August 13, 2022

Echo Zulu gets back to work in Fair Grounds Oaks

Echo Zulu winning the Frizette S. (G1) at Belmont Park - Photo by Susie Raisher/Coglianese Photos
Echo Zulu winning the Frizette S. (G1) at Belmont Park (Photo by Susie Raisher/Coglianese Photos) Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) — Race 11 (6:12 p.m. ET)

Reigning juvenile champion Echo Zulu will look to remain undefeated through her season debut Saturday in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2).

Contested at 1 1/16 miles, the Fair Grounds Oaks offers Kentucky Oaks (G1) qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the respective top four finishers. It will serve as Echo Zulu’s only prep for the May 6 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, for which she has already earned 30 qualifying points.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, the daughter of Gun Runner was widely thought of as the best two-year-old of either sex last season following runaway wins in the Spinaway (G1), Frizette (G1), and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). The latter, at Del Mar, was achieved in a faster time than champion colt Corniche won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). Echo Zulu will break from post 1 in a field of six, with Joel Rosario back in the irons.

“We are excited to get started with her,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “She is doing extremely well. She has put in some impressive moves over the race track and she just trains beautifully like she always has.”

If anywhere close to her peak, Echo Zulu will be difficult to depose. Among those looking to try will be Turnerloose, upset winner of the Rachel Alexandra (G2) last month for Brad Cox. The Rachel Alexandra was the first race on dirt for the daughter of Nyquist, who displayed her versatility with a half-length triumph as a 17-1 chance.

Hidden Connection, who weakened to fourth as the 2-1 favorite in the Rachel Alexandra, finished well behind Echo Zulu in the Breeders’ Cup and is still searching for the form that saw her dominate the first Kentucky Oaks prep, the Pocahontas (G3), last September.

“I didn’t have her tight enough. I thought it was an okay race and was confident we would move forward,” said trainer Bret Calhoun of Hidden Connection’s run in the Rachel Alexandra. “Since that race, everything has gone perfect. She’s trained like I wanted her to, every work has been great, she’s been herself the whole time. I think she’s ready to take a step forward and be who she is and what we’ve always thought she was.”

Entering off allowance wins are Bernabreezy, whose two-length score at Fair Grounds Feb. 18 came a the expense of Alcibiades (G1) third Sequist, and Favor, a Todd Pletcher trainee who’s easily captured her last two outings over Gulfstream’s one-turn mile.