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Feb 06, 2015

Classy Class to challenge favored El Kabeir in Withers


Ozone Park, NY ( - Local stakes winner El Kabeir, trained by John Terranova, has been installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite for Saturday's $250,000 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.

The 1 1/16-mile stakes, with a field of seven 3-year-olds, is a prep for Aqueduct's $1 million Wood Memorial on April 4 and is worth 10 points to the winner as part of the Kentucky Derby points system.

Owned by Zayat Stables, El Kabeir will start from the far outside post in the Withers with jockey C. C. Lopez getting his second ride aboard the gray colt,

Last month Lopez guided El Kabeir for the first time and the pair posted a 4 3/4-length victory in Aqueduct's $200,000 Jerome Stakes.

"Physically he's getting stronger, but he's also maturing mentally," said Terranova. "He rated off the pace (in the Jerome) and he relaxed beautifully. Earlier in his career, he wouldn't do that, but he just needed to grow up. Based on his performance to date and the way he's gone forward, I expect a big effort from him. He's a determined racehorse, both mentally and physically focused."

The 3-year-old has won half of his six career starts for $388,892. The colt broke his maiden by 10 3/4 lengths in his second start last Aug. 30 at Saratoga and was fourth over a sloppy track in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 4.

El Kabeir finished second in Aqueduct's Nashua Stakes on Nov. 2 in the mud, but came back on Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs to post a head victory in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

El Kabeir currently has 21 points, tied with International Star, for first- place in the system that decides the starting field of 20 for the Run for the Roses on May 2.

Getting the nod as the 2-1 second choice is lightly raced Classy Class, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. The colt, owned by Cheyenne Stables, has drawn the inside post with Irad Ortiz Jr. reacquiring the mount.

Ortiz was aboard when Classy Class won by four lengths on Oct. 25 at Belmont Park in the colt's debut. McLaughlin saddled Classy Class for the 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes on Nov. 29 at Aqueduct. Javier Castellano was aboard when the colt finished fourth after pressing the pace.

"We absolutely think he wants two turns," said McLaughlin's assistant, Arthur Magnuson. "(The Remsen) was only his second start; we went from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/8 miles - that's a lot to ask - and he ran very well. We were very pleased with his race. He was ready for the Jerome but we had a bit of an unlucky hiccup; we can't wait for the Withers. He's (still eligible for a non- winners of one), but he can run with this kind."

Here is the field for the Withers from the rail out: Classy Class, Irad Ortiz Jr., 2-1; Far From Over, Manuel Franco, 5-1; March, Jose Ortiz, 6-1; Tencendur, Cornelio Velasquez, 12-1; Unrivaled, Frankie Pennington, 20-1; General Bellamy, Junior Alvarado, 15-1 and El Kabeir, C. C. Lopez, 8-5.

Post time for the Withers is approximately 4:13 p.m. ET.

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