NEW YORK (AP) El Kabeir is taking the New York route to the Kentucky Derby.
Stuck in traffic early on, El Kabeir unleashed a powerful run coming off the far turn and cruised to a 2 3/4-length win in the $400,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday.
The gray colt trained by John Terranova earned 50 Derby qualifying points, and moved atop the leaderboard with 75 to all but assure a place in the starting gate as one of a maximum of 20 horses for the first leg of the Triple Crown.
''He overcame a lot, it was a big jump forward,'' Terranova said. ''He got everything thrown at him today, and he still managed to overcome it all. It was very impressive.''
With C.C. Lopez aboard, El Kabeir was well back in the field of 10 3-year-olds before moving into contention on the outside entering the final turn. The colt blew past leaders Toasting Master and Blame Jim and won for the fourth time in eight career starts for Zayat Stables.
Tiz Shea D earned 20 points for second, but is not currently nominated for the Triple Crown races. Classy Class was third and earned 10 points. Toasting Master was fourth and picked up five points.
''He got quickly shuffled back going into the (first) turn,'' the 54-year-old Lopez said. ''I just tried not to panic. I was riding the best horse in the race. When I called on him going to the half-mile pole, I was able to sneak through on the fence, and angle him out going to the three-eighths pole. From there, he just exploded.''
Winning time for 1 1/16 miles over a muddy track was 1:45.46 on an overcast day with temperatures in the low 30s.
El Kabeir returned $4.60, $3.10 and $2.50. The Scat Daddy colt won the Jerome at the Big A in his 3-year-old debut before finishing second to Far From Over in the Withers last month. Tiz Shea D paid $8 and $4.60 and Classy Class returned $3.80 to show.
Terranova is looking at the Wood Memorial on April 4 as a final prep for El Kabeir before the trip to Louisville.
''We'd like to stay here and run because he's done very well here,'' Terranova said.
Tencendur was fifth, followed by Dontbetwithbruno, Uninfluenced, Blame Jim, Combat Diver and Lieutenant Colonel.
The connections of Tiz Shea D and Classy Class said they are hopeful their horses will be back for the Wood, which is worth 100 Derby qualifying points to the winner, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.
In other Derby preps Saturday, two more favorites came through: Dortmund won the San Felipe at Santa Anita and Carpe Diem took the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs.