The nation’s leading turf male, Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s Bricks and Mortar extended his winning streak to five in Saturday’s $1 million Manhattan (G1), and in the process, crowned trainer Chad Brown’s dominance of the turf stakes during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
Brown captured all the turf stakes in which he had a runner – Thursday’s Wonder Again (G3) and Intercontinental (G3), Friday’s New York (G2), and Saturday’s Just a Game (G1). He didn’t have a runner for the stakes on the two extreme ends of the distance spectrum, the Jaipur (G1) for turf sprinters and the Belmont Gold Cup (G2) for marathoners.
Moreover, the barn was a force in the exotics. Bricks and Mortar was spearheading an all-Brown trifecta in the Manhattan, rounded out by Robert Bruce and Raging Bull, on top of the barn’s exactas in the Wonder Again and New York.
Bricks and Mortar, unbeaten since returning in December from a 14-month injury layoff, was dispatched as the 3-5 favorite. Well handled by regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., the son of Giant’s Causeway was reserved off the pace set by Bandua through an opening quarter in :23.68 on Belmont’s firm inner turf.
Just as track announcer Larry Collmus commented on the lively pace for the 1 1/4-mile trip, Qurbaan was driven to take over in an aggressive backstretch move by Hall of Famer Mike Smith. The new leader opened up through fractions of :48.73 and 1:12.24, but unsurprisingly came back to the field turning for home. Channel Maker launched his bid, and Bandua made a renewed effort, as they lapped onto Qurbaan in upper stretch.
But Bricks and Mortar was just beginning to play his hand wider out, and he bowled them all over in yet another power-packed rally. Driving 1 1/2 lengths clear, he clocked 1:58.11, not far off Paradise Creek’s course record of 1:57.79 established in the 1994 Manhattan.
Robert Bruce, an arguably unlucky sixth in last year’s Manhattan, was on hold for room before swinging out to take second. This time, though, he was probably second best. Raging Bull closed for third in first-time blinkers, over a trip that might have stretched him on pedigree, and could be sharper if cutting back in distance next time.
Channel Maker was a respectable fourth, looking like the true 11-to-12-furlong type that he is. Channel Cat; Bandua; Brown’s other runner, soft-ground aficionado Olympico; the questionably ridden Qurbaan; and longshot Catcho en Die completed the order under the wire. Epical was scratched.
Now brandishing $4,303,650 in earnings, Bricks and Mortar has racked up an overall record of 11-9-0-2, and Brown has previously said he was unlucky to have lost those two in the 2017 Saranac (G3) and Hill Prince (G3). His sophomore campaign was highlighted by wins in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) and Manila.
Bricks and Mortar was sidelined with a career-threatening injury, but he’s come back better than ever. Since his blistering reappearance in a Gulfstream Park allowance, the dark bay has landed the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), Mervin H. Muniz Memorial (G2), and Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day prior to the Manhattan.
Quotes from Belmont Park
Winning trainer Chad Brown on the Manhattan trifecta: “This ranks right up there. I have to digest it first but it’s certainly way up there. I hold this race in such high regard. To run 1-2-3 in it really points out how fortunate I am to have so many talented horses in my barn. To see the others be not far from Bricks and Mortar gives us hope they are going to have really good years as well.
“He ran great, he was carrying a lot of weight (124 pounds, like the rest of the superfecta). Irad gave him a beautiful trip. He fell into a nice spot off the fence but had cover. Once again, he exploded in the stretch, this horse it just amazes me how consistently he is finishing on the turf. He’s getting good trips, he’s kicking at all different distances. Very rare horse.”
Winning rider Irad Ortiz Jr.: “Since I’ve been riding him he hasn’t got beat yet. I love this horse. He’s a fighter. He’s so good. The track was really fast. He always shows up. He broke perfectly and put himself in a good position early so I didn’t have to use him, and I can save ground. I followed Channel Maker the whole way, and when I turned for home and I kicked him out, he just took off.”