04/05/2017 10:36AM

J Boys Echo steps into big shoes for Blue Grass

Barbara D. Livingston
J Boys Echo goes into the Blue Grass Stakes off a victory in the Gotham at Aqueduct.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – If you had asked Dale Romans six months ago which horse he’d be running in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland the following spring, he would have had a quick answer: Not This Time.

Funny how that works.

Romans, who has won two of the last five runnings of the Blue Grass with Dullahan (2012) and Brody’s Cause (2016), instead will saddle J Boys Echo for the Blue Grass on Saturday. Not This Time had his career cut short by injury after finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November.

“That was one of the biggest disappointments of my career,” said Romans, who has amassed nearly $99 million in stable earnings since he began training in 1986.

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J Boys Echo, like Not This Time, carries the colors of the Albaugh Family Stable and has Robby Albarado as his regular rider. A 3 1/2-length winner of the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in his last start, the Mineshaft colt will break from post 3 in a field of seven 3-year-olds in the 93rd running of the Grade 2, $1 million Blue Grass.

“He’s really come along for us this winter,” said Romans. “It’s been a blessing for all of us for him to step in and replace a horse we thought could be a superstar. We’d love for him to take the next step. Obviously, this is the toughest field he’s ever been a part of.”

From the rail, and with jockeys and the Keeneland morning line, this is the lineup for the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass: It’s Your Nickel, Jimmy Graham, 20-1; McCraken, Brian Hernandez Jr., 7-5; J Boys Echo, Albarado, 4-1; Tapwrit, Jose Ortiz, 5-2; Wild Shot, Corey Lanerie, 15-1; Irap, Julien Leparoux, 20-1; and Practical Joke, Joel Rosario, 7-2.

The Blue Grass is worth 170 qualifying points for the May 6 Kentucky Derby, with 100 points to the winner. It goes as the 10th of 11 Saturday races. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern, with the Blue Grass going at 6:17. The race will be shown live on a two-hour broadcast on the NBC Sports Network (5:30-7:30), along with the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby.

The Blue Grass is the last of five straight stakes on the card, with the others being the Grade 3 Commonwealth (race 6), Grade 2 Shakertown (race 7), Grade 1 Madison (race 8), and Grade 1 Ashland (race 9).

A field of eight 3-year-old fillies goes in the $500,000 Ashland, a points race for the May 5 Kentucky Oaks. From the rail, the field is Someday Soon, Elate, Pretty City Dancer, Meanie Irenie, Summer Luck, Daddys Lil Darling, Sailor’s Valentine, and Tapped.