03/01/2017 3:50PM

Romans high on Gotham contender J Boys Echo

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Barbara D. Livingston
J Boys Echo, who had post 10 in the Withers, will break from the rail in the Gotham.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Trainer Dale Romans thought he had his once-in-a-lifetime horse who could win the race every horseman wants to win once in their lifetime.

But Not This Time emerged from his runner-up finish in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a soft-tissue injury in his right foreleg and was retired to stand at stud. As the sport gears up for the Kentucky Derby, it’s difficult for Romans not to think about what might have been.

“I tried to quit thinking about it,” Romans said Wednesday. “That was a once-in-a-lifetime horse.”

Romans has attempted to move on, and he still has one 3-year-old who might get him to this year’s Kentucky Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs. J Boys Echo, third in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct in his 3-year-old debut on Feb. 4, has returned to New York for Saturday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham Stakes. J Boys Echo likely will be the second or third choice behind El Areeb in the Gotham, which offers 85 Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 50-20-10-5 basis to its top four finishers.

J Boys Echo, who had post 10 in the Withers, will break from the rail in the Gotham. Outside of him will be Gaetano, Miggsy, El Areeb, Glennrichment, True Timber, Apartfromthecrowd, So Conflated, Cloud Computing, and Action Everyday.

It remains to be seen if all 10 start. Glennrichment was supplemented to the Gotham after a maiden race failed to fill for Saturday. Trainer Chad Brown named Irad Ortiz Jr. on Apartfromthecrowd, fifth in the Withers. Ortiz is scheduled to ride at Gulfstream on Saturday.

Romans described J Boys Echo as “a big clown” who took a while to figure out what he’s supposed to do. His maiden win Oct. 27 at Keeneland was impressive, as he took a hard bump at the head of the stretch and then rallied through an opening along the rail to win by 5 1/2 lengths.

J Boys Echo made his stakes debut in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot last November, finishing fourth after being up close early, dropping back down the backside, and then rallying again late.

Due largely to his post draw in the Withers, J Boys Echo raced wide throughout while finishing okay to be third, 4 1/4 lengths behind El Areeb. J Boys Echo earned a career-best 84 Beyer Speed Figure and an 8 3/4 on the Ragozin sheets.

“He put his numbers in the game,” Romans said. “He put himself in the ballpark.”

Following the Withers, J Boys Echo returned to south Florida to train, but Romans opted to ship back to New York for the Gotham rather than run in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream.

“He liked it up there, he ran well up where there, it’s a short field, we’re looking for points,” Romans said.

If all goes well Saturday, J Boys Echo could point to the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8. Romans won the Blue Grass with Dullahan in 2012 and Brody’s Cause last year. Dullahan finished third in the Kentucky Derby and Brody’s Cause seventh.