El Areeb posted a sharp 4 ¼-length tally in the February 4 Withers (G3), romping in a second consecutive Kentucky Derby qualifier on Aqueduct’s inner track. The gray colt hasn’t faced top company, but he’s looked the part registering commendable BRIS Speed ratings of 100 and 99.

A slow pace negatively affected the Withers’ Speed rating, with El Areeb settling into a comfortable stalking trip behind splits in :24.29, :49.31 and 1:14.06. The 6-furlong fraction was more than two seconds slower than the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream and Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita on the same afternoon.

El Areeb responded when asked nearing the completion of the far turn, quickly seizing control with a powerful turn of foot into the stretch, and the son of Exchange Rate was visually impressive motoring under the finish line. His 119 BRIS Late Pace rating came back strong.

Related: El Areeb enhances credentials in Withers

After winning the January 2 Jerome (G3) by 11 lengths over a muddy track, El Areeb carried his form forward on fast ground as the 1-2 Withers favorite.

Based at Laurel Park with trainer Cathal Lynch, El Areeb has won four straight in convincing fashion. He broke his maiden by 8 ¾ lengths at Laurel in his third start and followed with a 5 ¼-length win in the November 19 James F. Lewis, earning a 102 BRIS Speed rating in the latter. Trevor McCartney has ridden in all six starts.

El Areeb is taking the New York route to Churchill Downs and we will learn more from a class perspective in the final prep, with Lynch indicating he would prefer to skip the March 4 Gotham (G3) and wait for the Wood Memorial (G2) on April 8.

Based upon the Jerome and Withers, El Areeb certainly rates as a top Kentucky Derby contender presently.

(Photo courtesy of Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography)