Romans ‘Confident’ In J Boys Echo Ahead Of Blue Grass

Even though Brody's Cause came into last year's Toyota Blue Grass off a seventh-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), trainer Dale Romans was confident the colt would deliver a high-quality performance.

Racing for the Albaugh Family Stable, Brody's Cause stepped up with a 1¾-length victory to justify Romans' confidence.

Romans is back for this year's Toyota Blue Grass (G2) with another Albaugh runner, J Boys Echo. His confidence in the Keeneland Sales graduate is sky high.

“I am more confident than I was last year,” Romans said Friday morning after J Boys Echo returned to the stakes barn following a gallop on the main track. Tammy Fox was aboard for the exercise after the renovation break. “He is doing so good right now and peaking at the right time.”

Unlike Brody's Cause, J Boys Echo comes into the Toyota Blue Grass off a victory, this one coming in the Gotham (G3) in which he was 7 lengths off the pace early on before swooping to the lead at the head of the stretch and drawing off to a 3½-length score.

“There does not appear to be much speed in there, so he may be closer tomorrow,” Romans said.

J Boys Echo arrived at Keeneland Thursday morning from Churchill Downs.

Romans, who saddled Dullahan to win the 2012 Toyota Blue Grass, is one of six trainers to have won the race twice and a victory Saturday would make him one of six to have three victories in the race.

Three Racing Hall of Fame trainers – Ben Jones, LeRoy Jolley and Syl Veitch – have won the race in consecutive years.

Only two owners have won the race in back-to-back years. Calumet Farm won the 1947 and 1948 renewals with Faultless and Coaltown, respectively, and C.V. Whitney won the 1950 race with Mr. Trouble and the first division in 1951 with Mameluke.

Robby Albarado, who is seeking his first Toyota Blue Grass victory, has the mount Saturday on J Boys Echo, who is 4-1 on the morning line.

On Friday, the Toyota Blue Grass 7-5 morning-line favorite, Whitham Thoroughbreds' undefeated McCraken, galloped 1½ miles under Yoni Orantes before the renovation break for trainer Ian Wilkes.

Wilkes has saddled two previous Toyota Blue Grass starters, but had a role with two other runners that went on to win the Kentucky Derby.

He was the exercise rider for Unbridled, who finished third in the 1990 race, and was an assistant to Carl Nafzger with Street Sense, who finished second in the 2007 race.

“The purpose then was to get better for the next race, and we are in the same boat,” Wilkes said, referring to the Kentucky Derby. “I'd like to see him have a good race. He is a unique horse and he keeps amazing me.”

Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence's Practical Joke galloped about 1 3/8 miles under Fernando Rivera soon after the renovation break. Trainer Chad Brown said he is confident in the colt, a two-time Grade 1 winner last year who was second to Gunnevera in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth (G2) on March 4.

“It's a tough race,” Brown said. “He's going to have to be at his very best, but I'm happy with the way he's training. I'm looking for the horse to win. He needs to prove himself at this distance. What I'm hoping for is a really clean trip to give the horse a chance. If he can do it, he can do it.”

Practical Joke was scheduled to school in the Paddock Friday afternoon.

Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta's Tapwrit galloped 1 3/8 miles under Romain Techer for trainer Todd Pletcher, who is one of the five trainers with three Toyota Blue Grass victories.

Ginny DePasquale, who is overseeing the Pletcher string here, said the trainer would be here Saturday afternoon to saddle Tapwrit.

DePasquale was asked what she would like to see from Tapwrit on Saturday.

“Besides a win?” she said with a laugh. “I hope he gets a good pace to run into and not have to be used up in a prep (for the Kentucky Derby) and have some left over.”

Calumet Farm's Wild Shot was one of the first horses on the main track, galloping a mile and a half under Jozefat Calvo shortly after the track opened at 5:30 a.m. Wild Shot was scheduled for a noon schooling session in the Paddock.

Third behind Tapwrit in his most recent start in the Tampa Bay Derby, Wild Shot has compiled a record of 6-1-2-2.

“I'd just like to see him run his race and make up the ground he's been losing by (to Tapwrit and McCraken),” trainer Rusty Arnold said. “He's never run a bad race.”

Reddam Racing's Irap galloped on the training track under exercise rider Antonio Romero.

Trained by Doug O'Neill, Irap will attempt to become the first maiden to win the Toyota Blue Grass, which will have its 93rd running Saturday.

“I'd just like to see him finish strong like he has been doing in the mornings there,” O'Neill said via text.

Julien Leparoux will be aboard Irap, who comes into Saturday's race off a fourth-place finish in the Sunland Derby (G3) on March 26.

Shortly after 9 a.m., Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, Nehoc Stables and Magdalena Racing's It's Your Nickel galloped about 1¼ miles with Pablo Portes aboard for trainer Kenny McPeek, who won the race in 2002 with Harlan's Holiday and 2013 with Java's War. He has run six horses in the race.

“The first time I ran in it was with Tejano Run (in 1995), and he was (the second choice behind eventual Kentucky Derby-G1 winner Thunder Gulch). It was a short field, kinda like this one, and it was a paceless race. They crawled on the front end, and Wild Syn won it at (30)-1.

“You just never know (how the race will unfold). All you can do is have your team get the horse ready, lead him up there and try.”

It's Your Nickel was scheduled to school in the Paddock Friday afternoon.

McPeek is one of six trainers who have won the Toyota Blue Grass and Central Bank Ashland (G1) in the same year. In a little more than a half-hour on Saturday, he could become the first trainer to repeat the feat if Daddys Lil Darling wins the $500,000 Central Bank Ashland and It's Your Nickel takes the Toyota Blue Grass.

“I'd like to do that again,” he said.

McPeek was joined this morning by co-owner Wayne Cutler of AWC Stables. Wayne is the “W” in AWC; the “A” is his wife, Adriana. The couple arrived last night from New York on a flight that included jockeys Javier Castellano and Jose Ortiz, he said.

Tomorrow is a big day for the Cutlers, who are part of Team D, co-owner of Wood Memorial (G1) starter Mo Town. Their children will be at Aqueduct for the Wood Memorial, which has a 5:52 p.m. post time, while they are at Keeneland for the Toyota Blue Grass, set to go off at 6:17 p.m.

“This will be the most exciting 30 minutes of my life,” Cutler said, adding with a laugh, “but don't tell my wife that.”

The post Romans ‘Confident’ In J Boys Echo Ahead Of Blue Grass appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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