August 10, 2020

Bricks and Mortar inclining toward Breeders’ Cup Turf; Catalina cruises into Sprint

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. celebrates as Bricks and Mortar crosses under the finish line first in the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Saturday, May 4, 2019 (c) Horsephotos.com/Cecilia Gustavsson

As the Breeders’ Cup pre-entry deadline looms Monday, the trainers of two high-profile contenders are homing in on their choice of targets.

Turf star Bricks and Mortar will still be cross-entered to the Turf (G1) and Mile (G1) as expected, but trainer Chad Brown is seeing the appeal of stepping up to 1 1/2 miles rather than cutting back in trip.

“I’m going to pre-enter in both races, but right now I’m leaning toward the Turf,” Brown said after the Horse of the Year candidate breezed five-eighths in 1:00.02 over Belmont Park’s inner turf Sunday.

“He’s in top form. He’s got one more work and he’s been doing great.”

The winner of all six races since returning from a long layoff, Bricks and Mortar launched his comeback in a mile allowance at Gulfstream last December. The son of Giant’s Causeway stretched out to capture the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), added a pair of nine-furlong contests in the Mervin Muniz Memorial (G2) and Old Forester Turf Classic (G1), and turned a 1 1/4-mile double in the Manhattan (G1) and Arlington Million (G1).

The Turf offers a more straightforward progression, aside from the fact that he picked up a free ticket in the “Win and You’re In” Arlington Million. While Bricks and Mortar has the raw ability to try the Mile, shortening up after running longer all year is different from starting out at that trip off the bench. And given the cavalry charge of a two-turn Mile, racing luck can come into play. Bricks and Mortar would arguably be more master of his own destiny in the Turf. Also, Brown has the classy mare Uni lined up for the Mile – not to read too much into that, but it should be noted.

At Santa Anita, Catalina Cruiser has posed a puzzler for trainer John Sadler, who announced Sunday that he was choosing the Sprint (G1) over the Dirt Mile (G1).

The beaten favorite in last year’s Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs, where he suffered his only career loss in sixth, Catalina Cruiser resumed with a sharp score in the 6 1/2-furlong True North (G2) at Belmont. The son of Union Rags was more workmanlike in his repeat victory in the 1 1/16-mile San Diego (G2) at Del Mar, and he had to dig deep to defend his title in the seven-furlong Pat O’Brien (G2), a Dirt Mile “Win and You’re In.” Because he didn’t show the same authority there, it’s understandable why turning back in trip is more enticing than going back up to a mile.

Catalina Cruiser worked five furlongs at Santa Anita Saturday in 1:00.60.

A complete round-up of recent Breeders’ Cup works is available on the TwinSpires blog.