Saturday and Sunday at Belmont Park in New York were exciting race days as two-year-olds Echo Zulu and Jack Christopher won Grade 1 stakes races at a mile. Jack Christopher took the $500,000 Champagne and Echo Zulu the $400,000 Frizette. Both were impressive wins for different reasons.
Jack Christopher gave trainer Chad Brown his third Champagne victory, covering the one-turn mile in 1:37.31 under jockey Jose Ortiz. The son of Munnings, who received a 93 Beyer for his 2 3/4 length winning effort, went off as the 8/5 favorite off his impressive debut win at Saratoga by 8 3/4 lengths. It takes a special horse to win a debut at Saratoga and a Grade 1 in the next start, especially when competing against Graded stakes winners. Gunite won the Grade 1 Hopeful and Wit win the Grade 3 Sanford – both at Saratoga – and neither of them gave Jack Christopher much trouble in the Champagne.
Brown said he was especially pleased that Jack Christopher is not one dimensional. He already has the ability to rate. Next stop will be the Del Mar Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at a mile and a sixteenth. I think he can handle that two-turn distance, but I do not see him as a mile and a quarter horse. His breeding is suspect at the classic distance.
Echo Zulu’s win in the Frizette made her a perfect 3-3 for trainer Steve Asmussen. Already a Grade 1 winner in the Spinaway at Saratoga, Echo Zulu blew the doors off on Sunday with a 7 1/4 length victory. The daughter of red-hot sire Gun Runner covered the one-turn mile in 1:35.12 with little effort. Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. was impressed with how relaxed she was, despite setting very fast fractions of :22, :45, and 1:10. When asked about those blazing fractions, Asmussen admitted he was a little worried she might not be able to sustain her front-running bid at a mile. He can breathe a big sigh of relief now, and focus on the two-turn Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies race on November 5th at Del Mar. This filly is a runaway train.
Before we get to the Breeders’ Cup we should see some exciting races at Keeneland starting this weekend through the end of October. This meet is where many of the summer stars at Saratoga meet the standouts from the Churchill Downs and Kentucky Downs September meets. I love every minute of the New York vs. Kentucky showdown. All the top trainers and jockeys are in town…and we show them a little southern hospitality and grace. Enjoy and good luck!