A little less than two hours after watching stable star Gunite defeat male sprint champion Elite Power in the Forego (G1), trainer Steve Asmussen saddled Echo Zulu to a dominating score over reigning female sprint champion Goodnight Olive in the $500,000 Ballerina H. (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday.
While Echo Zulu won the Ballerina in the same wire-to-wire fashion as Gunite did the Forego, there were noticeable differences. Echo Zulu set a much stronger pace (:22.45 and :45.23) while under steady pressure from 2022 Ballerina winner Goodnight Olive. In another contrast, Echo Zulu was sent off as the 3-5 favorite in the Ballerina, while Gunite had won as the second choice.
The end result, though, was the same. Over a muddy strip, Echo Zulu turned back a challenge from Goodnight Olive inside the final furlong and won by 2 1/2 lengths under Florent Geroux. Owned by L and N Racing and Ron Winchell, who owns Gunite outright, Echo Zulu covered seven furlongs in 1:20.95, .58 seconds faster than the final time for the Forego. She paid $3.20.
Goodnight Olive, who had beaten Echo Zulu in their only prior meeting in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) at Keeneland, finished more than six lengths clear of Matareya, who nosed out Caramel Swirl for third. Dr B, Sterling Silver, and Maryquitecontrary completed the order of finish.
The champion juvenile filly of 2021 after capturing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), Frizette (G1), and Spinaway (G1), Echo Zulu has since developed into a premier one-turn specialist. Shortened up after narrowly winning the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and placing fourth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Echo Zulu has won the Dogwood (G3), Winning Colors (G3), Honorable Miss H. (G2), and now the Ballerina around one turn. Her only one-turn loss was in the aforementioned Filly and Mare Sprint at Keeneland, in which she finished second. In winning the Ballerina, Echo Zulu earned an expenses-paid berth to this year’s Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita in November.
“She was unbelievable coming out of her last race (Honorable Miss) and coming into this. Just had a tremendous amount of confidence that she would do exactly how she did,” Asmussen said. “Poor Gunite has had to work with her the majority of his life and we know who he is. So if she’s not scared of Gunite, I don’t know who else would be out there to worry about.”
A Kentucky-bred who sold for $300,000 Keeneland September, Echo Zulu is by Gun Runner and out of Grade 2-winning Menifee mare Letgomyecho, who has also reared Grade 1 winner Echo Town and Grade 3 scorer J Boys Echo. Echo Zulu has now won nine of 11 starts and earned more than $2.64 million.