03/08/2017 10:35AM

Road to the Derby: Gotham Stakes analysis

Debra A. Roma
J Boys Echo, with Robby Albarado aboard, took advantage of a good trip to win the Gotham and earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 102.

Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham Stakes; 1 1/16 miles; Aqueduct; March 4, 2017
(50 Derby qualifying points for a win, 20 for second, 10 for third, 5 for fourth)

Winner: J Boys Echo, by Mineshaft
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Robby Albarado
Owner: Albaugh Family Stable
Beyer Speed Figure: 102

J BOYS ECHO clearly needed his first start of the year in the Withers, when forced to take the scenic route. He got an ideal setup in this race, with a sweet trip and contested pace combining to send him to a career-best performance and allow him to equal the best winning Beyer Figure earned in any Derby prep so far.

J Boys Echo appeared to bobble very slightly the first stride out of the gate and then moved into the first turn in fourth while hugging the rail. He raced all alone down the backstretch, about six lengths behind the top three, started to advance in earnest moving into the far turn, was tipped to the four path on the far turn to go around the three, who were coming back to him, came into the stretch three wide, and pulled away from his rivals through the lane. While the fig certainly was strong, this was earned under optimum conditions.

CLOUD COMPUTING, who finished second, showed good speed leaving the gate and then was cleverly tucked in by Manny Franco behind the dueling leaders, EL AREEB and TRUE TIMBER. He drafted in behind those two and was ridden along just a bit down the backstretch. In hindsight, it might have been better to let those two go and be closer to J Boys Echo. He was angled to the three path on the far turn and was sent after the leaders, got past True Timber and came into the lane between El Areeb to his inside and J Boys Echo to his outside, could not keep up with J Boys Echo, but was well clear of the rest of the field. Considering this was only his second start and his first was a win sprinting against maidens three weeks earlier, this was a giant effort, especially factoring how close he was early to a pace that collapsed.

El Areeb, who was third, saw his four-race win streak come to an end. He bobbled leaving the gate but was quickly away to take the lead, with True Timber right alongside into and around the first turn. He continued to lead narrowly down the backstretch while racing into a strong headwind, was ridden aggressively nearing the quarter pole to maintain his position, put away True Timber, but was badly outrun by the top two through the lane. He did have to check slightly inside of Cloud Computing in upper stretch, but it was because he was backing out of it. Instead of being in a stalking position behind a moderate pace, as he was in the Withers and Jerome, he was up front this time in a faster-paced race, and the dynamics were not to his advantage.

ACTION EVERYDAY, who finished fourth, raced a bit greenly into the first turn and was three paths wide around that turn, raced in the clear in fifth down the backstretch and around the far turn, raced on his wrong lead in upper stretch, and went evenly to the wire. Considering the pace in front of him, he should have made up far more ground.

True Timber, who was fifth, raced alongside El Areeb around the first turn and into the backstretch, stayed in that spot to the far turn, was asked to put more pressure on El Areeb midway on the far turn, started to yield while between horses nearing the quarter pole, and faded through the lane.

SO CONFLATED, who was sixth, was fractious in the gate before the start but came away in good order, was checked between rivals coming under the wire the first time and settled into sixth while in the two path around the first turn, was just behind and inside of Action Everyday heading into the backstretch, was asked to close the gap on the far turn, came into the lane three paths wide, but never got involved.

GAETANO, who finished last of seven, bobbled after taking a stride or two, was outrun into the first turn and was last while saving ground, then was badly outrun the rest of the way.