OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Australian Bloodstock’s Toskana Belle will be representing multiple flags when making her North American debut in Saturday’s Grade 3, $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks, a 1 3/8-mile inner turf test for sophomores fillies, at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
Bred in France and campaigned in Germany by trainer Andreas Wohler, Toskana Belle enters the final leg of the filly division of the Caesars Turf Triple series off a narrow triumph at 16-1 odds in the Group 1 Pries der Diana [German Oaks] on August 7 at Dusseldorf.
The chestnut daughter of Shamalgan, a multiple champion in the Czech Republic, displayed frontrunning speed in the 1 3/8-mile test over good ground and maintained her lead in the stretch drive, fending off a late rally from Wagnis to win by a head.
Luke Murrell, Director of Australian Bloodstock, said Toskana Belle should appreciate firm footing.
“She’s just desperate for the firmer ground and she’s really tough,” Murrell said. “In Australia, we call it a ‘dead track’ and that’s what she raced on the other day when she won the German Oaks. It’s not rock hard firm like you would get in the States or in Australia, but it’s certainly not mush or up to their fetlocks type either.”
Toskana Belle provided Australian Bloodstock with their third German Oaks victory, previously winning with Turfdonna  and Salomina . Murrell expressed interest in making the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf on November 5 at Keeneland with Toskana Belle should she parlay her winning form on this side of the pond.
“We won the German Oaks a couple other times and she’s probably the best racehorse that we’ve won it with so far,” Murrell said. “There’s so much money to be won travelling these fillies and obviously you can get that firmer ground in the United States. Hopefully, she can have a good little campaign with this run and then maybe in the Breeders’ Cup.”
Prior to the German Oaks, Toskana Belle was third in the Group 3 Diana Trial going 10 furlongs on June 5 at Hoppegarten after posting a one-mile stakes win at Dusseldorf in May. She broke her maiden over good-soft ground in a nine-furlong test at Evreux in France.
“We’re heading in there with a bit of confidence,” Murrell said. “Arguably, she could be unbeaten. She got a questionable ride in the Group 3 and the market sort of discounted her for the Oaks and that’s why she was such a big price.”
Murrell noted Toskana Belle’s strong gallop out in the German Oaks, in which she garnered a 105 Timeform Rating, and added that her efforts have appeared to be on par with that of her elder counterparts.
“I’ve got a real opinion of her. She’s the only horse in Germany all year to run equal to the older horses,” Murrell said. “All the other 3-year-olds the last couple of years haven’t been able to do that. She’s been able to run better times than them. She ran a record over in France and just has run fast times and fast splits. She’s not one of those typical 3-year-olds that will only be a 3-year-old, I think she’ll really train on next year and be able to compete in some top-level stuff. Andreas seems very confident that she’s traveled well. She’s the right type to bring so hopefully she shows up.”
Australian Bloodstock, based in Newcastle, New South Wales, has garnered North American success before with Wohler, capturing the Grade 3 Belmont Gold Cup [now a Grade 2] in 2017 with Red Cardinal. Wohler also is no stranger to success in North America, shipping Silvano to the states in 2001 for a victorious engagement in the Grade 1 Arlington Million and winning Woodbine’s Grade 2 Sky Classic in 2008 with Lauro.
“We have a select few, about a half-dozen in Europe, and around 100 to 150 here in Australia,” Murrell said. “I always look at America because there’s obviously a lot of black type races over there and it really adds something when you try to market these fillies if they have European and American form, a lot of the breeders like that. She’s just one of those horses that should absolutely love those conditions. She likes to be out on the front. She’s got a kick and a good turn of foot, and she’s got some heart about her. The only thing we wouldn’t want to see is a wet track.”
Murrell spoke highly of the German breeding program, which has produced American Grade 1-winners A Raving Beauty, winner of the Just a Game and First Lady in 2018, and 2005 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Shirocco.
“For a population that produces about 600 foals a year, they’ve got this staggeringly good record of producing world champion after world champion. They can certainly breed a top horse on the international stage,” Murrell said.
Should she win, Toskana Belle is sure to receive a flying dismount from internationally acclaimed rider Frankie Dettori, who will pilot the filly for the first time on Saturday. Dettori is also slated to climb aboard Grade 1 Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational winner Nations Pride for the Grade 3, $1 million Caesars Jockey Club Derby on the same day.
“He’s obviously bigger than life, Frankie,” Murrell said. “We were going to have Ryan Moore ride, but he had to ride one for Coolmore [Victoria Road in the Group 3 Prix de Conde at Chantilly]. We’ve had some luck with him in the past having won the [Group 1] Melbourne Cup [aboard Protectionist in 2014] with Ryan, but Frankie was good enough to hang around and ride for us. Andreas has won races with us before, we had Red Cardinal win over there a few years ago, so hopefully we can do it again.
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