El Areeb stands out in the Withers

The Grade III, $250,000 Withers Stakes for three-year-olds is the feature at Aqueduct this Saturday. The race is worth 10 Kentucky Derby points to the winner down to one point for the 4th-place finisher. Jerome Stakes winner #4 EL AREEB is the headliner, but he faces nine up-and-coming opponents at 1 1/16th-miles. The Withers is the eighth race on a nine-race card; post time is 4:20 p.m. EST. As usual, FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game offers a unique way to play the races this weekend; take a look!

EL AREEB (6-5, morning-line favorite) looms large on the heels of his double-digit length win in the Jerome last month. He and Trevor McCarthy demolished a pair of these over this course, albeit on a muddy surface, that day. McCarthy will be aboard again, and he faces a field that’s light on accomplishments. Unless EL AREEB takes a step backwards, it seems that the race is for second here.

#2 APARTFROMTHECROWD (5-1) has strong connections behind him (trainer Chad Brown and rider Irad Ortiz Jr.) in his stakes debut. The son of Gio Ponti has improved in each start and broke through for his maiden score last time out. APARTFROMTHECROWD drilled well for this and gets a six-pound weight break from the top choice.

#9 SQUARE SHOOTER (12-1) in the lone undefeated colt in the field; he’s 2-for-2 lifetime, both starts coming at Parx. Frankie Pennington will ship in to ride for Michael Lerman after crushing allowance foes atop SQUARE SHOOTER last time out. He’ll have to prove he can handle a route (his pedigree doesn’t preclude him from doing so) and step his speed figures up slightly, but the price should be right if you want to take a chance with him.

The play: $6 exacta 4/2, $4 exacta 4/9 ($10)

DFJ analysis: As I mentioned in this week’s jockey review column, Irad Ortiz Jr. has been in peak form at Aqueduct. He has an excellent chance to hit the board in the Withers with APARTFROMTHECROWD, and has several other live mounts. Among them are Chad Brown trainees Wage Accleration (5-2, Race 1) and North End (4-1, Race 9), Rudy Rodriguez trainees The Catmancan (6-1, Race 6) and Tashreeh (5-2, Race 7) and Todd Pletcher trainee Pax In Terra (4-1, Race 4).

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