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The Racing Dudes react to McKulick winning the 2022 Jockey Club Oaks (G3) at Belmont at the Big A, outkicking the German Derby (G1) champion Toskana Belle and jockey Frankie Dettori. Watch the replay for the Racing Dudes’ INSTANT reactions, then tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Klaravich Stables’ McKulick fended off an inside rally from European invader Toskana Belle to set a new course record for 1 3/8 miles with a half-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 3, $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational for sophomore fillies over the inner turf at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
The third running of the Jockey Club Oaks wrapped up the filly division of the Turf Triple series, which saw McKulick capture the first leg in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational on July 9 at Belmont Park. The bay daughter of Frankel came into the Jockey Club Oaks off a runner-up effort in the second leg – the Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks Invitational – which was won by Belmont Oaks second-place finisher With The Moonlight.
McKulick, who returned $3.60 as the favorite in the six-horse field, became racing’s newest member of the million-dollar club, banking $385,000 in victory while pushing her lifetime earnings up to $1,088,650. Bred in Great Britain by Essafinaat UK, McKulick sports a perfect in-the money record of 7-3-3-1.
Breaking from the rail under Irad Ortiz, Jr., McKulick took to fourth in the early stages as pacesetter Beside Herself marked the opening quarter-mile in 24.35 seconds over the firm turf. Beside Herself maintained her lead through a half-mile in 48.21 as Ortiz, Jr. remained patient aboard McKulick in fourth. Down the backstretch, the Frankie Dettori-piloted Toskana Belle inched her way closer to the front from second and only one length behind Beside Herself through three-quarters in 1:12.79.
Dettori began nudging his charge around the far turn, while Ortiz, Jr. launched his bid to join the top flight of runners and found himself of even terms with Toskana Belle and Beside Herself in upper stretch. As Beside Herself gave way, McKulick was met with a stubborn challenge from Toskana Belle, and appeared to float outward just outside the eighth pole. But nevertheless, McKulick’s determination proved superior as she secured a half-length win in a course record time of 2:12.38.
Toskana Belle held second by three-quarters of a length over a late rallying Miss Yearwood, who completed the trifecta as the longest shot in the field. Beside Herself, Canisy and Nostalgic rounded out the order of finish.
Ortiz, Jr., who secured his first Jockey Club Oaks victory, said he made an early move to target his chief rival Toskana Belle.
“I moved a little earlier because she’s that kind of filly that needs to start going a little earlier,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “The horse I had to beat was in front of me, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ I let her go and do her thing a little earlier than usual and she got the job done. She still had something in the tank. After the trip I got, I was confident that I would still have some horse if I decide to do that.”
Ortiz, Jr. added that McKulick drifted outward slightly in the stretch drive after eyeing something in the infield.
“After we made the lead, I think she spooked a little bit,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “I was able to correct her right away. I switched my stick and she responded really well. She was there for me.”
Brown, who was at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale during the race, praised Ortiz, Jr. for a well-timed ride and credited bloodstock agent Mike Ryan in the selection of McKulick, who was purchased at the 2020 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale.
“Irad rode a great race. It lined up perfect for him. He was tracking the eventual runner-up the whole way. It was a beautiful trip,” said Brown, who won last year’s race with Shantisara. “I thought maybe he was moving a little early, but he knew what he was doing. He timed it right. I’m so proud of him. He’s really come through for us every race and ridden her great.
“I’m really happy for everyone involved. Seth Klarman [owner, Klaravich Stables] is having another great season and I really appreciate his support supplying our team with a lot of nice horses,” Brown added. “Of course, Mike and Mary Ryan picked the horse out at Tattersalls and they’re a big part of the team. It’s not easy going over there and sorting through a lot of horses and finding prospects like this one.”
McKulick is a sentimental horse for Brown, who named the filly after his late bookkeeper and first employee Mary McKulick.
“There’s obviously a story behind this filly. So, it’s special that the filly is having a great year,” Brown said. “It was an excellent race. I’m so proud of the filly and my team.”
Internationally acclaimed jockey Frankie Dettori said Toskana Belle, winner of the Group 3 German Oaks at Dusseldorf, did not handle the tighter turns at the Big A.
“I had a good trip. The only thing on the inner track, the turns are so tight she found it very difficult to negotiate them,” Dettori said. “I lost a lot of momentum on the turns and then she did her best work on the straight. The damage was done around the turns.”
Andreas Wohler, trainer of Toskana Belle, concurred and did not rule out another trip to North America for the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf on November 5 at Keeneland.
“She ran a great race. The jockey just said she didn’t handle the sharp turns very well and she lost a bit of momentum coming around the home bend and it took her awhile to get going again,” said Wohler, who won the 2017 Grade 3 Belmont Gold Cup with Red Cardinal. “We’ll see how she comes back. Maybe we’ll come back later [for the Breeders’ Cup].”
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