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Game-day decision on running both Echo Zulu, Wicked Halo

Friday’s Churchill Downs barn noted penned by Kevin Kerstein (Coady Photography photo of Wicked Halo winning Churchill’s Tepin Stakes)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Friday, Sept. 23, 2022) – Winchell Thoroughbreds’ racing manager David Fiske reported Friday morning that “no decision has been made at this time” if stablemates Echo Zulu and Wicked Halo will both contest Saturday night’s $275,000 Dogwood Stakes (Grade III) at Churchill Downs. (Update: As of scratch time Saturday morning, both horses were still in the race.)

Champion filly Echo Zulu is the even-money morning line favorite in the Dogwood, which would be her first start since she was set to run in the $500,000 Acorn (GI) on the Belmont Stakes undercard but was a late scratch on the advice of the track veterinarian on the way to the starting gate.

Echo Zulu’s stablemate, multiple Grade II-winner Wicked Halo, is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line odds. In her last start, Wicked Halo was able to hold off Sterling Silver in the $250,000 Prioress Stakes (GII) at Saratoga. Wicked Halo earned a 102 Brisnet Speed Rating, the highest of her nine-race career and highest last race figure of her other six competitors in the Dogwood. 

“With her having success at seven-eighths, against 3-year-olds, it seems very obvious,” Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said following the Prioress of Wicked Halo’s chances in the Dogwood.

Jockey Tyler Gaffalione was named on Wicked Halo in the Dogwood and drew post No. 7 while Ricardo Santana Jr. has the call on Echo Zulu from the rail.

The seven-furlong Dogwood Stakes is part of a stakes quartet Saturday night for the Downs After Dark program. The first of 11 races will get underway at 6 p.m. (all times Eastern) and the Dogwood will go as Race 9 at 10:11 p.m. The supporting stakes on the card are the $275,000 Bourbon Trail, $275,000 Harrods Creek and $160,000 Seneca Overnight Stakes.

Here’s the Dogwood field from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Echo Zulu (Santana, Asmussen, 1-1); Chasing Fireflies (Gabe Saez, John Ortiz, 20-1); Colorful Mischief (Gerardo Corrales, Todd Pletcher, 8-1); Tarabi (Javier Castellano, Cherie DeVaux, 4-1);Gunning (Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek, 8-1); Last Leaf (Rafael Bejarano, Eddie Kenneally, 10-1); and Wicked Halo (Tyler Gaffalione, Asmussen, 7-2).

          Wagering is available on www.TwinSpires.com, the official wagering provider of Churchill Downs Inc. and the Kentucky Derby.

          The Dogwood, named for the hardy blooming tree, comes six weeks in advance of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (GI), which is scheduled for Nov. 5 at Keeneland. Champion Covfefe won both races in 2019.

LUKAS SCORES FIRST CHURCHILL DOWNS TRAINING DOUBLE SINCE 2015 – Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas scored a double Thursday night with 2-year-olds Miss Addie Lynnand Mo’s Treasure and marked his first multi-win day at Churchill Downs since Nov. 14, 2015.

          Lukas, who recently celebrated his 87th birthday, is on a resurgence in 2022. Through Thursday night’s action, Lukas’ trainees have earned $3,196,186, the most since his stable earned $4,755,054 in 2014. Through 174 starts, Lukas’ horses have won 21 races with 16 runner-up efforts and 20 third-place finishes.

          On Saturday, Lukas will run Briland Farm’s Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Secret Oath in the $1 million Cotillion (GI) at Parx.

          Overall, Lukas is the No. 4 ranked trainer in Churchill Downs history with 552 victories. He trails Steve Asmussen (846), Dale Romans (779) and Bill Mott (754).

NO SHORTAGE OF 2-YEAR-OLDS AT CHURCHILL DOWNS SEPTEMBER MEET – Through the first six days of the Churchill Downs September Meet there have been 18 races carded for 2-year-olds with 189 runners for an average field size of 10.5 horses per race.

          Over the next three days (Friday-Sunday), Churchill Downs will have an additional eight 2-year-old events with 90 horses entered in the body. 

DOWNS AFTER DARK: FIESTA UNDER THE SPIRES ON SATURDAY – The final Downs After Dark of the year will take place Saturday as Churchill Downs presents a night full of thrilling horse racing and a Latin-inspired celebration of live music, dance and art for “Fiesta Under the Spires.”

Event highlights include music from DJ Roberton (5:30-8 p.m.) and Kentucky Salsa Allstars (8:30-11:20 p.m.); salsa lessons in the Plaza from Louisville Salsa Underground (6:45-7:40 p.m.); strolling mariachi performances by Mariachi Alegre; and a showcase of Latin artists including Claudia HernandezMercedes Harn and Andy Perez.

Admission gates will open at 5 p.m. and the 11-race program will be conducted between 6-11:10 p.m.

General admission to Downs After Dark is $14 and includes an official program. Guests under the age of 18 will only be admitted to the track if accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Limited premium dining packages are available starting at $82 per person. Outdoor-third floor box seats are on sale for $17 per person. Reserved seating can be purchased online atwww.ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.