In a measure of just how deep trainer Chad Brown’s bench runs, Bricks and Mortar made his case for comeback player of the year in Saturday’s $6,708,329 Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) at Gulfstream Park. A horse who did not even contribute toward Brown’s third consecutive Eclipse Award – one who’d fallen off the radar due to injury – ran out a convincing winner of the inaugural sister race to the $9 million Pegasus World Cup on dirt.
The Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence colorbearer had loads of back class from his sophomore campaign in 2017. Indeed, he’d beaten Pegasus Turf favorite Yoshida in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) at Saratoga, and when Yoshida turned the tables in their next two, Bricks and Mortar could point to problematic trips. Unfortunately, as Yoshida progressed into a headliner at four, Bricks and Mortar was convalescing and beginning his long road back.
That turned out to be something of a blessing in disguise, for the son of Giant’s Causeway was ready for action just as his high-powered stablemates were going on their winter holiday. A sharp comeback score off the 14-month layoff on December 22 propelled Bricks and Mortar into the Pegasus Turf. His prior resume made him the 5-2 second choice, despite venturing into terra incognita at the trip, and on rain-softened going.
The 1 3/16-mile race drew an evenly matched domestic cast plus two classy internationals in Aidan O’Brien’s Magic Wand and Japan’s Aerolithe. Both shippers took the plunge in hopes of quick conditions in sunny Florida, only to find it cool, rainy, and worse still, yielding.
As expected, the speedy Fahan Mura bounded to the lead through an opening quarter in :22.94. Aerolithe was traveling well in second, until the pace slackened at the half-mile mark in :47.93. She relapsed into her too-eager ways, came up empty, and dropped back on the far turn. At the same time, Catapult lived up to his name by firing around the field prematurely, and he commandeered the lead through six furlongs in 1:11.60.
Meanwhile, Bricks and Mortar was reserved by a patient Irad Ortiz Jr., who wisely preferred to lose a bit of position on the backstretch rather than push the button too soon. After Frankie Dettori sent Delta Prince down turning for home, and wrested control in the stretch, then Ortiz called upon his mount.
Rallying on the outside, Bricks and Mortar answered every question about both distance and ground. The five-year-old picked up in style and drew off by 2 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:54.59.
Magic Wand, saving ground throughout, coped with conditions well enough to outkick Delta Prince for second. A neck up on him in this first try versus males, the Galileo filly made her trek from Ireland worthwhile.
Catapult unsurprisingly weakened to fourth after his middle move, prompting the question of how much closer the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) runner-up could have been with a less aggressive ride. Channel Maker trudged on for fifth, keeping his head in front of fellow Bill Mott pupil Yoshida, who closed mildly from last. Next came Next Shares, the 119-1 longshot Dubby Dubbie, Aerolithe, and Fahan Mura.
Bricks and Mortar advanced his scorecard to 8-6-0-2, $3,018,250. Beginning his career at three, the dark bay broke his maiden at Gulfstream, cleared his entry-level allowance condition at Belmont, and went last to first in his stakes debut in the 2017 Manila. Bricks and Mortar upended Yoshida in the aforementioned National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, but had to settle for third in the Saranac (G3) and Hill Prince (G3). He missed virtually all of his four-year-old campaign, until resurfacing in December.
Bred by George Strawbridge Jr. in Kentucky, Bricks and Mortar brought $200,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. He is a half-brother to four stakes performers, most notably Grade 3 scorer Emerald Beech and multiple stakes winner Beyond Smart. They are all out of the Ocean Crest mare Beyond the Waves, a French stakes heroine whose five Group placings include the 2000 Prix de Royallieu (G2).
Quotes from Gulfstream Park
Winning rider Irad Ortiz Jr.: “I got a perfect trip. My horse put me in a good position and just held it together, saving ground. When I got kicked him out, he exploded.
“The horse is good, but the trainer we have to get him credit. He gave him some time off and brought him back, give him one race in the allowance race and bring him back ready for this race. That’s a lot of work. Not too many trainers can do that. He’s got good horses, but he knows what he’s doing, and he’s really good, too.”
Winning trainer Chad Brown: “Irad rode him beautiful. The horse came ready and handled the course. Everything worked out perfectly.
“For a little while there, I didn’t think I’d have a horse for the race. I had been resting a lot of them. Bricks and Mortar came in fresh when I was resting other ones. Thanks to (owners) Seth (Klarman) and Bill (Lawrence), they were game enough to put up a big entry fee and give it a shot. The horse just performed beautifully.
“Ian Brennan at Stonestreet Farm did a terrific job rehabbing this horse. Dr. Larry Bramlage worked on this horse about 16 months ago when it looked like he might have a career-ending injury. He fixed him. There was a lot of teamwork, a lot of patience. When you go into a race this big take a big gamble – it paid off today.”
Jockey Frankie Dettori on third-placer Delta Prince: “He ran a super race. He has a big heart. He was going so well that I thought turning for home, ‘We’ve got this.’ Just got outrun by two good horses in the end. Super effort. It paid for the expenses – and the night out.”
Delta Prince’s trainer Jimmy Jerkens: “He had him in a nice spot and he made a nice gradual move. He looked awful tough turning for home but that turf is soft and that was a good horse who won it obviously. Maybe if my horse had been out in a little bit better part of the turf where there haven’t been as many horses running but (the winner) just pulled away from us. (Delta Prince) just got a little tired at the end to lose second but we were really thrilled with his effort.”
Trainer John Sadler on fourth-placer Catapult: “Kind of a strange ride. I thought he moved way too soon. He was in front with a half-mile to go. I thought he’d be covered up a little longer. Maybe he got a little rank, but I haven’t spoken to the jock yet. He ran very well, but a strange trip.”
Catapult’s jockey Joel Rosario: “He broke fine. At one point in the race, I went on the outside and I had him covered up for a second and then I just let him go on with it because I was grabbing him too much at one point. I thought for a second we were going to be fine but probably that hurt him a little bit for the end.”
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott on Channel Maker and Yoshida, the respective fifth and sixth: “(Channel Maker is) a little hard to handle sometimes and sometimes he’ll try and run up on heels. But it looks like eventually he got him out and he had the clear length of the stretch to run them down and just couldn’t do it.
“The bottom line is (Yoshida) wasn’t making up much ground on them from the eighth pole to the wire. I’m not going to give him a huge excuse. As it turns out, maybe Yoshida is going to be better on the dirt.”
Florent Geroux, who rode Aerolithe in ninth: “I was very disappointed to be honest because she got away from the gate very sharply. I got a great position. I was laying second off the filly on the lead (Fahan Mura). So I was in the perfect spot and it didn’t feel like the pace was going crazy fast. I felt like I was controlling things. When Catapult came to me – I thought he came a little bit soon – but when he came next to me, she had no response. She just gave up right away.”