By Stefanie Grimm
No stranger to layoffs, champion 2-year-old filly and 'TDN Rising Star' Echo Zulu (Gun Runner) made her first start of 2023 a winning one with a runaway score in Churchill's GIII Winning Colors S. On the sidelines since a game second to 2022 champion female sprinter Goodnight Olive (Ghostzapper) in the GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, she returned to the races in this six-furlong sprint–the shortest distance she's ever raced–without missing a beat, looking every bit the 3-10 favorite.
Sharp from an outside gate, Echo Zulu went out in the search of the early lead but had to contend with an equally speedy Fire On Time (Not This Time) on her outer flank. The pair quickly separated themselves from the rest of the field while working through quick early fractions of :21.75 and :44.62. Neither mare giving an inch around the far turn, Echo Zulu found herself briefly on the back foot as Fire On Time stuck a head in front with a quarter-mile to run. But Echo Zulu responded in kind to a shake of the reins from Florent Geroux, drew alongside her rival, and went on right on past, contesting the final furlong alone and hitting the wire clear by daylight while geared down.
“I'm very grateful for the owners of this very talented filly [L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds] and [trainer] Steve Asmussen,” said the winning jockey. “She broke really well today and took herself right to the front. We had some pressure on her outside but she was traveling very comfortably the entire race.”
Part of the wildly successful first crop of Breeders' Cup champion and Horse of the Year Gun Runner, Echo Zulu is a daughter of GII Stonerside Forward Gal winner Letgomyecho, the dam of no fewer than eight other winners including GISW 'TDN Rising Star' and sire Echo Town (Speightstown), GSW J Boys Echo (Mineshaft), and GSP Unbridled Outlaw (Unbridled's Song). Letgomyecho herself is a half-sister to the dams of GIII Ohio Derby victor Dean Martini (Cairo Prince), GSW Western Smoke (Smoke Glacken) and GISP One Lucky Dane (Lookin At Lucky). Echo Zulu's youngest sibling, the now 3-year-old Doing Justice (American Pharoah), brought a final bid of $1.4 million from Northshore Bloodstock at the 2021 Keeneland September Sale.
Monday, Churchill Downs
WINNING COLORS S.-GIII, $223,250, Churchill Downs, 5-29, 4yo/up, f/m, 6f, 1:08.99, ft.
1–ECHO ZULU, 118, f, 4, by Gun Runner
1st Dam: Letgomyecho (GSW, $136,200), by Menifee
2nd Dam: Echo Echo Echo, by Eastern Echo
3rd Dam: Kashie West, by Sir Ivor
($300,000 Ylg '20 KEESEP). 'TDN Rising Star'. O-L and N Racing LLC and Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC; B-Betz/J. Betz/Burns/ CHNNHK/Magers/CoCo Equine/Ramsby (KY); T-Steven M. Asmussen; J-Florent Geroux. $139,000. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2yo Filly, MGISW, 9-7-1-0, $2,255,375. *1/2 to Unbridled Outlaw (Unbridled's Song), GSP, $253,478; J Boys Echo (Mineshaft), GSW, $377,543; and Echo Town (Speightstown), GISW, $410,020. Werk Nick Rating: A+++. *Triple Plus*. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree or free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Fire On Time, 118, m, 5, Not This Time–Sapphire Spitfire, by Awesome Again. ($95,000 Wlg '18 KEENOV). O-Albaugh Family Stables LLC; B-Jorge S. Wagner (KY); T-Dale L. Romans. $45,000.
3–Last Leaf, 118, f, 4, Not This Time–My Miss Kallie, by Paddy O'Prado. ($7,000 Wlg '19 KEENOV; $10,000 Ylg '20 OBSWIN; $23,500 Ylg '20 OBSOCT). O-Monarch Stables, Inc.; B-Khalid Mishref Alkahtani (KY); T-Eddie Kenneally. $22,500.
Margins: 5 3/4, 1, HD. Odds: 0.31, 7.62, 7.55.
Also Ran: Spirit Wind, Marissa's Lady. Scratched: Scarlet Stripe.
Click for the Equibase.com chart or the TJCIS.com PPs. VIDEO, sponsored by TVG.