October 21, 2020

Bricks and Mortar barely averts upset in Muniz; Core Beliefs fires off bench in N.O. ‘Cap

Bricks and Mortar, with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard, gets a nose in front of Markitoff under Tyler Gaffalione to win the 27th running of theMuniz Memorial Handicap (G2) at Fair Grounds on March 23, 2019 (c) Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges Jr.

As the winner of the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s Bricks and Mortar was bet down to 1-5 favoritism in Saturday’s $291,000 Mervin Muniz Memorial (G2) at Fair Grounds, but the finish proved much closer. The longest shot on the board, 62-1 Markitoff, nearly pulled off a front-running shocker only to go down battling by a pixel.

Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Bricks and Mortar was giving weight all around as the 125-pound highweight. Markitoff tried his best to capitalize on his nine-pound concession, and as the controlling speed in a scratch-reduced race devoid of pace.

After carving out splits of :24.82, :51.07, and 1:15.28 on the firm turf, Markitoff picked up the tempo in the stretch, and the closers were in a tactically difficult position to quicken faster than he did. Bricks and Mortar was in the best spot, from a tracking second, and even he had a fight on his hands once collaring Markitoff at the mile mark in 1:39.11. Markitoff came back on the favorite through the final desperate furlong, as the gladiators made contact, but Bricks and Mortar thrust his nose down on the wire.

Defending champion Synchrony, hitherto unbeaten on the Stall-Wilson turf, had to peel around the leaders who had already kicked away. Thus he settled for third ahead of the wide-trip Divisidero. Hot Springs and Inspector Lynley completed the order of finish. Four entrants were scratched – Final Copy, who likely would have contributed to a stronger pace; First Premio; and two opting for the New Orleans H. (G2), Silver Dust and Bandua.

Bricks and Mortar’s bankroll stands at $3,198,250 from a record of 9-7-0-2. The winner of the 2017 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) and Manila S., he also placed third in the Hill Prince (G3) and Saranac (G3) during that sophomore campaign. The son of Giant’s Causeway was sidelined by injury for more than 14 months, returning victorious in a December allowance at Gulfstream Park en route to Pegasus Turf glory. The Muniz, accomplished in 1:50.44 for about 1 1/8 miles, made it three in a row.

Bricks and Mortar was bred in Kentucky by George Strawbridge Jr. The $200,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase is out of the multiple Group-placed stakes winner Beyond the Waves, an Ocean Crest mare also responsible for Grade 3 heroine Emerald Beech and multiple stakes scorer Beyond Smart.

Jockey Florent Geroux guides Core Beliefs to victory in the 94th running of the New Orleans Handicap (G2) at Fair Grounds on March 23, 2019 (c) Hodges Photography/Amanda Hodges Weir

Earlier, the Peter Eurton-trained Core Beliefs was let go at 9-1 in the $400,000 New Orleans ‘Cap likely due to his facing elders going 1 1/8 miles off a six-month layoff, but the Southern California shipper was plenty fit enough. Despite wandering in and out down the lane, Core Beliefs repelled an in-form Silver Dust to score his biggest career victory.

Last year’s Louisiana Derby (G2) winner, Noble Indy, was so eager to get on with it that he broke through the gate prior to the start, and went straight to the lead in the actual running. New York invader Mr. Buff applied pressure through fractions of :23.56, :47.26, and 1:12.15 on the fast track.

Meanwhile, Core Beliefs was well placed in the catbird’s seat by jockey Florent Geroux. After stalking the leaders, he advanced to challenge on the far turn. No sooner had Noble Indy put away Mr. Buff than he was beset by Core Beliefs, who headed him entering the lane.

Then Silver Dust pounced, only to find that Core Beliefs had more up his sleeve. Edging away by three-quarters of a length, the Gary Broad colorbearer clocked 1:51.36 and sparked a $20.20 win mutuel.

Lone Sailor, the 2018 Louisiana Derby near-misser, rallied belatedly for a close third. Bandua, who accompanied Core Beliefs as an early stalker, didn’t have the cleanest passage on the inside but kept on in a one-paced fourth. Next came 2-1 favorite Copper Bullet, who didn’t land a blow from off the pace; Noble Indy; Souper Tapit; Krewe Chief; and the eased Mr. Buff.

Core Beliefs’ previous stakes victory also came at the expense of Lone Sailor, in a photo in last summer’s Ohio Derby (G3). Third to future Triple Crown champion Justify in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) straight off a maiden score, Core Beliefs went on to finish second in the Peter Pan (G3), fourth in the Haskell Invitational (G1), and fifth when last seen in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1). His resume reads 9-3-1-3, $872,660.

Bred by Thomas J. Young in Kentucky, Core Beliefs sold for $45,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling but commanded $350,000 as a Barretts juvenile. The son of Quality Road was produced by the winning Tactical Advantage mare Tejati, from the further family of Canadian champion Hasten to Add and Grade 1 vixen See How She Runs.