Echo Zulu Obliterates Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Field

When a heavy favorite enters any athletic contest, the best strategy can sometimes be to never let the underdog get into the game. Echo Zulu employed that exact game plan to perfection in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Friday at Del Mar, and all but guaranteed herself an Eclipse Award at the end of the year.

The 2-year-old Gun Runner filly was hustled out of the gate from the outside post by jockey Joel Rosario, who trainer Steve Asmussen named aboard Echo Zulu for the Juvenile Fillies instead of regular rider Ricardo Santana, Jr. Rosario and Echo Zulu quickly worked their way in to the rail, and snuffed out the oxygen of any rival trying to fight for the early fractions.

Echo Zulu was safely ahead of next-closest Tarabi, as she led the field into an opening quarter-mile in :23.42 seconds, while Desert Dawn and Juju’s Map battled a length behind Tarabi for third position. The leader continued to maintain a one-length advantage over Tarabi across the backstretch as the half-mile point passed in :47.01 seconds.

The field bunched up behind Echo Zulu, and the duo of Tarabi and Juju’s Map got to the outside hip of the leader as they approached the turn, but Echo Zulu promptly repelled the challengers, and put them several lengths behind her heading into the turn, all without Rosario’s hands leaving the reins.

“She is amazing,” Rosario said. “She is fast, has so much speed and it looks like she is not going that fast. Today she liked what she was doing up there (in the front) and when I asked her, she just took off. She’s just amazing.”

Rosario did little else but shake the reins aboard Echo Zulu down the Del Mar stretch, as the filly drew off to win by 5 1/4 lengths. Juju’s Map carried on for second, a half-length ahead of Tarabi.

Echo Zulu completed the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:42.24 over a fast main track, paying $3.60 to win as the overwhelming favorite.

Friday’s Breeders’ Cup victory improved Echo Zulu’s lifetime record to a perfect four-for-four and all but clinched the Eclipse Award for champion 2-year-old filly. Echo Zulu won on debut in Saratoga in July, then took the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes at the same track. Her most recent start prior to the Breeders’ Cup was a 7 1/4-length demolishing of the G1 Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 3.

“The level of proud is just unbelievable, with her being in the first crop of Gun Runner, what he’s done for us,” Asmussen said. “A filly that came through mom and dad’s program in Laredo. She’s just brilliant. She’s faster than they are. It’s as simple as that. We’re just so fortunate to be around her.”

Asmussen trains Echo Zulu for the partnership of L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds.

It was an especially satisfying victory for the Winchell operation, which also campaigned sire Gun Runner to a Breeders’ Cup Classic win at Del Mar in 2017. Echo Zulu’s victory also made it a virtual guarantee that Gun Runner will finish atop the freshman sire standings in 2021, having already entered the Breeders’ Cup card with a healthy lead by earnings.

“It reminds me of Gun Runner,” owner Ron Winchell said. “She got out there and took command. Then took it down a notch, relaxed and got it done in the stretch. It looked a lot like (Gun Runner’s) Pegasus: out, over, relax and then go.”

Bred in Kentucky by the partnership of Betz/J. Betz/Burns/CHNNHK/Magers/CoCo Equine/Ramsby, Echo Zulu was a $300,000 purchase by Winchell Thoroughbreds at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Quotes from other connections:

Trainer Brad Cox (second with Juju’s Map) – “She broke a little slow and (Florent Geroux)a put her in a good position. She raced a little wide, but she was no match for the winner. Second best today. Bottom line. No excuse.”

Trainer Cherie DeVaux (third with Tarabi) – “She ran great stretching out for the first time. The pace didn’t unfold the way it looked on paper, so Javier (Castellano) went to Plan B and she ran great, so we’re really happy with her performance. It’s awesome to come in and have her show up off a layoff and doing something she hasn’t done. Our team is great, so I’m very proud of everyone.”

Jockey Javier Castellano (third with Tarabi) – “We had a beautiful trip.  I was very happy with her race. She broke good and was right behind the winner all the way.  She was running very strong down the stretch and was fighting to be second.  It’s no disrespect to run third to a champion.”

Trainer Bret Calhoun (fourth with Hidden Connection) – “I’m very disappointed. We had a little higher expectations today. She got a little unnerved in the warmup and stumbled away from there and lost a little position early. Reylu (Gutierrez) had to use her a little bit to get back into position and she didn’t have the answer today.”

The post Echo Zulu Obliterates Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Field appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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