Brown has an abundance of heavy hitters returning for 2019, including Breeders’ Cup winners Newspaperofrecord and Sistercharlie, and reinforcements always in the pipeline with young newcomers in the U.S. and older horses imported from overseas, suggesting he has not yet reached a pinnacle at age 40.
“It was a record year for our team and we are very appreciative of the opportunities our clients have given us and the racing luck we had this past year,” Brown said. “We’re very proud of and appreciative of the results.”
With a roster that is especially potent on the turf, Brown said he is surprised in hindsight that so many of his horses thrived in the second half of the year considering how much rain and wet conditions were part of the equation.
“This was probably the rainiest year on the East Coast that we have encountered since we have been in business, really from the beginning of Saratoga all the way through to December, it was just a lot of precipitation on the East Coast,” he said. “We had the depth of our stable to still perform well with many horses, and that’s what I am most surprised about and impressed with. I would not have been able to predict that, that we would be able to overcome so much rain.”
Running through plans for a few of the returning horses, Brown said:
Newspaperofrecord, the eye-popping winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, will start back training this week in Florida following a break. A trip to Royal Ascot for the Group 1 in June is a possibility, but formal plans have not yet been made.
Complexity, winner of the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes and a disappointment at 5-2 odds in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, came out of the latter race with an issue but could be ready to start back under tack in mid-January.
Rushing Fall returned to Brown’s barn on Wednesday morning after receiving some paddock time at Stonestreet Farm South in Ocala following her Grade 1 triumph at Keeneland in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes Presented by Lane’s End in October. She could resurface at Keeneland in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley in April.
Sistercharlie, a favorite for champion turf female honors after prevailing in the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, is under tack at Palm Meadows and is another candidate for Jenny Wiley, a race she won in 2018.
While Brown has been inching closer each year to the Grade 1 standard set by his mentor and old boss, the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, he still speaks in reverence of the Frankel roster in 2003 that amassed 25 victories at the highest level, which has held up as the North American record while Irish-based Aidan O’Brien set a new world mark with 28 Grade or Group 1 victories in 2017.
Brown had an up-close vantage point in 2003 as a member of Frankel’s staff.
That year, Frankel boasted a star for just about every division besides 2-year-olds. Similar to Brown today, Frankel’s barn was overflowing with depth among grass fillies and mares. Champion sprinter Aldebaran, $5.7-million career earner Medaglia d’Oro, and Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker were among the dirt headliners that year, while eventual Hall of Famer and 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper only began to rub shoulders with the elite set near the end of the 2003 season when he ran away with the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes by 6 1/2 lengths.
“We called that ‘Murderer’s Row,’ ” Brown said, in an homage to the 1927 New York Yankees. “When we would go down the feed line we would refer to a whole wing at Hollywood Park as ‘Murderer’s Row.’ Ghostzapper wasn’t even in that group, he wasn’t good enough at that time. It was just incredible.
“[Frankel] was averaging a Grade 1 win every other week,” Brown said. “That’s what stands out to me most about that year. The Grade 1s were coming like they were allowance races. I learned a lot from that experience. I hoped and dreamed to have an opportunity to have this many good horses and it seemed like a real longshot, but it happened. I feel like I was prepared because I watched Bobby closely manage those horses. That’s what it comes down to. It’s one thing to want to have these great horses in your barn, and it’s another thing to be able to know what to do to manage them. I learned from the greatest of all time, in my opinion. I’m biased, but he just had a way of thinking long-term. He had the experience and the patience to plan. He was a brilliant man. I am happy that I can take at least some of what I learned and apply it to my stable.
"We had a great year, but I don’t think that 2003 can ever be duplicated. I’d love [to challenge it], but I remember when it happened in 2003 thinking ‘Man, this is never going to happen again.’ I still think it probably won’t.”