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Echo Zulu, Gunite Refuting Notion Gun Runners Need Time

Porter on Pedigrees

Echo Zulu after winning the Ballerina Handicap at Saratoga Race Course

Echo Zulu after winning the Ballerina Handicap at Saratoga Race Course

Anne M. Eberhardt

When Gun Runner  retired to stud, there was every reason to believe he would become a successful sire. What would not have generally been anticipated is that he would get precocious 2-year-olds and high-class sprinters. After all, his own career arc demonstrated a steady progression with time and distance: He was a useful 2-year-old, a very good 3-year-old, and outstanding at 4, when he earned Horse of the Year honors (he did also make one start at 5, capturing the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) before retiring to stud). The defining performance of his championship season came over 10 furlongs in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).

There are, however, two standouts from his first crop—now 4—that have refuted the notion that his offspring would inevitably require time and distance. That duo, Echo Zulu and Gunite , starred at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 26, capturing two premier sprint events, Echo Zulu taking the Ballerina Handicap (G1) and Gunite the Forego Stakes (G1), and it's quite conceivable that the two could end up at the top of their respective divisions at the end of the year. Remarkably, it's not the first time the duo has completed a Saratoga double. In 2021, on consecutive days, Echo Zulu annexed the Spinaway Stakes (G1) and Gunite the Hopeful Stakes (G1). Echo Zulu and Gunite, along with Taiba , Cyberknife , Society, and Early Voting  represent the six grade 1 winners from the first crop of Gun Runner, which currently has produced a total of 17 stakes winners, 11 graded. His second crop, now 3, is also building momentum, with second-season graded victories for Red Route One, Disarm, Vahva, and Il Miracolo.

The champion 2-year-old filly of 2021, Echo Zulu now boasts a record of nine wins in 11 starts, all but one of those in graded stakes. She appears to have moved to a new level of late, having earned an Equibase Speed Figure of 120 in her last start, co-highest of the year in a dirt sprint along with Repo Rocks' Toboggan Stakes (G3).

Echo Zulu is out of the Menifee mare Letgomyecho. She started just four times, but won the first three of those, including the Forward Gal Stakes (G2). Letgomyecho has been a very successful producer, as she's dam of four other black-type horses, including the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) victor Echo Town , and J Boys Echo, successful in the Gotham Stakes (G3). Letgomyecho's stakes-winning half sister, Soundwave, is dam of Dean Martini, who took the Ohio Derby (G3), and two other half sisters appear as dams of the Sapling Stakes (G3) winner Western Smoke and French listed scorer Ocean Vision.

Echo Town's second dam, Echo Echo Echo, is a stakes-placed granddaughter of the stakes-placed Tatallah. That mare produced only one stakes winner, the Del Mar Junior Miss scorer Joi'ski, but she's granddam of Engine One, who took the Vosburgh Handicap (G1), and ancestress of numerous other good winners in the United States, Europe, South America, and Japan, including other U.S. grade 1 winners Singletary, Pool Play, and Voodoo Dancer.

The family goes back through Tatallah's dam, champion 2-year-old filly Leallah, to the notable tap-root mare Oval. The branch that descends from Leallah's granddam, Colosseum, has produced any number of notable performers, among them champion turf horse Manila; champion 2-year-old filly Champagne Room; Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) heroine Blue Prize; St Nicholas Abbey, who took the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1); champion French 2-year-old Targowice; French Oaks (G1) winner Lacovia; White Muzzle, successful in the Italian Derby (G1); this year's Belmont Derby (G1) winner, Far Bridge; and major sires Miswaki and Southern Halo.

Echo Zulu is inbred to Storm Cat through Giant's Causeway, the broodmare sire of Gun Runner, and through Harlan, the sire of Menifee, with both Giant's Causeway and Menifee being extended Storm Cat/Nasrullah crosses.

In the Forego Stakes (G1), Gunite decisively reversed his narrow Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) defeat by last year's champion sprinter, Elite Power . In addition to his pair of Saratoga grade 1s, Gunite has won six other black-type events, including the Amsterdam Stakes (G2), and taken second in the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes (G1).

Gunite's dam, Simple Surprise, is also a Saratoga stakes winner, capturing the Bolton Landing Stakes. She is half sister to Gun Runner's daughter Optionality, successful in the Trapeze Stakes and Zia Park Princess Stakes. Remarkably, Gunite's granddam Simplify is yet another Saratoga black-type scorer, the daughter of Pulpit taking the restricted Loudonville Stakes. She also earned graded black type with a third in the Debutante Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs.

Gunite with Tyler Gaffalione wins the Forego Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Aug. 26, 2023.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Gunite wins the Forego Stakes at Saratoga Race Course

Simplify is half sister to the five-time stakes winner Classify, and three-quarter sister to the Tapit mare Omnitap, dam of Air Strike, successful in the Triple Bend Stakes (G3), and Pegasus Stakes winner Home Brew. Gunite's third dam, Classic Olympio, was a fast and precocious performer on the West Coast, winning four black-type events, including the Moccasin Stakes and Anoakia Stakes, and she also took second in the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) and third in the Railbird Stakes (G2). The fifth dam, Lilac Hill, took the Cotillion Handicap when it was run at Liberty Bell (now Parx), and was half sister to Gran Premio di Milano (G1) scorer Rouge Sang, three-quarter sister to Del Mar Derby winner and sire Speak John, and closely related to Stage Door Johnny, the champion 3-year-old colt of 1968 (both by Prince John, out of granddaughters of the mare Folle Nuit).

Like Echo Zulu, Gunite is out of a Storm Cat line mare. In this case, his dam is by Cowboy Cal, who is by Gun Runner's own broodmare sire, Giant's Causeway. That means that Echo Zulu and Gunite are two of the eight Gun Runner stakes winners with a double of Storm Cat, the others including the Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Early Voting, and graded winners Wicked Halo, Pappacap , and Vahva.