We’re almost at half way along the Road to the Kentucky Derby and some strong contenders have already emerged in what looks an above-average year. And Saturday’s Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct was no exception, according to James Willoughby, who is assessing each of the trials using the tools available to him via the TRC Global Rankings algorithm.
Trial number: 13 of 27
TRC trial rank: #16
Trial name: Gotham Stakes
Our Grade: 3
Date: March 4, 2017
Winner: J Boys Echo
Winner Expected RPR: 110.9
Winner Actual RPR: 113
Winning Trainer: Dale Romans (TRC Global Ranking: #51)
Winning Jockey: Robby Albarado (#123)
Winning Owner: Albaugh Family Stable (#85)
Winning Sire: Mineshaft (#69)
Holy pace meltdowns, Batman! What have we here in the 2017 Gotham Stakes? A legitimate Kentucky Derby trial from the winner? Or the kind of flattering set-up that makes a young horse look better than he really is?
Review the YouTube video for yourself. Note carefully the part of the race into the wind down the back straight, where Robby Albarado – on board the winner J Boys Echo – lets the top three get on with it while he sits chilly on the son of Mineshaft. The fractions contained in the Equibase chart tell the story of a war of attrition out there: 23.58 – 24.12 – 25.89 – 25.98 – 6.77 (pro-rated 27.08). Pow! Thwack! The Gotham was a knock-down affair and Albarado was Boy Wonder.
When you trace the upward trajectory of J Boys Echo towards Churchill Downs, it is easy to see how it might be dangerous to write off this three-and-a-half-length win as a pace-aided fluke. This is a colt who is always going to get better with time, owing to his sire, and a fourth place in November’s G3 Delta Downs Jackpot was just the start of his improvements.
The tight bends wouldn’t have suited him there, and neither would the Inner Dirt at Aqueduct for that matter, an impression he first created when only third to El Areeb in the G3 Withers last time. El Areeb was only third here, but we can forgive him that on account of his pushing the pace early.
While giving all due respect to the winner, then, it is with perhaps more enthusiasm still that the runner-up Cloud Computing should be greeted; this is very much a horse to follow and should be monitored closely.
The Chad Brown-trained colt ran a screamer here, travelling well early while showing a big stride, pushed along prematurely to follow the overly strong pace down the back, but clinging on grimly as the pace took its toll.
Check the video again, if it helps. The energy required to bridge the gap with the winner is trivial compared with what the physics of the situation pegs as the effort he made early, and one would have to be very keen on him after this. He is out of an A.P. Indy mare too.
So, this is a race in which the placings may be revised if they meet again in the G2 Wood Memorial. J Boys Echo has a smart trainer indeed in Dale Romans, but the colt surely won’t have the advantage of his main challengers following each other off a cliff again. It will be fascinating to see the rematch.
Read James Willoughby’s earlier Derby trial analyses
1. Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (Mastery)
2. Jerome (El Areeb)
3. Sham Stakes (Gormley)
4. Lecomte Stakes (Guest Suite)
5. Holy Bull (Irish War Cry)
6. Withers (El Areeb)
7. Robert B. Lewis (Royal Mo)
8. Swale Stakes (Favorable Outcome)
9. Sam F. Davis (McCraken)
10. San Vicente (Iliad)
11. Southwest Stakes (One Liner)
12. Risen Star (Girvin