by Ben Massam
Zayat Stables' El Kabeir (Scat Daddy), “TDN Rising Star” and recent winner of the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. at Churchill Downs, came out of that effort well and is being pointed toward a start in the GII Jerome S. at Aqueduct Jan. 3, according to trainer John Terranova II. The colt registered a six-furlong breeze yesterday morning over the Belmont Park training track, covering the distance in 1:15.36.
“We are targeting the Jerome at Aqueduct Jan. 3. That's where he'll more than likely make his next start,” offered Terranova. “We had discussions with the Zayat family and thought this was the right move. The timing is good, and the 3-year-old stakes program early in the year in New York has been boosted a lot with the races leading into the Gotham [Mar. 7, GIII] and the Wood [Apr. 4, GI].”
The trainer said that his colt's training has been ideal since winning his two-turn debut at Churchill Nov. 29.
“Everything's been good,” Terranova said. “We sent him back to Belmont from Churchill the day afterwards and so far he's been doing really well. [Yesterday] was his second breeze back.”
El Kabeir broke his maiden in his second start at Saratoga going seven furlongs Aug. 30, setting the pace through a scorching half-mile in :44.98 before drawing off to win by 10 3/4 lengths. He followed with a fourth-place finish in the GI Champagne S. and a runner-up effort in the GII Nashua S., both at a one-turn mile distance. Terranova explained that managing El Kabeir's natural speed has been a unique task.
“Two races back in the Nashua, we had put blinkers on him, and that was probably a mistake,” he acknowledged. “He got a little too keen with them and wasn't able to give himself a breather on a tiring track that day, also running into a big head wind.”
With that experience under his belt, Terranova believes the colt's victory at Churchill was a significant milestone in the development process.
“I think he ran a pretty demanding race at Churchill. A lot of days, it's hard for horses to go wire-to-wire there with the long stretch, and it wasn't exactly a lightning-fast track that day,” the conditioner noted. “Calvin [Borel] laid a great ride on him. He got him to switch off and relax a bit. He does have that speed, but we're happy he was able to stretch out.”
Terranova continued, “Taking [blinkers] off, shipping and going two-turns was a big test, a big hurdle that he got through. Hopefully with physical and mental maturity, he will be able to relax and we'll see how far he can carry it.”
Barring any severe winter weather in New York, the trainer explained that El Kabeir's path to the Jerome is relatively simple at the moment.
“He'll work one more time–something easy next weekend, and he'll be good to go,” Terranova said.