03/04/2017 7:31PM

J Boys Echo capitalizes on great setup to win Gotham Stakes

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Debra A. Roma
J Boys Echo, with Robby Albarado aboard, wins the Gotham Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Trainer Dale Romans said J Boys Echo was a big clown early in his career. On Saturday, it was Romans and his maturing 3-year-old who had the last laugh as J Boys Echo took advantage of a dream trip to record a 3 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham Stakes on a chilled late-winter afternoon at Aqueduct.

Cloud Computing, making just the second start of his career off a six-furlong maiden win, ran well to be second, 7 1/2 lengths clear of El Areeb, the 2-5 favorite who got caught up in a speed duel with True Timber. Action Everyday finished fourth, followed by True Timber, So Conflated, and Gaetano.

Miggsy, Glennrichment, and Apartfromthecrowd scratched.

J Boys Echo not only earned the first stakes win of his career but earned 50 qualifying points toward a start in the Kentucky Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs. J Boys Echo, third in the Withers Stakes here on Feb. 4 in his 3-year-old debut, has 53 points.

Four months ago, the same connections of J Boys Echo – Romans and the Albaugh Racing Stables of Dennis Albaugh and Jason Loutsch – thought they had their Derby horse with Not This Time. But following his runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November, Not This Time was retired with a soft-tissue injury.

Now, J Boys Echo may have them back in the Kentucky Derby, where a year ago they finished seventh with Brody’s Cause.

“I hope so,” Romans said. “We have to jump one more hurdle; we don’t have to win it, so we got a little of that pressure off. We need another performance worthy of going to the Derby next out and keep him together for a couple of more months.”

J Boys Echo is unlikely to get a better trip the rest of his career than he did in the Gotham. Breaking from the rail under Robby Albarado, J Boys Echo settled into fourth position, seven lengths back but not surrounded by horses, while El Areeb, under Trevor McCarthy, and True Timber, under Kendrick Carmouche, dueled through a half-mile in 47.70 seconds. Cloud Computing, under Manny Franco, was right off that pair.

Just before the three-eighths pole, Albarado asked J Boys Echo to move, and by the quarter pole, he was three-wide and just off the lead as True Timber dropped out of it. Straightening away in the stretch, J Boys Echo took over from El Areeb and Cloud Computing and edged away in the stretch.

J Boys Echo, a son of Mineshaft, came home under a hand ride and covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.34. He returned $14.80 as the 6-1 second choice.

“They were moving pretty quick down the backside, I had him inside, swung him out, he took off, and I hand rode him home,” Albarado said. “Very impressive. He was a lot better horse today, second start of the year. I think there’s room for him to get better.”

Romans said he always felt J Boys Echo had talent, but he wasn’t focused. He credited his partner, Tammy Fox, the exercise rider of J Boys Echo, with getting him turned around.

“This is her project horse,” Romans said. “She’s been on him every day since we’ve had him and done a great job bringing him around. He just needed to grow up.”

J Boys Echo was scheduled to ship to south Florida on Sunday. While Romans didn’t discount the Wood Memorial on April 8, the colt is more likely to run in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, a race that Romans has won twice in the last four years, including in 2016 with Brody’s Cause.

El Areeb was the 2-5 favorite based on convincing wins in the Jerome and Withers stakes here this year. Trainer Cal Lynch said he expected Carmouche, on True Timber, to press his horse. He said McCarthy had committed El Areeb to the lead by the first turn, and there was no taking back.

“You can’t go 47 on this track and stay there,” Lynch said. “It set up perfect for the winner. I knew that horse was going to run well. He ran well last time. The pace killed us today.”

Then, Lynch put the loss in perspective.

“A friend of mine just lost his 16-year-old son. He’s burying him on Tuesday – that’s a problem,” Lynch said. “This is a horse race. He ran his race; he’ll come back and fight another day. There are plenty of options. This is a nice horse. He’ll do well down the line.”