Bricks and Mortar, Mitole, Covfefe Impress on Breeders’ Cup Saturday

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Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. celebrates a victory with Bricks and Mortar in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Punctuating a flawless 6-for-6 campaign, Bricks and Mortar staked his claim for 2019 Horse of the Year with a determined head victory over longshot United in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park.

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.

Bricks and Mortar, left, nipped United in Longines Turf. (Eclipse Sportswire)

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.


Mitole Sizzle in Breeders’ Cup Sprint Score

Mitole winning Sprint. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Recording his fourth Grade 1 victory of the year, Mitole stalked the pace and delivered down the lane to catch Shancelot in an exciting renewal of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Ricardo Santana Jr. was aboard for trainer Steve Asmussen.

The 4-year-old son of Eskendereya is owned by William and Corinne Heiligbrodt. In winning by 1 1/4 lengths, he raced six furlongs in 1:09 on a fast track. He paid $5.60 for a $2 wager. Whitmore was 2 1/4 lengths back in third.

As expected, the quick Shancelot broke on top under Jose Ortiz and wrangled the lead from an aggressive Matera Sky. The opening quarter-mile went in :21.47 as Mitole was just behind those two while well off the rail along with Firenze Fire. Engage also gave chase as they headed to the turn.

On the turn, Shancelot found his best stride and opened on the field as Santana got busy on Mitole, who cut into Shancelot’s lead a little with each stride as he hit the quarter-pole in :44.04.

From the back of the back, veteran Whitmore came with a wide move, but it was a two-horse race down the lane. Mitole was on near even terms with Shancelot as they hit the furlong marker in :56.19. Mitole edged away, clearing the runner-up in the final strides.

“I had a lot of confidence in my horse,” Santana said. “He’s a horse I’ve been riding since he was a 2-year-old. I changed my mind today. A lot of people thought he’d go to the lead. I took him back and made one move and got to the wire first.”—Evan Hammonds


Uni Defeats Males to Win Breeders’ Cup Mile

Uni pulling away to win TVG Mile. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Uni entered the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile with victories in six of her past seven starts, with that defeat coming against males in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap in August at Saratoga Race Course.

A second crack at the boys proved a different story for the 5-year-old daughter of More Than Ready .

In deep stretch, Uni powered past another female, Got Stormy, to score a 1 1/2-length victory in the $2 million Mile for owners Michael Dubb, Head of Plains Partners, Robert LaPenta, and Bethlehem Stables. Uni also turned the tables on Fourstardave winner Got Stormy, who held second for an all-female exacta.

Co-owner Sol Kumin credited a top ride by Joel Rosario after starting from an outside post.

“We were really worried about the lack of pace, and [Rosario] did a perfect job, trying to get her over, saving a little bit of ground in the first turn,” Kumin said. “I thought he got her going at the perfect time, and the other filly ran unbelievably, Got Stormy.

“And to watch those two fillies throw down in a race like this, it’s one of the ones you’ll remember.”—Frank Angst


Iridessa Spoils Sistercharlie’s Repeat Bid in Filly and Mare Turf

Iridessa outfinished Vasilika in Filly and Mare Turf. (Eclipse Sportswire)

There’s a reason no one has ever won the $2 million Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in back-to-back years. Ditto for why no one, except Zenyatta, has been able to win seven straight Grade 1 stakes since 1973.

With all of that in mind at the 36th annual Breeders’ Cup, Peter Brant’s sensational 5-year-old mare Sistercharlie served up a powerful lesson in how elusive victory can be at the highest levels.

Sent off as a 4-5 favorite against nine international rivals, Sistercharlie’s bid for a second Filly and Mare Turf win in a row and seventh straight Grade 1 victory came to an abrupt end as she fell victim to a hard, speed-favoring course while finishing third behind trainer Joseph O’Brien’s European traveler Iridessa.

“She’s very special,” Brant said afterward. “She tried really hard but they didn’t come back. A good horse won. She was a little too far back. They went 1:09 and change so you thought they’d come back, but they didn’t.”

Since Brant intends to breed Sistercharlie, he left the door open to racing her next year at 6, if she comes out of Saturday’s race fine.

