It wasn’t easy, though as he has done throughout the year, the 5-year-old owned by William Lawrence and Klaravich Stables produced enough, finding room at the head of the stretch and wearing down a brave runner-up. The Turf provided him with his first win in his lone attempt at 1 1/2 miles after racing in middle-distance turf races over much of the year.
During the first half of the race, it looked as if the slower pace, which unfolds with races at an extended distance, might prove his undoing. Racing between horses in fifth, as longshot Acclimate set quarter-mile fractions of :48.44 and 1:13.26, Bricks and Mortar was keen, tugging at jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and giving trainer Chad Brown a degree of concern.
But as Acclimate carried the field to the mile marker in 1:37.91, Bricks and Mortar became more settled, leaving Ortiz with horse in reserve. He tipped him out at the top of the lane after being bottled up, and the horse did the rest. Seventh with a quarter mile to race, he advanced into fifth with a furlong to go, and hit the front inside the final sixteenth.
Bricks and Mortar raced 1 1/2 miles in 2:24.73, accentuated shortly past the finish by a fist pump and mini celebration from Ortiz.
“This is a special horse. He might be the best I’ve ever ridden,” said his rider. “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.”
The crowd of 67,811 at Santa Anita expressed their approval, applauding as he walked back to his barn in front of the grandstand after the race.
Now the question is whether Eclipse Award Voters will appreciate him to the same extent. Although Horse of the Year typically goes to a dirt horse, it is not without precedent for a grass horse to secure the coveted prize. Kotashaan in 1993 earned Horse of the Year after winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
“He certainly has been leading the poll since April, and I think winning today, showing the heart that he showed, he’s certainly our Horse of the Year, and hopefully he’ll be the voters’,” said Lawrence.
The victory was the third of the weekend for Brown and 15th overall in the Breeders’ Cup.