Most likely, the race means mostly that she needed a race, especially since she was facing a quality opponent who had clearly benefited from a previous start in 2022. She is, after all, a daughter of Gun Runner, who clearly had no problems staying 9 or 10 furlongs, and she is a maternal granddaughter of Menifee, who won two Grade 1 races over 9 furlongs and was runner-up in both the Kentucky Derby (USA-G1) and the Preakness Stakes (USA-G1) in 1999. Still, a look back into the past via her dam line may be instructive, for her fifth dam is Leallah, the American champion 2-year-old filly of 1956.
Sired by Nasrullah from the Bull Lea mare Lea Lark, Leallah was from the female family of 1942 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Shut Out and 1954 American champion steeplechaser King Commando, but this was a family that had historically produced a pretty fair amount of speed, and Nasrullah transmitted brilliance quite as often as he did stamina. Leallah showed that brilliance early. After easily graduating from the maiden and allowance ranks, the fleet filly made her first stakes start in the Colleen Stakes at Monmouth Park on June 30, 1956. She had a four-length lead at the stretch call and was still edging away when she hit the finish line in 1:04, tying the track record for 5½ furlongs. In her next two outings, she enjoyed similar romps in the 6-furlong Arlington Lassie Stakes and the 5½ furlong Astoria Stakes before coming a cropper in the Princess Pat Stakes over a heavy surface that she seemed to dislike. Perhaps embarrassed by her fourth-place finish there, she finished up the season with two more wins, honing her speed in a 6-furlong allowance after a six-week layoff and then concluding her season over about 7 furlongs in the Alcibiades Stakes.
Like many another brilliant 2-year-old filly, Leallah was not the same at 3 as she had been at 2, though this may not have been entirely her fault. She was unable to return to the races until July of her 3-year-old season, suggesting significant illness or physical problems, and she did not recover her earlier form until October. That month, she finished second by a head to the classy Alanesian in a Belmont allowance race over 6 furlongs, then won a 6-furlong allowance at Keeneland and a 6½-furlong allowance at Churchill Downs before ending her season with an impressive win in the Falls City Handicap at a mile on November 2. She was off for another extended period before making her first start at 4, failed to win in three tries that year, and was retired.
Leallah produced 12 foals by a group of high-class sires and produced three stakes winners. The best of them was the Princequillo colt Go Marching, who proved to be a good turf runner and was the equivalent of a multiple graded stakes winner by modern standards. She also produced stakes-placed Table Play (by Round Table), who proved an influential sire in Argentina, and three of her daughters produced stakes winners.
Among those daughters was Tatallah, a multiple stakes-placed juvenile whose sire was two-time Argentine Horse of the Year Tatán, a horse that won against top-class rivals from 1000 meters (about 5 furlongs) to 3000 meters before becoming a good sire and broodmare sire. Tatallah's best winner was Grade 2-placed juvenile stakes winner Joi'ski (by Key to the Mint; dam of stakes winner Joi'ski Too, by Bold Bidder), and her daughter Haleallah (by Hawaii) produced 1982 Vosburgh Handicap (USA-G1) winner Engine One (by Our Michael) and 1997 Prix Messidor (FR-G3) winner Neuilly (by Trempolino).
Kashie West, Tatallah's 1982 daughter by Sir Ivor, won or placed in eight of her 12 starts and was a nice allowance filly. As a broodmare, her best runner was listed stakes-placed Echo Echo Echo (by 1990 Futurity Stakes, USA-G1, winner Eastern Echo), who in turn produced 2005 Stonerside Forward Gal Stakes (USA-G2) winner Letgomyecho (by Menifee). A half sister to juvenile stakes winner Soundwave (by Friends Lake), Letgomyecho produced Echo Zulu as her 12th foal, following 2017 Gotham Stakes (USA-G1) winner J Boys Echo (by Mineshaft) and 2020 H. Allen Jerkins Stakes (USA-G1) winner Echo Town (by Speightstown).
Although Leallah's line has not been devoid of horses that could compete well at 9 furlongs or more, this family has continued to lean toward speed, and the question that Echo Zulu will have to answer on May 6 is how much bottom Gun Runner has contributed to the mix. The champion will be dangerous regardless if she can get an uncontested lead, but it will be the final 100 yards of the Kentucky Oaks that tells the tale as to whether Echo Zulu is a brilliant sprinter-miler in the mold of her female family or whether she is truly her father's daughter as well as her mother's.