Big Favorite Loses Another Derby Points Race
By Dick Downey
Upsets are trending on the road to the Kentucky Derby, and the latest casualty is El Areeb, who finished behind J Boys Echo and Cloud Computing in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.
J Boys Echo, trained by Dale Romans, grabbed 50 Kentucky Derby points winning the Gotham, enough to make the Derby field. The victory had to be especially sweet for Romans, who trained the brilliant Not This Time last year only to see him retired from an injury after finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Cloud Computing was awarded 20 points from the Gotham, only his second career start, and El Areeb now has 30 points after picking up 10. That might be enough to make the Kentucky Derby starting gate should things work in that direction. Fourth was Action Everyday, who gained an initial five Derby points.
El Areeb and True Timber broke well and ran into the first turn together, with Cloud Computing and J Boys Echo chasing them. Those four went up the backstretch with El Areeb, ridden by Trevor McCarthy, in front after a quarter-mile in 23.58 and a half in 47.70. The three chasing closest to El Areeb began closing the gap approaching the far turn and six furlongs was in the books in a moderate 1:13.59.
On the turn, True Timber was the first of the four to give way. Cloud Computing made a move at El Areeb in the latter part of the turn and briefly took command. J Boys Echo and Robby Albarado came on too and grabbed the lead in upper stretch. They went on by to win by 3 1/2 lengths, with Cloud Computing second and El Areeb a badly fading third, another 7 1/2 lengths back, and a half-length ahead of fourth-place finisher Action Everyday. The remaining order of finish was True Timber, southern California shipper So Conflated and Gaetano. Apartfromthecrowd, Miggsy and Glennrichment were scratched.
The winning time was 1:46.34.
J Boys Echo has been sniffing around the Derby Trail since November, when he finished a distant fourth in the Delta Jackpot after breaking his maiden at Keeneland. After a layoff, he returned in the Withers Stakes and finished third to El Areeb, beaten 4 3/4 lengths. True Timber was second in the Withers, leading to the conclusion we witnessed one horse clearly on the improve and two others not so much.
The Gotham is J Boys Echo's only win other than that maiden-breaker on Oct. 27 at Keeneland, which was his two-turn debut. He earned $180,000 of the $300,000 Gotham purse.
The Gotham is the fourth straight Derby points race in which a strongly-bet favorite lost. El Areeb was sent off at 2-5 odds, while J Boys Echo was 6-1 and returned $14.80, $7.30 and $2.70 to win, place and show on $2 wagers.
The Gotham winner was bred in Kentucky by Betz/Blackburn/J. Betz/Ramsby/CNHHNK. He fetched $485,000 at the Keeneland September 2015 Yearling Sale and is owned by the Albaugh Family Stable. A son of Mineshaft, J Boys Echo is out of Letgomyecho, by Menifee.
Dale Romans: "Last time, he drew the ten-hole here, and everyone was bunched up and not spreading out. He was wide all the way around and still ran a nice starter race. We took it as the first step and he came back today and was very impressive. This horse hasn't been the easiest of horses. He's been a project for Tammy,and she's done a great job getting him around and getting us here.
"I think it's great to win in New York. If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere. I said that one time and got me a song out of it. This was a lot of fun to come up here. Doesn't matter if it's winter or summer, New York drives the whole racing world, and it's great to come in here and win a big race like this, a very prestigious race. Anybody who's a racing fan loves this race and knows it from a long time ago and I wanted it on my resume.
"We'll have to talk about where we go next. It's hard for me to skip the Blue Grass and both races (referring to the Wood Memorial) unjustly downgraded to Grade 2's. Whoever did that doesn't know the history of horse racing, but we'll get into one of the two obviously.
"I wasn't paying attention up front as much as my horse was moving down the backside. I was just focused on him and when we got the gap between both groups just sitting open and I knew Robbie could go around or inside whatever he felt like doing and he looked like he was moving comfortable at the half-mile pole we just started gaining on them and I knew he wasn't going to back up.
"I felt pretty good going into the last turn. He geared down, it was a pretty good move and he saved a little more for the next spot. He's coming around at the right time and the right way.... (Tammy has) been on him every day since we've had him and done a great job bringing him around. He just needed to grow up. He was a big clown and fun to be around but he just never figured out what racing was about until late. His race at Keeneland was huge and he still didn't know at Delta but you could see him coming around when he ran here. His numbers from last time put him in contention with all the best horses. It was a big jump forward, and that's what we were waiting on to see. We have to jump one more hurdle and we don't have to win it now so a little bit of pressure is off so we need a performance worthy of going to the Derby next out and keep him together for a couple more months."
Robby Albarado: "They were moving pretty quick up on the back side. 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."
Cathal Lynch, trainer of El Areeb: "We thought that when we saw the overnight and he (Kendrick Carmouche, aboard True Timber) was right outside us, that he'd press. Pace makes the race, and that's what happened. He ran well but you can't go 47 on this track and stay there. It set up perfect for the winner. I knew that horse was going to run well because he ran well last time, but pace killed us today.
"Trevor said he looked back twice, and he said he had already committed at that point. Once they came out of the gate, they were already into the first turn. It was too late to go changing his mind at that stage. 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."
Trevor McCarthy, aboard El Areeb: "He broke well. He broke in front for me, so I went on with it. We had a lot of pressure and I never got him to relax. Kendrick was on me the whole way. He never really got a true breather. He just got tired. We're still confident in him. Hopefully, he'll come back good and we'll go forward from there."