Getting the extra distance she’d been craving, McKulick stormed to a 1 3/4-length win Saturday in the $700,000 Belmont Oaks (G1) against an international field going 1 1/4 miles.
Rated in midpack by Irad Ortiz Jr., McKulick launched her bid on the far turn and wore down English raider With the Moonlight inside the final furlong to give trainer Chad Brown his sixth Belmont Oaks win in the last 11 years.
“She was really born to run a mile and a quarter. We were patiently waiting for a long time to get her to this distance, and my whole team did a super job with this horse in all divisions this filly has been in throughout this year,” Brown said.
McKulick is a daughter of undefeated superstar Frankel, while Brown was formerly an assistant to that horse’s namesake, the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel.
“It’s an extra special win with it being Bobby Frankel’s birthday today,” Brown said. “This horse is the first offspring of Frankel that I actually bought. (Owner) Seth Klarman was nice enough to let me name this filly after my very first employee after I left Frankel, that’s why I chose this horse being by Frankel. And wouldn’t you know on his birthday she wins a Grade 1. The irony and the importance of it today, on his birthday means everything to me personally.”
McKulick won in a time of 1:59.62 on firm ground and paid $12.80 as the third choice in a field of 10 three-year-old fillies. With the Moonlight, one of five European invaders, held second by a head over Consumer Spending, who also races for Klarman and is trained by Brown. It was another length back to Concert Hall, the 2.90-1 favorite. Completing the order of finish were Cairo Memories, Hot Queen, Know Thyself, New Year’s Eve, Haughty, and Agartha.
The Belmont Oaks was the first career stakes win for McKulick, who won on debut at Saratoga last August prior to a third-place effort in the Miss Grillo (G2) in her juvenile finale. She preceded Saturday’s win with a pair of second-place finishes at Churchill Downs, in the Edgewood (G2) and Regret (G3).
“In both races, it didn’t work out for her,” Brown said. “She needed more ground and she was out of position a bit. But she ran well. Not every horse handled Churchill’s turf course, it was kind of feast or famine and she was one that did. But she never got the pace set up that she needed for just a little bit of help.”
Bred in England by Essafinaat UK, McKulick is out of the Group 3-placed Astrelle, a Makfi half-sister to Group 2 winner Porsenna. Astrelle has also reared German 2000 Guineas (G2) winner Fearless King and Group 3 heroine Just Beautiful.