Owner Ron Winchell, right, leads Echo Zulu into the winner's circle along with assistant trainer Scott Blasi, left, after her victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar on Nov. 05, 2021: Bill Denver/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup
Breeders’ Cup Notes: Asmussen Team Soaking in the Glory of Echo Zulu
It was all smiles around the Steve Asmussen barn the morning of Nov. 6 as they completed preparations for today’s races and basked in the victory by L and N Racing LLC and Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Echo Zulu in the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
The daughter of 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Gun Runner, also trained by Asmussen, went to the lead early and never looked back, drawing off to win by 5 ¼ lengths.
“I think it’s as simple as she’s faster than they are,” Asmussen said. “And, I think that’s what she’s been all year. She continues to be just extremely satisfying. When you look at a four-race year, three Grade 1s and the style in which she’s done it. All of her races are fast, her numbers are good. And, against the best company, that’s as good as it gets. You catch the Alcibiades winner and the Pocahontas winner. They made it here. And, she was better on the day. We’re very proud of that.
“It was a very comfortable race to watch, with what’s on the line and you want everything to go well. It was immediately a pretty easy race to watch. It looked like she was handling it. She was traveling well. She looked like she was getting a little separation around the three-eighths pole. And, I think that that was the separation that Gun Runner developed into, where you would see early in a race they were doing enough, but somewhere in the middle, he was doing it easier than they were and you would see the separation.
“His time, his 4-year-old year, the races that he put up and the times that he was throwing down are going to be hard to match for anybody ever. When you have Gun Runner and everything that he did for us and how anxious we all were to get to run his babies and then for her to be what she is. It’s extremely gratifying and special.”
Asmussen said that Echo Zulu has earned a vacation after completing an undefeated 2-year-old campaign.
“She needs a bit of a break now. So that she can fill in, she needs to grow. She’s not a big filly in stature, but as a Gun Runner, I mean, he was extremely talented, but he developed into the best in the world.”
Pizza Bianca Heading Home
Bobby Flay’s homebred filly Pizza Bianca headed back to the East Coast several hours after her dramatic victory in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1)
A spectacular ride by jockey Jose Ortiz, who replaced Joel Rosario, delivered to veteran trainer Christophe Clement his first victory in a Breeders’ Cup race. Ortiz was last approaching the stretch, but managed to save ground on the inside and make his way through the field ahead.
Clement said he was very pleased with the performance, which capped a strong 2-year-old season by the only horse he currently has in training for Flay.
“She ran very well. She got a great ride,” he said. “A good filly. Three starts, two wins and one second in a Grade 1 in Canada. For me the biggest accomplishment of the whole deal – of course it’s great to win the Breeders Cup – is that owner-breeder Bobby Flay chose us with a filly that is very well bred and we were able to do this. It is very meaningful for me.”
Though she is a Kentucky-bred based in the U.S., Pizza Bianca has a strong international grass pedigree. She is out of Flay’s White Hot, a daughter of Galileo (IRE) and her sire, the Australian-bred Fastnet Rock (AUS) is by Danehill. White Hot never made it to the races, but she has proven to be a valuable broodmare.
“It just shows it works.” Clement said. “I guess you just have to have an open mind because it works. He’s done it.”
After Pizza Bianca finished second in the Natalma (G1) at Woodbine on Sept. 19, Clement was considering having her make her next start at Belmont Park in the Chelsey Flower. Following a work at Belmont Park in late October, Flay encouraged Clement to take her to the Breeders’ Cup. If they pursued that option, it meant they would have to find a replacement for Rosario, who had ridden in her in both of her starts.
“We had the question mark with the jock, Rosario, the question mark about the ground being too firm,” Clement said. “I had no question about the filly being good enough because we knew that she was a good filly, but there was the question mark about the ground. She has been training very, very well. Great ride. It all worked it. It was wonderful.”
Pizza Bianca will return to competition in the spring, Clement said. He said New York’s turf triple crown is a likely target.
“That would be the goal of the moment, but we have time to think about it,” he said.
Clement is one of the most accomplished trainers in American, and is especially tough on turf, but he was winless in 40 starts in the Breeders’ Cup entering this year’s event at Del Mar. He said Saturday morning that it was a satisfying win to have on his resume, but not one he had to have.
“I never woke up in the morning thinking I’ve got to win the Breeders’ Cup to change my life. That’s not the way I am,” he said. “I wake up in the morning thinking I’ve got to win my next race with my next runner. But I’m very happy that we’ve won the Breeders’ Cup.”
Express Train Declared from the Classic
Trainer John Shirreffs reported this morning that his star 4-year-old Express Train had been withdrawn from the Breeders’ Cup Classic because of swelling in his right hock.
“He was schooling in the paddock three days ago and he got a little playful, jumping around and kicked himself,” Shirreffs said.
“He’ll be fine with a little more time and we plan on running him next year,” Shirreffs said.
Corniche in good order
Speedway Stables’ Corniche, whose $1.5 million sale price looks every bit the bargain following his wire-to-wire victory in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on Friday, came out of the race no worse for the wear.
Trainer Bob Baffert reported: “All my horses came out of the race well (including Pinehurst and Barossa). I thought his (Corniche) race was very impressive. He’s a really, really fast horse and this performance shows what a brilliant horse he is.”
Baffert joked, “He was marching around the track like he was American Pharaoh.”
As for any future plans, Baffert said, “He won’t race again this year. We don’t have any specific plans for him.”