Seth Klarman and William Lawrence's Bricks and Mortar turned in a performance that could secure him the Horse of the Year title in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Turf. Sent off as the even-money favorite in the field of 12 despite trying the 1 1/2-mile distance for the first time in his career, the 5-year-old son of Giant's Causeway needed every inch of the stretch to run down 50-1 longshot United and hit the wire with his head in front. Now undefeated through six starts in 2019, including the five Grade 1 races, the Chad Brown-trained Bricks and Mortar completed the contest over Santa Anita's firm turf course in 2:24.73.
“This horse is remarkable,” said Brown. “This is the biggest win of my career, and the biggest for my team, for sure. He has a lot of guts. What an awesome horse. We're so, so fortunate he's in our barn.
“It takes a remarkable team of really talented men and women to hold a horse together like this (remain undefeated with five Grade 1 wins). I can't say enough about the individuals who worked with this horse throughout this campaign. Without them we wouldn't be here.”
It was the third Breeders' Cup win on the weekend for jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., who also won with Four Wheel Drive in the Juvenile Turf Sprint and Spun to Run in the Dirt Mile.
“This is a special horse,” said Ortiz. “He might be the best I've ever ridden. Today, he was a little keen with me, so we were closer to the pace than normal. So, I just tried to get him to relax. When I asked him to run, I looked behind me and saw we were clear. He saw that other horse in front of us and he fought all the way to the wire. I knew it was very close, but I thought we won it. I'm so happy!”
Leaving the gate from stall nine Bricks and Mortar had to use a bit of early speed to secure early position in about fourth, sandwiched between two rivals. He settled easily into stride through the early stages of the race, awaiting his chance down the backstretch.
Acclimate was the sharpest off the blocks and went out to secure the early lead by two lengths, chased by the duo of Bandua and United through fractions of :24.81, :48.44, and 1:13.26. Behind that duo was Bricks and Mortar between Channel Maker and Anthony Van Dyck.
Rounding the far turn, Bandua got first run on the leader and briefly took the lead at the head of the stretch. He was overtaken by United at the three-sixteenths pole, but Bricks and Mortar had yet to reach full stride.
Ortiz asked the horse for his best run when he changed leads, and Bricks and Mortar dug in down the lane. United was a game rival, but the determined Bricks and Mortar prevailed by a head on the wire. Anthony Van Dyck finished third, while Zulu Alpha closed from the back of the field to be fourth.
“I wasn't sure until he hit the wire,” Brown admitted. “He needed every inch of the mile and a half. I was worried when he was in between horses. I talked to Irad and he said he was pulling the whole way so he gave him his head and let him get in the clear, and once he saw daylight he just went.”
The full order of finish was: Bricks and Mortar, United, Anthony Van Dyck, Zulu Alpha, Alounak, Mount Everest, Channel Cat, Arklow, Acclimate, Bandua, Old Persian, and Channel Maker.
Bred in Kentucky by George Strawbridge, Jr., Bricks and Mortar is out of the Ocean Crest mare Beyond the Waves. A $200,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland September sale, the horse did not debut until his sophomore season but went undefeated in his first four starts, including the G2 Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga. Third-place finishes in his next two starts saw Bricks and Mortar go to the shelf for more than a year, but he returned with a vengeance at the end of 2018. An allowance win in December set him up to win the G1 Pegasus World Cup Turf, and this year he's added wins in the G1 Turf Classic, G1 Manhattan, and G1 Arlington Million.
“We just went race to race and when we got through each one it was, 'OK, what are we going to do next? There were a lot of things to decide,” Brown explained. “A mile and a half, do we run him after the Arlington Million, can I get this horse ready after 13 weeks? I just reached down and talked to Bobby (Frankel). I have to thank him, too. We found the knowledge. I wouldn't be here right now without Bobby Frankel. He launched me and to get to a training fest like this, you have to go into his textbook and pull out bits and pieces that maybe he used in the past. It certainly helped me today.”
Overall, Bricks and Mortar has won 11 of his 13 lifetime starts to earn over $7 million. He was sold to Shadai Stallion Station in Japan prior to competing in the Breeders' Cup, and is expected to begin stud duties there in time for the 2020 breeding season.
“I have to thank Mike Ryan, my partner, for finding the horses and picking them out,” Brown concluded. “We do this together. Without Mike, we would have never bought this horse.”
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