The morning hours are not the time when Albaugh Family Stable's J Boys Echo touts himself.
The bay son of Mineshaft is a blue collar sort in every sense, putting his head down and going about his business without a whole lot of glint to his game. So as the Gotham Stakes (G3) winner finished up his workmanlike five-furlong move in company beneath ominous skies at Churchill Downs April 29, Dale Romans wasn't just throwing out trainer speak when he said he saw exactly what he wanted from his classic hopeful.
"He just gets out there and grinds it out, gets it done," Romans said. "He's not flashy, he doesn't work real fast. But of his races have been good."
J Boys Echo was his typical self in his final work for the May 6 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), rolling through a five-furlong drill in 1:01 with stablemate Little Irishdancer.
Under the guidance of Romans' longtime partner and assistant Tammy Fox, J Boys Echo broke off about a length in front of his stablemate—something that wasn't exactly by design.
"She (the filly) just had trouble keeping up today," Romans said. "But it served its purpose."
Little Irishdancer was able to draw on even terms around the turn but J Boys Echo spurted away again and finished up about a length in front, swapping leads just before the wire. After clocking splits :11 2/5, :23 1/5, and :35 3/5, he galloped out well in front in 1:13 3/5 with Fox urging him slightly.
"When you ask him to show up, when there is competition, he steps up to the plate," Romans said. "The faster the horse I put next to him, the faster he goes. So we make sure not to take our fastest one out there, we didn't want to go in any more than we did.
"It was good. The gallop out was strong and he did that by himself, the other horse left his side. I couldn't ask for much better."
J Boys Echo is coming off a fourth-place effort in the April 8 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland, a race Romans is drawing a line through. The solidly-built colt has not been worse than fourth in six career starts with his breakout win coming when he captured the Gotham by 3 1/2 lengths.
"I think he's going to improve at a mile and a quarter and I think there are some question marks on a few of them if they want to go that far," Romans said. "The Blue Grass was a mess; he got stopped but he still came running at the end. We know we need a little help, we know we need a faster pace. But he shows up every race and runs well. He just needs things to go his way."