Racing Roundtable: Classic Causeway takes to turf, McKulick fit for Breeders' Cup

July 12th, 2022

In this week's Racing Roundtable, James Scully, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson look back on the Belmont Derby (G1) and reflect on the performances of McKulick and Interstatedaydream in their respective stakes races over the weekend.

What are your takeaways from Classic Causeway’s upset in the Belmont Derby?

James Scully: The move to turf paid immediate dividends, and Classic Causeway won’t be overlooked moving forward. Dismissed at 26-1, the frontrunning colt had things his own way throughout the Belmont Derby, which lends itself to skepticism, but Classic Causeway will get the opportunity to back it up in the $1 million Saratoga Derby (G1) on Aug. 6. His next start will provide a better gauge.

Vance Hanson: Classic Causeway justified trainer Kenny McPeek’s belief that the colt’s physical makeup and natural ability would be well suited to running on grass, but the race’s complexion was indeed changed by the scratching of Emmanuel, which left Classic Causeway as the lone speed. The major European threats were also undone by having to make up too much ground, the result, arguably, of rides that were too confident. While he was the best horse on the day, Classic Causeway figures to find circumstances more challenging next time, perhaps in the Saratoga Derby. Slower on raw time than the Belmont Oaks (G1), this race really flattered no one.

Ashley Anderson: A two-week turnaround and a first try on turf was no obstacle for the 26-1 longshot, but as Vance mentioned, the scratching of wire-to-wire Pennine Ridge S. (G2) winner Emmanuel affected the pace setup, which ultimately benefited Classic Causeway. McPeek proved he was right in trusting Classic Causeway's pedigree would result in him performing well on the grass, but I'll reserve judgement on his full potential until after he races in the Saratoga Derby.

Is McKulick potentially a serious candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1)?

JS: Mckulick impressed in the Belmont Oaks (G1), but let’s not get too carried away following her initial stakes victory. The three-year-old daughter of Frankel appears to be coming into her own, offering a powerful late kick to defeat a nice field on Saturday, and Chad Brown is loaded with talented turf females this year.
VH: McKulick will stick to running against three-year-olds in the short term (i.e. Saratoga Oaks [G3]) and presumably in the slightly longer term as well, but a strong showing in a race like the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) could have connections thinking Breeders’ Cup if she continues to excel. This year’s Filly and Mare Turf at Keeneland will be run over 1 3/16 miles, which still might be on the short side for McKulick, but there’s no questioning the filly is coming into her own at the moment and the sky is the limit. However, no American-based three-year-old has ever won the Filly and Mare Turf, so there will be history to buck.
AA: The Frankel filly clocked a career-high 97 Brisnet Speed rating in her first Grade 1 stakes and beat out five European invaders, including Aidan O’Brien pupil Concert Hall, along with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) third-placer and stablemate Haughty. The Chad Brown trainee rebounded from back-to-back second-place finishes in both the Edgewood (G2) and Regret (G3), in which she was the 4-5 favorite. The added distance in the Belmont Oaks proved beneficial under jockey Irad Ortiz, as McKulick was able to fully display her strong closing kick. She could be a serious threat in the 1 3/16-mile Filly & Mare Turf at Keeneland.

Where do you see Interstatedaydream in the division pecking order following her Indiana Oaks (G3) win?

JS: Interstatedaydream is progressing for Brad Cox, notching her second consecutive graded win on Saturday, and the Indiana Oaks came back faster than the Indiana Derby one race later on the program. Similar to recent Mother Goose winner Gerrymander, Interstatedaydream has something going for her, but both fillies rank a tier below the top two in the division, Secret Oath and Nest.
VH: Interstatedaydream won the Indiana Oaks in a time .70 seconds faster than the winning time in the Indiana Derby, so that’s one thing to like about her going forward. Following back-to-back wins in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and Indiana Oaks, she’s deserving of a step up against tougher company, and a race like Cotillion (G1) might be on the radar. Secret Oath and Nest are at the top of an increasingly fascinating division, but Interstatedaydream is in that scrum right behind that pair and you can’t discount her chances of making her presence felt against them and others in the coming months.
AA: While she recorded her second straight graded stakes win Saturday, she is still a step below Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath and Belmont S. (G1) second-place finisher Nest, who each own at least one Grade 1 victory. Acorn (G1) winner Matareya and Mother Goose S. (G2) romper Gerrymander have also recently ascended the ladder in the three-year-old female division. Interstatedaydream is rapidly improving, but I see her outside the top five of the division at the moment.