Bloodlines: Japan’s Grass Is Greener For Stallion Prospects Like Turf Star Bricks And Mortar

by | 08.13.2019 | 12:03pm
Arlington Million winner Bricks and Mortar, a son of Giant's Causeway

The Grade 1 Arlington Million became the 10th victory in 12 starts for Bricks and Mortar (by Giant's Causeway), who is a virtual certainty to be divisional champion and is also a serious contender for Horse of the Year.

Not since Kotashaan (Darshaan) in 1993 has a turf champion exerted the prowess to become Horse of the Year without racing on dirt, as well. [Wise Dan was a multiple graded stakes winner on dirt, including the G1 Clark Handicap, although he did not race on that surface in 2013, the season he won his second Horse of the Year title.]

In 1993, however, after winning six of nine North American starts, including the Breeders' Cup Turf, Kotashaan was sold to a Japanese breeding group and sent to Japan. There he ran second in the Japan Cup, then was retired to be a stallion at Lex Stud in 1994.

Now Shadai Farm in Japan has announced that it has acquired the breeding rights to Bricks and Mortar and will stand the son of Giant's Causeway at its stallion station on Hokkaido in 2020.

One reason that Shadai, rather than a Kentucky farm, will send Bricks and Mortar to stud next year is that Bricks and Mortar is considered a “turf horse,” just like Kotashaan was 26 years ago. The prejudice against turf horses as sires in North America is too entrenched to be argued away.

But let me point out that Sir Gallahad III, Bull Dog, Blenheim, Heliopolis, Nasrullah, Vaguely Noble, Sir Ivor, Nijinsky II, and Giant's Causeway were turf horses. And all became leading sires.

Overall, those sires were not influences for purely six-furlong dirt speed. But good Thoroughbreds are good Thoroughbreds, and good sires are good sires. The subtleties of what makes one individual better suited to one surface or another are too intricate for generalization.

In a breeding environment that tries to pigeonhole sires, Giant's Causeway is a paragon of versatility. His sons and daughters have won major stakes on all surfaces, at all ages, and at nearly all distances. The best Giant's Causeway juvenile in North America was surely First Samurai (Champagne and Hopeful), best juvenile filly was Take Charge Brandi (champion 2-year-old filly, Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies), but Brody's Cause, Carpe Diem, and Creative Cause were all G1 winners at 2 and are all young sires. Giant's Causeway has more than two dozen other G1 winners around the world, including the Ascot Gold Cup winner Rite of Passage.

And as a racing proposition, Bricks and Mortar is closer to his sire than many of the others. His best form is clearly 8 to 10 furlongs, and the good-looking horse has the patience to lay off the pace and finish with great intensity, as well as the natural speed to press it when called upon.

So he should have a good chance to make a noteworthy sire for insightful Japanese breeders. Horsemen in Asia are especially conscious of Giant's Causeway and his sons due to the exploits of such racers as Able Friend, a multiple G1 winner and racing legend in Hong Kong, Pakistan Star, a multiple G1 winner in Hong Kong, and Dunboyne Express, a multiple G1 winner in Hong Kong and Singapore. All are by classic winner and leading sire Shamardal, the most commercially vital son of Giant's Causeway.

A winner of the Dewhurst Stakes at 2 and the French colts classics at 3 (Poule d'Essai des Poulains and Prix du Jockey Club), Shamardal is one of the most robust sources of speed in Europe, and the bay stallion has sired classic winners like Lope de Vega, now a successful sire, as well as the speed sensation of 2019 in Blue Point, who won the G1 King's Stand and Diamond Jubilee during the Royal Ascot meeting two months ago.

But the stallion managers of Kentucky noted that, unless Bricks and Mortar raced outside of the turf division and won at the highest level with aplomb, he would not be a commercial prospect for the Bluegrass. The key to that reasoning is that a contemporary stallion's book is not filled by 20 to 40 syndicate members sending one or two mares apiece to the horse.

That was the book size from 30 and 40 years ago, but today that wouldn't warm up a booking secretary when books for popular stallions regularly fill with 125 to 250 mares annually. The larger volume of mares doesn't guarantee greater profits because the larger stud fee earnings cause the purchase prices for stallions to increase correspondingly.

The larger books, however, give stallions a much increased opportunity to have a larger number of attractive yearlings, to have more starters and winners, and perhaps even to sire the star performer that is a young sire's license to remain viable and perhaps even rise to the top of the heap like Scat Daddy and many another before him.

Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in Central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.

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