For Chad Brown's Team, McKulick's Win a Special One

Mary McKulick | Family Photo


Chad Brown has won so many big races with so many good horses that he can be forgiven if sometimes they all start to run together. But, for Brown, Sunday's second race at Saratoga will never be just another victory. The winner of the maiden special weight for 2-year-old fillies was named McKulick (GB) (Frankel {GB}). She was named after Brown's first-ever employee, bookkeeper Mary McKulick. McKulick passed away last October at the age of 67, losing a battle with cancer.

“When I decided to go out on my own, the very first person I hired was Mary,” Brown said. “She turned into my business partner and she became my most trusted co-worker, my closest confidante. She did so much for the company as it grew to the size it is today. She was so instrumental in our success and there's no possible way I could have done it without her.”

It was toward the end of the 2019 meet at Saratoga and shortly after McKulick retired that she got the diagnosis that she had biliary cancer. When Brown found about it, he reached out to Dr. Vince Miller.

Miller is a horse owner, horseplayer and a renowned oncologist who had come to know Brown over the years. Biliary cancer is not his specialty, but he is well-connected and was able to open up some doors for McKulick. McKulick was able to jump to the top of the line and was seen by some of the foremost experts in the world in the field of bile duct cancers.

“What Chad wanted to do was get us to the best place possible ASAP,” McKulick's widower, Ron, explained. “He was truly instrumental in getting that done.”

“They formed a new treatment plan for her that undoubtedly extended her life,” Brown said.

McKulick said that his late wife responded well to the treatment at first and that her tumors shrank over a period of about six months. Eventually, he said, “they came back with a vengeance.”

It was right about the time that McKulick passed away that Mike and Mary Ryan had picked out what they thought could be a future star at the 2020 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale. Brown was not able to attend the sale, but Mike Ryan signed the ticket for him, purchasing the daughter of Frankel for 180,000 guineas. The filly was handed over to Ian Brennan, whose job was to get her ready for the races. It didn't take him long to figure out that she might just have a bright future.

“She was broke at Stonestreet Farm by Ian Brennan and his team and Ian, fairly early on, identified her as one who had above-average talent,” Brown said. “On my various trips to the farm over the winter I certainly liked what I saw.”

Brown had already had the idea of naming a horse after McKulick. In the case of the Frankel filly, not only were good repots coming out of Stonestreet, but Brown took notice of the sire. Frankel is named, of course, for Brown's mentor, the late Bobby Frankel.

“When I left Frankel and went out on my own, Mary was the first person I hired,” Brown said. “That's another reason this horse connected with me.”

Brown had no problem convincing owner Seth Klarman to name the horse after Mary McKulick.

“On Preakness day, I reached out to Chad,” McKulick said. “I know how busy the guy is, but I just wanted to wish him well and tell him I'd be rooting for him. He texted me back right away and said he had a filly about to come to his barn and that he was going to name her after Mary. I was so impressed by his thoughtfulness.”

Had McKulick not panned out as a race horse the story would not have turned out the way it has. The race, run at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the grass, was a typical Saratoga maiden, loaded with horses with potential. Brown, himself, had the horse to beat, a first-time-starter named Consumer Spending (More Than Ready), a $200,000 yearling purchase also owned by Klarman. McKulick proved to be the best of the group, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over her stablemate.

Brown watched the race alongside retired trainer Phil Hauswald, who is Mary McKulick's brother.

“When the horses hit the wire, it was a very emotional moment for Phil and me,” Brown said. “I am told many of her family members were watching the race back in Indiana. (The McKulicks are from New Albany, Indiana). It was just a great, great moment. I was emotional myself. She meant so much to so many people. I was trying to do my part to keep her legacy alive.”

That he's done.

It's too early to tell what McKulick will accomplish on the racetrack. But based on her debut, her pedigree and her trainer's dominance of the turf stakes program in New York, it's not hard to envision her going on to win graded stakes. Maybe there will even be a Breeders' Cup appearance in her future.

“Everyone knows that Chad is an excellent horseman and an excellent businessperson,” McKulick said. “In his own understated way, he is a very caring and thoughtful person. He didn't have to do any of this. But he had such a good and strong relationship with Mary through all the years they worked together. I imagine he has that same sentiment toward a number of people who work with him. I give him a whole lot of credit for being a really good standup guy. I am very grateful.”

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