In what turned out to be a sprint during the final quarter-mile of Saturday’s $671,000 Jockey Club Oaks (G3), McKulick outkicked German invader Toskana Belle to win the 1 3/8-mile grass feature at Aqueduct by a half-length, giving McKulick two wins in NYRA’s Triple Tiara series for three-year-old turf fillies.
Winner of the Belmont Oaks (G1) in July and second last out in the Saratoga Oaks (G3), McKulick rated in fourth for most of the opening mile. Advancing to third on the final turn, McKulick made a three-wide turning for home under Irad Ortiz Jr. and proved game in fending off the German Oaks (G1) winner, who had three parts of a lengths on 23-1 longest shot Miss Yearwood. The order of finish was rounded out by Beside Herself, Canisy, and Nostalgic.
“I moved a little earlier because she’s that kind of filly that needs to start going a little earlier,” Ortiz said. “The horse I had to beat (Toskana Belle) 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.
Frankie Dettori, who rode Toskana Belle, felt the tight turns of Aqueduct’s inner turf worked against his filly.
“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.”
Owned by Klaravich Stables and trained by Chad Brown, McKulick paid $3.60 as the 4-5 favorite and covered the distance in a course-record 2:12.28 over the inner turf, which until this fall had never been used in the relatively dry, summer-like conditions prevalent in mid-September. The previous mark of 2:13.16 had been set on Friday’s card by Dream Works.
A winner on debut at Saratoga last August, McKulick finished third in the Miss Grillo (G2) at Belmont in her only other juvenile appearance. She preceded her victory in the Belmont Oaks this summer with second-place finishes in the Edgewood (G2) and Regret (G3), both at Churchill Downs. She’s now earned $1,088,650.
Bred in England by Essafinaat UK, McKulick is a Frankel half-sister to German 2000 Guineas (G2) winner Fearless King and the Group 3-winning Just Beautiful. All were produced by the Group 3-place Astrelle, a daughter of Makfi.