Horses

Irish War Cry, El Areeb headline Saturday’s Kentucky Derby preps

Irish War Cry posted a stunning victory over 2-year-old champion Classic Empire in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream on Feb. 4.
Irish War Cry posted a stunning victory over 2-year-old champion Classic Empire in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream on Feb. 4. Coglianese photos

Knock the king of the hill off his perch and it’s pretty easy to guess what happens next.

That’s the circumstance facing trainer Graham Motion as he prepares Irish War Cry to run in Saturday’s $400,000, Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

In his most recent race, the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 4 at Gulfstream, Irish War Cry dispatched 2-year-old champion Classic Empire with ease, running on the lead almost the entire way and winning the 1  1/16 -mile race by 3  3/4 lengths.

Now, several contenders are headed up the hill looking for their claim to fame on the road to the Kentucky Derby.

“It’s going to be a little different this time. We didn’t have a target on our back last time. I couldn’t believe how comfortably he beat the 2-year-old champion. That was exciting,” Motion said in a Gulfstream Park news release. “This time … people will have expectations, as they should. I just would like to see him run a similar race.”

The Fountain of Youth is worth 50 points to the winner in the Kentucky Derby points system.

Top challengers to the unbeaten Irish War Cry — the 5-2 favorite — include Practical Joke (3-1), Gunnevera (7-2) and Beasley (6-1).

El Areeb a go for Gotham

Saturday’s $300,000, Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct is also worth 50 Kentucky Derby points to the winner and features only two winners of previous stakes races.

The favorite, at 6-5, is El Areeb, winner of four consecutive races including the Grade 3 Jerome and the Grade 3 Withers in his two most recent outings, both at Aqueduct. El Areeb, trained by Cathal Lynch, stands fourth in the Derby points standings with 20 already.

Lynch originally considered skipping the Gotham and moving on to the Wood Memorial, but the horse changed his mind.

“(He’s been) acting like he wants to go do something, so I didn’t know if I really felt like sitting on him for another four weeks if he’s going right,” Lynch told the NYRA.

Doug O’Neill’s So Conflated, scratched from last week’s Risen Star Stakes after drawing the outside post, is 8-1 in the Gotham. He won the California Derby at Golden Gate in his most recent start Jan. 21.

“He’s just mentally very tough, very competitive,” O’Neill told the NYRA. “He’s been very solid. We’re very excited about him.”

Saturday

4:50 p.m.: Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct (TVG

6:05 p.m.: Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park (TVG)

Fountain of Youth Stakes

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

Odds

1

Huracan Americo

Prado

Zanelli Jr.

50-1

2

Gunnevera

Castellano

Sano

7-2

3

Quinientos

Meneses

Sanchez

50-1

4

Talk Logistics

Bravo

Plesa Jr.

20-1

5

Beasley

Ortiz Jr.

Hennig

6-1

6

Practical Joke

Ortiz

Brown

3-1

7

Three Rules

Saez

Pinchin

12-1

8

Irish War Cry

Rosario

Motion

5-2

9

Made You Look

Velazquez

Pletcher

10-1

10

Takaful

Lopez

McLaughlin

12-1

11

Lookin for Eight

Leparoux

Casse

20-1

Gotham Stakes

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

Odds

1

J Boys Echo

Albarado

Romans

8-1

2

Gaetano

Velasquez

Preciado

50-1

3

Miggsy

Arroyo

Rodriguez

15-1

4

El Areeb

McCarthy

Lynch

6-5

5

Glennrichment

Cancel

Rodriguez

30-1

6

True Timber

Carmouche

McLaughlin

6-1

7

Apartfromthecrowd

Vargas, Jr.

Brown

12-1

8

So Conflated

Gutierrez

O’Neill

8-1

9

Cloud Computing

Franco

Brown

5-1

10

Action Everyday

Maragh

Pletcher

10-1

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