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Older and Stronger Echo Zulu Returns in Winning Colors

The six-furlong contest will be her first start since the Breeders' Cup F&M Sprint.

Echo Zulu last spring at Churchill Downs

Echo Zulu last spring at Churchill Downs

CN Photography

Champion Echo Zulu, one of the most brilliant 2-year-old fillies in recent memory, returns to action in the $225,000 Winning Colors Stakes (G3) May 29 at Churchill Downs.

The six-furlong Winning Colors will be the first start since last November's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) for the three-time grade 1 winner. In the Breeders' Cup, which was only her fourth outing in a light sophomore campaign, Echo Zulu ran a commendable second to eventual Eclipse Award-winning female sprinter Goodnight Olive.

A rematch between the two titans down the line would appear inevitable but for now Echo Zulu will begin her 4-year-old season facing much softer opposition on Monday. Facing only five others, her biggest threats appear to come from Roxelana Overnight Stakes runner-up Last Leaf and the Dale Romans-trained Fire On Time, a dominating victress of an allowance optional claimer over the Louisville oval May 12.

Echo Zulu, owned by L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds, enjoyed an extended vacation following the Breeders' Cup and rejoined trainer Steve Asmussen's stable in the new year at Fair Grounds Racecourse & Slots. The daughter of Gun Runner  has been progressing toward her anticipated 4-year-old debut with a consistent breeze every week. On Monday morning at Churchill, she turned in her final tune-up, covering the five furlongs in 1:00—all systems go for her comeback.

"She's training like the champion she is. It's very exciting," Asmussen said. "She's older and stronger and seems faster than ever. I'm very excited about getting her running again."

Asmussen had indicated that the Winning Colors had been the long-term target but that he had cross-entered Echo Zulu in the $100,000 Memorial Day Sprint Stakes at Lone Star Park on the same day when the Winning Colors came up sparse on nominations.

Although Fire On Time and Florida shipper Spirit Wind sport frontrunning speed, it would be no surprise to see a razor-sharp Echo Zulu dictate the early pace. After all, the Winning Colors will be the shortest distance she's run since her 5 1/2-furlong debut romp as a 2-year-old at Saratoga Race Course, and first-time pilot Florent Geroux will surely be likely to take advantage of the filly's dazzling gate speed.

Monarch Stable's Last Leaf, who ran a career-best number when closing to within three-quarters of a length of top sprinter Frank's Rockette in the Roxelana Overnight, will be looking to pick up the pieces should Echo Zulu grow leg-weary late. While Last Leaf doesn't boast the resume of Echo Zulu, the hard-knocking daughter of Not This Time  has still managed to net five stakes wins in her career from five to seven furlongs on both dirt and grass surfaces.

Breaking just inside of Echo Zulu from the 4 post, Corey Lanerie retains the mount.

Entries: Winning Colors S. (G3)

Churchill Downs, Monday, May 29, 2023, Race 8

  • Grade III
  • 6f
  • Dirt
  • $225,000
  • 4 yo's & up Fillies and Mares
  • 4:22 PM (local)
11Spirit Wind (FL)Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.118Ralph E. Nicks7/2
22Scarlet Stripe (KY)Jareth Loveberry118D. Whitworth Beckman15/1
33Marissa's Lady (KY)Rafael Bejarano118William E. Morey10/1
44Last Leaf (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateCorey J. Lanerie118Eddie Kenneally8/1
55Echo Zulu (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFlorent Geroux118Steven M. Asmussen4/5
66Fire On Time (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateMartin Garcia118Dale L. Romans3/1