J Boys Echo was doing well one day after upsetting the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct under jockey Robby Albarado.
The bay son of Mineshaft was sent off at 6-1 but easily collared and flew by heavy 2-5 favorite El Areeb to score a 3 1/2-length victory. The pair previously met up in the Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct on February 4, with J Boys Echo finishing third, 4 3/4 lengths behind winner El Areeb.
The tables were turned on Saturday, resulting in J Boys Echo taking home not only the winner’s share of the purse but the 50 points being offered toward a starting berth in the May 6 Kentucky Derby (G1).
He now boasts a total of 53 points, thanks to his third in the Withers and a fourth-place finish in the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) on November 19 behind Gunnevera, who romped by 5 3/4 lengths in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park a little over an hour later on Saturday.
According to co-owner Jason Loutsch of Albaugh Racing Stable, J Boys Echo will rejoin trainer Dale Romans’ winter training base at Gulfstream Park.
“He came back really good,” Loutsch said. “He’s on his way back to Florida now. We’re obviously really thrilled with the result and very proud of him.
“It’s really humbling. We didn’t know if we could beat the 4 horse (El Areeb) yesterday and fortunately we got a good set up and he ran the race we thought he could. We’ve been waiting for that race for him to break out and kind of grow up and he did that yesterday and we’re thrilled.”
J Boys Echo earned a career-best 104 BRIS Speed rating for his Gotham triumph and is likely headed to either the Wood Memorial (G2) back at Aqueduct or Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes (G2), both taking place on April 8 and awarding 100-40-20-10 points toward a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby.
“It’ll be the Blue Grass or the Wood, for sure, under consideration,” Loutsch said. “We love New York and we love what we did up there. The good news is that we’re not under pressure to win the next race so we want to get a good out and wherever we feel is best for him is the one we’ll probably point to.”
El Areeb’s connections aren’t sure what’s next for their star after his loss on Saturday. The Exchange Rate colt has romped in every start since breaking his maiden by 8 3/4 lengths last October, but was unable to answer J Boys Echo’s challenge. The Kentucky-bred gray wound up third on the Gotham wire, 11 lengths behind the winner.
“No idea,” trainer Cathal Lynch said in terms of El Areeb’s next start. “I spoke to the owners (M M G Stables) this morning and their concern was to make sure that the horse was OK. We’ll go back to the track in the next couple of days and go from there.”
El Areeb, who was awarded a 91 BRIS Speed rating for his effort, returned to his trainer’s Laurel Park base late last night and is doing just fine.
“He came out of it great,” Lynch confirmed. “He ate up when we got back last night and by the time we got back to the barn this morning, he had his feed tub licked clean and was in there playing around. He’s really no worse for wear. He came back good and scoped good.
“It was just one of those scenarios where the pace was so fast,” the horseman added. “We ran our race, we just got caught up in a bit of a speed duel early, but I think he’s no worse for it. Just give him a couple of days and he’ll be good to go.”
Besides J Boys Echo, Cloud Computing also finished in front of El Areeb on Saturday, with 7 1/2 lengths separating the duo on the wire. The Chad Brown-trained sophomore was making his stakes bow in the Gotham after taking his career debut on February 11 by 1 3/4 lengths while going six furlongs.
“I thought he ran very well,” Brown praised the son of Maclean’s Music, who earned a 100 BRIS Speed rating. “Coming off a six-furlong maiden race and coming back to face winners in a graded stakes while stretching out to two turns, he handled it very well.”
While Brown wouldn’t confirm where Cloud Computing would run next, he did say the Wood Memorial remains under consideration.
Another Gotham participant whose path forward is unclear at this point is True Timber, who ran fifth on Saturday, beaten a total of 12 3/4 lengths.
The Kiaran McLaughlin pupil entered the Gotham off a third in the Jerome Stakes (G3) and second in the Withers, both behind El Areeb and both at double-digit odds. The Mineshaft colt exited the Gotham in good order after dueling early with the favorite.
“We didn’t think El Areeb would necessarily be there with us, but we showed pace last time and were in front of him and thought he would hang back, but he didn’t,” McLaughlin said. “(True Timber) came out of the race good. We might be looking at something different. We could be looking at an allowance race. We don’t know yet. I’ll talk to the owners.”