January 28, 2023

Echo Zulu holds off Hidden Connection in Fair Grounds Oaks

Echo Zulu wins the Fair Grounds Oaks (Photo by Hodges Photography)

Echo Zulu maintained her perfect record in Saturday’s $388,000 TwinSpires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). But only just.

The 1-10 favorite in the Oaks, which marked the juvenile filly champion’s three-year-old debut, Echo Zulu made the lead easily from post 1 and appeared to traveling comfortably. Not much different from what produced four explosive victories last season.

However, inside the final furlong, Echo Zulu had to pull out all the stops to deny a surging Hidden Connection, who fell a nose short of a big upset.

“She barely made the race, she barely won the race,” said winning trainer Steve Asmussen, who was on a bit of a time crunch to get seven published workouts into the champion since Feb. 8

Under Joel Rosario, Echo Zulu covered the 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:42.69.  Hidden Connection, the 9-1 third choice, finished 2 1/4 lengths clear of Favor. Turnerloose finished fourth and was followed by Sequist and Bernabreezy.

Echo Zulu, who races for Winchell Thoroughbreds and L and N Racing, will now head to the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (G1) with an additional 100 qualifying points for this victory. She earned 30 points last season for winning the Frizette (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), which was preceded by victories in a maiden and the Spinaway (G1) at Saratoga.

Hidden Connection, who took the Pocahontas (G3) last season, ensured her Oaks spot by earning 40 points, increasing her total to 57. Favor earned her first 20 points, while Turnerloose boosted her total by 10 to 60 points.

Bred in Kentucky by Betz, J. Betz, Burns, CHNNHK, Magers, CoCoEquine, and Ramsby, Echo Zulu is by Gun Runner and out of Grade 2 winner Letgomyecho, by Menifee. Echo Zulu is a half-sister to Grade 1 scorer Echo Town and Grade 3 winner J Boys Echo.