“I think we’ll try to keep her in training,” Brant said, “but we’ll see.”—Bob Ehalt


Spun to Run Upsets Omaha Beach in Dirt Mile

Spun to Run winning Dirt Mile. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Bob Donaldson and his wife, Sue, used to jump the fence as 14-year-olds at Garden State Park in Camden, N.J. to catch the last race after school.

On Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park, there were no fences to jump — only open doors with ushers to clear the way — as the couple headed straight to the winner's circle when their Hard Spun colt Spun to Run upset the $1 million Big Ass Fans Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

Catapulting his small-time owners and trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero into the spotlight on the world's biggest stage, Spun to Run galloped gate-to-wire Saturday to post a 2 3/4-length victory over even-money favorite Omaha Beach.

Not only was it the first Breeders' Cup score for the colt's owner and trainer, but it was also their first Grade 1 win.

"We had a lot of faith in this horse," Donaldson said. "The whole team has been unbelievable, and this has been a fantastic ride."

For the Donaldsons, 30-year veteran owners whose racing stable contains just six runners, the victory with their 35-1 shot was the fulfillment of decades of dedication to the sport.

"That's what I said on TV, 'This is one for the little guy,' said Donaldson, a retired pharmaceutical executive.—Claire Crosby


Covfefe Trumps Competition in Filly and Mare Sprint

Covfefe winning Filly and Mare Sprint. (Eclipse Sportswire)

LNJ FoxwoodsCovfefe added to a nearly flawless season when she held off a late charge from Bellafina to post a three-quarter-length victory in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

After tracking in third early behind dueling leaders Heavenhasmynikki and Danuska’s My Girl through a quarter-mile in :22.13, Covfefe and jockey Joel Rosario launched a sustained three-wide move on the turn to open a clear advantage turning for home. The daughter of Into Mischief then held sway as Santa Anita Oaks winner Bellafina finished well, giving 3-year-old fillies the exacta.

In winning a third consecutive stakes at seven furlongs, Covfefe claimed her fifth win in six starts this season and sixth win in eight career starts. Two starts back, she prevailed against Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress in the Grade 1 Longines Test Stakes. She then prepped for the Breeders’ Cup with an eight-length romp in the Sept. 21 Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs, where she smashed the stakes record when she finished in 1:20.51.

Covfefe is trained by Brad Cox, who conditioned last year’s champion 3-year-old filly Monomoy Girl. Covfefe figures to be in the mix for this year’s honor in that division and the female sprinter division.

“She’s a champion, hopefully. I feel like championship honors were on the line for champion filly and mare sprinter. I hope she locked that up,” said Cox, who earned his third Breeders’ Cup win. “Two Grade 1s, two very prestigious races. She overcame a lot today, too. I know this race hasn’t been around a long, long time, but I think eight Test winners maybe have tried this and not been able to break through.”—Frank Angst


Belvoir Bay Gives Miller Third Straight Turf Sprint

Belvoir Bay winning Turf Sprint (Eclipse Sportswire)

No matter the year, no matter the horse, the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint continues to be won by trainer Peter Miller. After training Stormy Liberal to back-to-back victories in 2017-’18, the trainer added a third consecutive score when 6-year-old mare Belvoir Bay went wire to wire.

As if that wasn’t enough, Miller also trained the runner-up, Om, who out-nodded Shekky Shebaz by a nose in a place photo, the duo was 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner.

Of Miller’s three participants, only Stormy Liberal disappointed in his bid for a historic three-peat, running eighth after chasing the pace.

It was Miller’s second one-two finish in the race. His trainees ran that way in 2017 at Del Mar when Stormy Liberal crossed the finish line just ahead of Richard’s Boy. This was Miller’s fifth Breeders’ Cup victory.

His training skill was on display in his preparation of Gary Barber’s Belvoir Bay, the lone female in the 12-horse field lined up for the 12th running of the Turf Sprint. She was fit and fresh for her first start in nearly five months after finishing fourth in the June 8, Grade 1 Jaipur Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park and busted away from her outside post. Racing uncontested on the lead, Belvoir Bay was never in danger of being caught under Javier Castellano.

“It looked like the other speed, Pure Sensation, didn’t get away from there good,” Miller said. “When we made the lead like that, I didn’t look at the fractions because I know this filly—she’s tough as nails. She’s 900 pounds soaking wet and all heart. She’s unbelievable.”—Byron King

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