After weighing the $3.68 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) or the Mile (G1) for Horse of the Year candidate Bricks and Mortar, trainer Chad Brown opted to try him in the 1 1/2-mile feature rather than shorten up. The decision was justified twice over at Santa Anita, as Brown won the Mile with his brilliant mare Uni, and Bricks and Mortar answered the distance question to cap a perfect season in the Turf.
Not that the palm came easily to the even-money favorite. In tight quarters in the pocket early, Bricks and Mortar was a bit keen through steady early fractions. But regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., who won a total of four Breeders’ Cup races over these two days including the Classic (G1) aboard Vino Rosso, got him to settle.
Pacesetter Acclimate got away with splits of :24.81, :48.44, 1:13.26, and 1:37.91 on the firm course. That didn’t help him get away from the field, though, and the tracking Bandua was the first to accost him at the 1 1/4-mile mark in 2:01.35.
Then United, another well-placed stalker, angled out to tackle Bandua in turn. Meanwhile, Epsom Derby (G1) winner Anthony Van Dyck, who had been saving ground throughout, tried to launch a bid but found himself stymied behind United and Bandua. The Aidan O’Brien trainee soon found room and redeployed, but the action was already unfolding in front of him.
Bricks and Mortar, unleashed in the nick of time, ranged alongside the 51-1 United. The longshot dug in and made the favorite work for it, and Bricks and Mortar was up to the challenge. Summoning his abundant class, the son of “Iron Horse” Giant’s Causeway forced his head in front in 2:24.73.
Anthony Van Dyck finished another 1 1/4 lengths back in third. Zulu Alpha rallied from last to grab fourth, and Germany’s Alounak rode the rail in the stretch to a close fifth. O’Brien’s second stringer, the 43-1 Mount Everest, was a creditable sixth after flubbing the break. Channel Cat, Arklow, Acclimate, Bandua, Godolphin’s Old Persian, and Channel Maker concluded the order of finish.
By adding the Breeders’ Cup laurel to a stellar 2019 resume including the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), Mervin Muniz Memorial (G2), Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day, Manhattan (G1) on Belmont Day, and the Arlington Million (G1), Bricks and Mortar has likely built an ironclad case for Horse of the Year honors.
“This is a special horse,” Ortiz summed up. “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!”
“I wasn’t sure until he hit the wire,” Brown said. “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.”
Brown hailed his presumptive champion turf horse, and credited his mentor, the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel:
“This horse is remarkable. 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.
“I have to thank Mike Ryan, my partner, for finding the horses and picking them out. We do this together. Without Mike, we would have never bought this horse.
“It takes a remarkable team of really talented men and women to hold a horse together like this. I can’t say enough about the individuals who worked with this horse throughout this campaign. Without them we wouldn’t be here.
“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. 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 feat 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.”
United nearly pulled off the upset for his Hall of Fame horseman, Richard Mandella.
“He just needed a chance, and he sure came through and gave it his all,” Mandella said. “It says a lot (about his ability). We knew it was a tough race but I just thought that other quarter of a mile would really help him and we had a little excuse going in our last race (third in the John Henry Turf Championship [G2]) so we thought it was worth stepping up and he paid us back. I thought we were going to win there for a minute.”
“He ran huge,” United’s jockey, Flavien Prat, recapped. “We had a good trip. We raced right behind the pace. He made a huge run. I mean I thought I was going to win turning for home. A great horse beat us, but it was an amazing race from my horse.”
Ryan Moore, who rode Anthony Van Dyck, was laconic as ever: “It was quite rough out there.”
Old Persian’s trainer, Charlie Appleby, knew he was up against it early:
“Unfortunately, they’ve not gone the gallop that most of us expected. They went steady fractions and everyone was in a heap, whereas we normally know that they usually, down that backside, would have been starting to get strung out a little bit. They were all stacking up like they were going into that far turn and he got back into that position.
“To be fair, once they went past us the first time and I saw where we were, well, I thought there just wasn’t going to be anything positive today. And, there we are—unfortunately this is racing and hopefully the horse comes out of it fit and well and we will regroup with him. I’m sure he’ll probably make his way back to Dubai for the Carnival.”
Bricks and Mortar sports an overall mark of 13-11-0-2, $7,085,650. His only two losses were close thirds in the 2017 Saranac (G3) and Hill Prince (G3), where troubled trips arguably cost him an unbeaten record. The dark bay had swept his first four starts, including the Manila and National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2). Sidelined for more than 14 months by injuries that might have nipped his promising career in the bud, he’s been invincible since returning to action last winter.
Bred by George Strawbridge Jr. and sold for $200,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, Bricks and Mortar is a half-brother to Grade 3 scorer Emerald Beech and multiple stakes winner Beyond Smart. They were all produced by the Ocean Crest mare Beyond the Waves, a Group 2-placed stakes vixen in France and runner-up in the 2003 Bewitch (G3) at Keeneland.
After defeating international casts on American soil, Bricks and Mortar is scheduled to go abroad himself – to stud. Plans call for him to begin his new career at Shadai Farm in Japan.