For the past few months, Albaugh Family Stable’s J Boys Echo had been knocking at the door belonging to the club of contenders for this year’s Kentucky Derby (GI) and, on Saturday, he finally burst through by winning the $300,000 Gotham Stakes (GIII) at Aqueduct by a widening 3 ½ lengths. The Dale Romans trainee was ridden to victory in his initial stakes score by jockey Robby Albarado and the pair picked up 50 points to make the gate for the Run for the Roses, leaving him close to the typical cutoff point for entries.
J Boys Echo was the public’s 6-1 chance in the field of seven thanks to the 2-5 odds favored El Areeb carried and was worth $14.80, $7.30 and $2.70. Near 8-1 chance Cloud Computing was good for $6.50 and $3.30 while El Areeb returned $2.10. The $2 exacta returned $114.50 and the $2 trifecta was good for $218.
Action Everyday, True Timber, So Conflated and Gaetano completed the order of finish after Apartfromthecrowd, Glennrichment and Miggsy were withdrawn.
After a clean break, El Areeb went straight to the front and set all the early pace in splits of :23.58, :47.70 and 1:13.59. J Boys Echo was content to be rated mid-rack and wait patiently for the speed to back up to him. As El Areeb rounded the bend and began to visibly tire on the front, Albarado asked J Boys Echo for run while racing very wide and, by the time the frontrunner had straightened out for the drive, the winner was on even terms and, soon after, had established command. Under a strong hand ride, J Boys Echo continued on toward the wire to victory. After posting a mile in 1:39.57, the winner finised in 1:46.34 over a fast inner track.
“They were moving pretty quick up on the backside,” Albarado said. “I swung him out and he took off and I hand-rode him home. He was really impressive. He was a good horse today. It was only his second start of the year. There’s room for him to be better. I don’t want to say too much, but he’s a nice horse. He’s a good colt.”
J Boys Echo was bred in Kentucky by Betz/Blackburn/J Betz/Ramsby and CNHHNK and was purchased by his current owners as a $485,000 Keeneland September yearling in 2015. Since then, the son of Mineshaft and the Menifee mare Letgomyecho has won two races and now has earnings of $299,600. He was also third in last month’s Withers Stakes (GIII).
“This horse hasn’t been the easiest of horses,” Romans said of the winner. “He’s been a project for Tammy [Fox, assistant to Romans and J Boys Echo’s exercise rider] and she’s done a great job getting him around and getting us here.”
Trainer Cathal Lynch offered no excuses for El Areeb’s defeat, only expressing some concern for the horse’s frontrunning trip. He also indicated the pursuit of the Derby trophy is not off the table.
“Pace makes the race and that’s what happened,” Lynch said. “He ran well but you can’t go :47 on this track and stay there. It set up perfect for the winner. I knew [J Boys Echo] was going to run well because he ran well last time, but pace killed us today.
“He ran his race and he’ll come back and fight another day. There’s plenty of options. This is a nice horse and he’ll do well later on. I’m not sure, I’ll talk to the owners and decide what we’re going to do next.”