(Echo Zulu romps in G2 Honorable Miss Handicap at Saratoga on Wednesday / Susie Rashier Photo & Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Winchell Thoroughbreds and L and N Racing’s 2021 Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Echo Zulu made a triumphant return to the site of her first two lifetime victories, defeating an all-graded stakes-winning cast of runners in Wednesday’s 32nd running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss Handicap for fillies and mares traveling six furlongs at Saratoga Race Course.

Echo Zulu, a member of the first crop of sensational stallion Gun Runner, launched her Championship season at the Spa in July 2021 with a 5 1/2-length debut triumph en route to another open-lengths score in the Grade 1 Spinaway. She completed her juvenile campaign with two more much-the-best wins in the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who also conditioned Gun Runner, expressed a strong sense of pride in training Echo Zulu, who carried a field-high 123 pounds.

“Unbelievable amount of gratitude to have her in the barn training with her being a Champion and the value she’s established,” said Asmussen, who saddled Street Story [2015] and Forest Music [2005] to Honorable Miss scores. “As fast as she was when she was younger, the older the Gun Runners get, the faster they go, and I think that’s another example of it.”

Breaking from the rail in the four-horse field, Echo Zulu flaunted her usual frontrunning tactics under Florent Geroux with five-time graded stakes winning millionaire Frank’s Rockette, second in this race last year, looming a close second through a swift opening quarter-mile in 22.02 seconds over the fast main track. Sharp-starting Dr B, winner of last year’s Grade 3 Go for Wand at the Big A, tracked a close third with Grade 2 Inside Information winner Maryquitecontrary at the rear of the field.

Junior Alvarado, aboard Frank’s Rockette, began asking his charge for more around the far turn through a half in 44.45 with Geroux calling on Echo Zulu nearing the quarter pole. A few nudges was all it took for Echo Zulu to shake clear of her foe, opening up a five-length lead at the stretch call.

Geroux showed Echo Zulu the stick just outside the furlong marker with Dr B launching a late rally. But there was no reeling in Echo Zulu, who crossed the finish line a 7 1/4-length winner in a final time of 1:08.76.

Dr B finished another two lengths ahead of Frank’s Rockette with Maryquitecontrary completing the order of finish.

Echo Zulu earned her seventh overall graded stakes triumph, adding to last year’s scores in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks and Grade 3 Dogwood at Churchill Downs, en route to a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in November at Keeneland. She entered the Honorable Miss from a triumphant 4-year-old debut in the Grade 3 Winning Colors on May 29 at Churchill Downs, where she teamed up with Geroux for the first time.

“She’s able to go very [fast]. She’s able to set up very fast fractions and stay very nicely within herself,” Geroux said. “She’s able to get a nice breather at the three eighths and she’s just waiting for my cue down the lane. As soon as I push the gas, she responds right away, so automatic. She’s just gifted.”

Geroux, who also was the regular rider for Gun Runner, used only one word to describe the 2017 Horse of the Year and leading third-crop sire’s talented daughter: Champion.

“It’s the difference between good horses and special horses – Champion, and she’s one of them,” Geroux said. “I’ve been lucky to be with some very good horses the past few years, but I can count on one hand the special ones that I’ve got and she’s one of them.”

Asmussen admitted to being concerned with Echo Zulu breaking alertly.

“I was extremely nervous about just getting away from there cleanly,” Asmussen said. “She broke well, very comfortable and very fast. She looked beautiful coming into the stretch. [Her speed] is not new. From her maiden race here, she goes along at a rate that they’re not comfortable doing.

“I think it’s that simple: she’s extremely fast,” Asmussen continued. “She really is. She’s doing it quicker than they are, easier than they are in comparison to the other horses she has.”

Asmussen said the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina going seven furlongs on August 26 at Saratoga – a “Win And You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in November at Santa Anita – will likely be Echo Zulu’s next start.

Echo Zulu returned $2.80 as the overwhelming favorite and banked $110,000 in victory, which brought her lifetime earnings up to $2,365,375. Her record now stands at 10-8-1-0 with her lone off-the-board finish taking place when fourth in last year’s Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.

Bought for $300,000 from the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Echo Zulu is out of the multiple black-type producing and graded stakes-winning Menifee mare Letgomyecho – a half-sibling to Grade 1-winner Echo Town and graded stakes winner J Boys Echo. She was bred in Kentucky by Betz/J. Betz/Burns/CHNNHK/Magers/CoCo Equine/Ramsby.

The Honorable Miss pays tribute to Pen-Y-Bryn Farm’s two-time winner of the Fall Highweight against males in 1975-76. She also defeated the boys in the 1975 Gravesend and Toboggan while besting fellow females in the Vagrancy.

Honorable Miss retired with a 62-19-12-9 record and $437,973 in earnings.

Live racing resumes Thursday at Saratoga with a 10-race card, featuring the $150,000 Birdstone in Race 8. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

Saratoga Live will present live coverage and analysis of the Saratoga Race Course summer meet on the networks of FOX Sports. For the broadcast schedule and channel finder, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule/.