Echo Zulu stays perfect in the Frizette (Photo by Susie Raisher/Coglianese Photos)
After romping in sprints at Saratoga, unbeaten Echo Zulu not only aced her mile test in Sunday’s $400,000 Frizette (G1) at Belmont Park. The 0.35-1 favorite carried her speed so effectively that she increased her winning margin over the extra distance.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen – who also conditioned her hot freshman sire, Gun Runner – Echo Zulu was a 5 1/2-length debut winner going 5 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga. The bay stepped up to seven furlongs for the Sept. 5 Spinaway (G1) and rolled by four lengths.
In the Frizette, Echo Zulu ran up the score to 7 1/4 lengths. Jockey Ricardo Santana felt as though she were merely strolling, despite dictating fast fractions of :22.38, :45.98, and 1:10.40. Indeed, Echo Zulu rebuffed the rival who tried to press her, Gerrymander, and maintained her ferocious gallop to cross the wire in 1:35.12.
“She broke good and was waiting for the company,” Santana told NYRA publicity. “When the company (Gerrymander) got to her, she took off again. She's really special.
“It felt like I was walking, how she was doing it. She was really impressive for a two-year old.
“I had a lot of horse. I never needed to ask her – that’s how much horse I had.”
Echo Zulu banked 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Gerrymander chased in second throughout and took home four points. A Mo Reay had some trouble en route to her third, good for two points, and fourth-placer Magic Circle picked up one point.
Saucy Lady T, who had finished third in all three of Saratoga’s graded stakes in this division, got no closer than fifth. Next came Jester Calls Nojoy, Hot Fudge, Jumeirah, and Frosty Brew.
The Frizette also offered a free ticket to the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Cup
Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Del Mar, where Echo Zulu will try two turns. Asmussen expressed his high regard for her aptitude.
“The filly obviously has a tremendous amount of ability,” her trainer said, “and I think the big jump is to get to this level. The Spinaway and the Frizette – that sort of foundation and doing it multiple times gives you a tremendous amount of confidence.”
Asmussen explained how the Frizette’s race shape, with an abundance of speed signed on, figured to pose a challenge. But connections weren’t going to try to change Echo Zulu’s bold front-running style.
“We’re not going to not let her be who she is. I feel very strongly about be who you are. Don’t show up and re-invent yourself. I thought there was nothing but speed in the race. I was very concerned with it and the Maclean’s Music filly of Todd’s (the Pletcher-trained Jester Calls Nojoy) and how fast she is, but when you’re the favorite, you make them make adjustments around you.”
That concern was still evident when Asmussen saw her fractions.
“I was (concerned); very much so. I watched the race from up the stretch, a long ways across to the backside – :22 and 1, :45 and change. Obviously, there was pressure from her outside. But the first thing Ricardo said when he came back was he couldn’t believe how relaxed she was. He said her ears were up and she was relaxed and within herself.”
Yet Echo Zulu just kept motoring, extending her record to 3-for-3 with $440,000 in earnings for owners L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds.
“Good energy through the wire,” Asmussen summed up. “She didn’t stagger in there, and she set honest fractions.”
If Echo Zulu can clinch a championship in the Juvenile Fillies, she’d put Gun Runner in an exclusive club of Breeders’ Cup heroes who sired a Breeders’ Cup winner. Gun Runner wired the 2017 Classic (G1) to set the seal on his Horse of the Year campaign, over the same Del Mar track.
“It’s amazing,” Asmussen said. “She’s a special filly and she’s by Gun Runner. How much better can it get? She’s better than good.”