Trainer Dale Romans has been persistent in his pursuit of a Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands victory, and his chance at this year’s edition just snapped into focus thanks to Albaugh Family Stable’s J Boys Echo.
Off at odds of 6.40-1 and with six lengths to make up coming out of the backstretch on a front-running trio that included 2-5 favorite El Areeb, the Romans-trained Mineshaft colt shifted out from the rail spot and swept four wide around the turn for home in the $300,000, Grade 3 Gotham Stakes.
He opened a commanding lead in the stretch to land his first graded stakes score over 7.90-1 rival Cloud Computing, who battled in midstretch after racing third but could not match strides with the winner.
The 1 1/16-mile Gotham awards 50-20-10-5 points to the top four finishers in the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings.
“This horse hasn’t been the easiest of horses, he’s been a project horse for [partner] Tammy [Fox], and she’s done a great job getting him around there and getting him to where he is today,” Romans said.
A quick tempo up front gave J Boys Echo plenty to close into under jockey Robby Albarado after El Areeb, pushed along by True Timber, went an opening quarter-mile in :23.58 and a half-mile in :47.70. Coming in with a four-race win streak that included the Grade 3 Withers Stakes, in which J Boys Echo ran third, El Areeb held the lead through three-quarters in 1:13.59 but faded in the stretch as the eventual winner blew by.
J Boys Echo finished up a mile in 1:39.57 en route to a final time of 1:46.34.
He returned $14.80, $7.30, and $2.70, Cloud Computing paid $6.50 and $3.30, and El Areeb returned $2.10.
Romans said the Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct on April 8 and the Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on the same day will be under consideration for his runner’s next target.
“It’s hard for me to skip the Blue Grass,” he said. “Both races were unjustifiably downgraded to Grade 2 ... but we hope to be at one of them.”
J Boys Echo was bred in Kentucky by Betz, Blackburn, J. Betz, Ramsby, and CNHHNK. He is out of the grade 2-winning Menifee mare Letgomyecho and was a $485,000 purchase by his owners from the Betz Thoroughbreds consignment to the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.