'It's Mind-Boggling' – O'Brien Shares All About Belmont Heroine McKulick

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Adrian and Philippa O'Brien | Emma Berry

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Adrian O'Brien, who under the banner of Hazelwood Bloodstock, raised and consigned GI Belmont Oaks winner McKulick (GB) (Frankel {GB}) on behalf of her breeder Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, has opened up about what Saturday's top-level triumph means to everyone on his farm. 

Hazelwood Bloodstock, which O'Brien set up alongside his wife Philippa in 2016, boards up to 30 mares with an emphasis on quality over quantity. 

In Astrelle (Ire) (Makfi {GB}), the dam of McKulick and one of the first mares to walk through the gates at O'Brien's base in Newmarket, he has certainly been dealing with quality. 

“She's not the biggest, nor is she the flashiest, but bloody hell she puts big engines into them,” – Adrian O'Brien on Astrelle, the dam of McKulick

A solid mare on the track with Marco Botti, Astrelle achieved black-type and reached a rating of 100 in her pomp. However, it's as a broodmare where she has excelled. 

Fearless King (GB) (Kingman {GB}), her first foal, landed the G2 German Guineas in 2020 and now stands at Gestut Helenenhof while Just Beautiful (GB) (Pride Of Dubai {Aus}) won the G3 Sceptre S. at Doncaster before selling to BBA Ireland on behalf of Moyglare Stud for 625,000gns at the Tattersalls December Mare Sale last year.

McKulick has continued the trend for Astrelle and O'Brien revealed that he scarcely can remember a mare to have enjoyed a better start at stud.

He told TDN Europe, “We're very fortunate to have some exceptional clients and we have had the pleasure of taking nice horses to the sales. We've topped six yearling sales in the past five years and that's all well and good but, unless they are doing it on the track, we are wasting our time. 

“As the caretaker of this horse [McKulick] from the time she was born until the hammer fell [for 180,000gns to Mike Ryan at Book 1 at the Tattersalls Yearling Sale in 2020], it was enormously satisfying. 

“Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, who bred McKulick and raced her dam Astrelle, is also thrilled. He invests a lot in racing all over the world and I can guarantee that he got a great buzz out of the success.”

O'Brien added, “We opened our doors in 2016 and Astrelle was one of the first mares we covered. She was here as a maiden in her first year. That first foal became Fearless King, who won the German 2,000 Guineas. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum bred and retained an interest in Pride Of Dubai, which is why she went to him next, with the resulting foal turning out to be Just Beautiful. Then this filly [McKulick] came along. I can't remember a mare to get off to a better start.”

With a Cracksman (GB) (Frankel {GB}) 2-year-old in training with Andrew Balding and a couple of well-bred youngsters coming through the ranks, the future for Astrelle, and indeed Hazelwood Bloodstock, is bright. 

O'Brien said, “She has a Cracksman 2-year-old, who Alastair Donald bought at Tattersalls last year [for 200,000gns] on behalf of King Power, and I believe he is in training with Andrew Balding. There is some serious pressure on that horse now!

“She also has a yearling filly by Calyx (GB), who will be retained, unsurprisingly, and she has a Pinatubo (Ire) filly foal at foot. She missed on a late cover this year but will be ready to roll at the end of February but we haven't had the conversation about which sire she will visit. 

“She's only 10 years of age. It's mind-boggling. She's not the biggest, nor is she the flashiest, but bloody hell she puts big engines into them.”

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