that he's won over the Churchill Surface.
tommy More than 1 year ago
Hi Scott, I think el kabier, and carpe diem are serious derby contenders!! I also like far from over, firing line, and international star! Up start is not as good as everyone thinks because he has a lower vo2 max than other horses and would easily lose to international star, carpe diem, firing line, Dortmund, and American pharaoh. Ever since upstart did 1 1/16 @ 1:46 in a nice warm sunny day at gulfstream, I'm against him. El kabier did 1 1/16 on muddy track with low temperatures @ 1:45, international star did 1 1/16 @ 1:43 with very low temperatures! You either do 1 1/16 @ 1:41 on a warm clear day or 1 1/16 @ 1:43 on a cold day if you want to get my money at the window!!
War_Front More than 1 year ago
dream on
Mark Oleary More than 1 year ago
Beautiful animal and a helluva racehorse! Great training job and yes, this boy's the Real Deal. Go for it. Kentucky Derby here we come!