J Boys Echo blew past a tiring El Areeb in upper stretch and drew off to a 3 ½-length decision in Saturday’s $300,000 Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct, putting himself into the Kentucky Derby picture with the 50-point prize. Robby Albarado was up on the Dale Romans-trained colt, who scored at 6-1 odds.

Owned by Albaugh Family Trust, J Boys Echo improved upon a non-threatening third in the February 4 Withers (G3) at Aqueduct in his 2017 opener. He wasn’t a serious factor when concluding his juvenile season with a fourth in his stakes debut, the Delta Jackpot (G3), and earned a total of 3-points toward a Kentucky Derby berth in those efforts. He took a major step forward while receiving an ideal trip in the 1 1/16-mile Gotham, rating behind a hot pace in fourth before beginning to advance on the far turn.

El Areeb, a 2-5 favorite after opening the year with convincing wins in the Withers and January 2 Jerome (G3), stumbled slightly leaving the starting gate and rushed toward the fore of the seven-horse field entering the first turn, completing the opening quarter-mile in :23.58 with a head advantage. He continued to wing along up front through a half-mile in :47.70.

The heavy favorite was still clinging to a one-length advantage after three-quarters in 1:13.59, but J Boys Echo was in full flight while about four-wide leaving the far turn. The only question was the final margin as he rolled home, stopping the teletimer in 1:46.34.

"They were moving pretty quick up on the back side," 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."

"Last time he drew the 10-hole here, and everyone was bunched up and not spreading out," Romans added. "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 (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."

J Boys Echo now shows a 5-2-1-1 career record.

Cloud Computing, a debut 6-furlong maiden winner at Aqueduct on February 11, turned in an admirable performance finishing a clear second, gamely battling to the wire after chasing the pace in third. The Chad Brown trainee was off at 7-1 and wound up 7 ½ lengths better than El Areeb, who had a four-race win streak snapped. Action Everyday finished another half-length back in fourth in his stakes debut for Todd Pletcher.

After rating just off the pace in his last two stakes wins, El Areeb set sail for the early lead and trainer Cathal Lynch blamed the front-running trip.

"Pace makes the race and that's what happened," Lynch said. "He ran well but you can't go 47 (seconds for a half-mile) on this track and stay there. It set up perfect for the winner. I knew that horse (J Boys Echo) was going to run well because he ran well last time but pace killed us today.

J Boys Echo was bred in Kentucky by Betz et al and the son of Mineshaft was purchased for $485,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September sale. He’s out of the Grade 2-winning Letgomyecho, a daughter of 1999 Kentucky Derby runner-up Menifee.

(Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography)