As attention turns from the 3-year-old races to the Breeders’ Cup, the “Win and You’re In” season is in full gear with connections trying to get their horses an automatic berth into the two-day World Championships.
In the second Getting to Know feature of the season we focus on Bricks and Mortar, winner of the Arlington Million Aug. 10 and the first American-based horse this season to earn a spot in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.
A leading candidate for Horse of the Year honors, Bricks and Mortar has won his last six starts with five of those victories coming in 2019.
The 5-year-old looked to be an extremely promising 3-year-old two years ago for trainer Chad Brown, winning his first four starts of 2017 including the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes over future Grade 1 winner Yoshida. He suffered the first loss of his career in his fifth race when he went off as favorite for the first time in the Grade 3 Saranac Stakes and finished third by three-quarters of a length. He finished third by that same margin in the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes a month later.
After the Hill Prince loss, Bricks and Mortar had to take more than a year off due to injury. The break forced him to miss most of his 4-year-old season but it proved to be just what he needed to take the next step in his career.
Bricks and Mortar returned to the races last December and proved he was ready to run. Racing at one mile — a distance that is probably a tad too short for him — he closed from midpack to win by half a length. He recorded a 116 Equibase Speed Figure, 11 points better than his former best figure.
That victory was enough for owners Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence to purchase a $500,000 slot in the inaugural Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, a move that would pay off in spades.
Making his Grade 1 debut, Bricks and Mortar raced in midpack in the 1 3/16-mile Pegasus World Cup Turf with a confident Irad Ortiz, Jr. on him. By the time the field entered the stretch, Bricks and Mortar was right behind the leaders and making his move. He took over the lead in the final furlong and pulled away to win by 2 ½ lengths to add an important Grade 1 victory to his résumé and improve his best Equibase Speed Figure to 120.
Making his first start at the New Orleans track, Bricks and Mortar was keen to run and Ortiz had to spend a few furlongs convincing him to relax with the horse unwilling to rate farther back than second. Closer than he had been in all but one of his career victories, he had to fight hard to take the lead from Markitoff, who wasn’t going to give up easily. The pair battled to the finish line with Bricks and Mortar prevailing by a nose over the 62.60-to-1 shot.
Returning in the Grade 1 in the Old Forester Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve undercard at Churchill Downs, Brick and Mortar returned to his normal running style, racing farther back in midpack as Markitoff set the pace in front. Turning into the straight, Bricks and Mortar showed a strong turn of foot to not only catch the leaders but fly by them as Ortiz geared him down in the shadow of the wire for a half-length victory.
Returning on the undercard of the final leg of the Triple Crown in the race before the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, Bricks and Mortar again registered a career-high Equibase Speed Figure with a 122 when he annexed the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes at Belmont Park.
Going to his customary midpack spot in the 1 ¼-mile race under regular rider Ortiz, Bricks and Mortar looked comfortable as he raced just outside of his stablemate Robert Bruce. He was happy to race with just three horses beat on the backstretch and with the leading Qurbaan opening a lead of multiple lengths on the field. Bricks and Mortar started getting serious about racing on the far turn when he came wide to get clear running room for his powerful closing kick. After taking the lead in the final furlong, Ortiz switched to a hand ride near the finish line and Bricks and Mortar coasted to an easy 1 ½-length win.
Going into the Grade 1 Arlington Million, Bricks and Mortar had the longest break of this year with two months between races, the same route Brown had followed with 2018 Arlington Million winner Robert Bruce the year before.
The formula proved successful again with Bricks and Mortar, who followed his now-customary style of running in midpack. He faced a new challenge however, as a wall of horses formed in front of him at the top of the stretch, and Ortiz had to move him into position to go through a gap that appeared. Once Bricks and Mortar had clear running room, he was off after the leaders. While this victory wasn’t as flashy as others (Magic Wand finished three-quarters of a length behind), it was enough to keep Bricks and Mortar on track for 2019 Horse of the Year honors.
Trainer Chad Brown has voiced concerns about Bricks and Mortar’s ability to get the 1 ½ miles of the Breeder’s Cup Turf, but both his pedigree and his race performances show he should have a good chance at being able to successfully stretch out.
His late sire, Giant’s Causeway, won up to 10 ½ furlongs (a little over 1 ¼ miles) and was defeated by just a neck in the mile-and-a-quarter Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic in his final start. He proved to be versatile as a racehorse, as the Classic was only his second start on dirt, and he passed that on to his foals.
Giant's Causeway became one of the leading sires of this century. His runners have won Grade 1s around the world on both dirt and turf, and he has been represented by eight champions and 112 group/graded stakes winners through Aug. 11.
A stakes winner herself, Bricks and Mortar’s dam, Beyond the Waves, was a router through and through. She won a stakes race in France at a mile and a half and was second in a Group 2 at the distance. Knowing her stamina level, her connections never ran her shorter than 9 ½ furlongs and the mare’s shortest winning distance was about 1 ¼ miles.
All seven of her foals to race have won, with four others besides Bricks and Mortar winning or placing in stakes races. Much like his sire, Bricks and Mortar’s dam also produces versatile horses, as her seven winners enjoyed success at distances ranging from 5 ½ furlongs to well over two miles.
The stakes success runs deep in the family. Beyond the Waves is a half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to the dam of Grade 1-winning Bordonaro and Grade 1-placed stakes winner Miss Empire, with stakes-winning Broadway Lullaby and Ask Muhammad further back in the pedigree.
While Bricks and Mortar hasn’t yet raced beyond 1 ¼ miles, all indications are that he’ll love the distance. His connections have already said that the Breeders’ Cup will be the 5-year-old’s swan song, as Shadai Farm announced last week that they have acquired his breeding rights and will stand him in Japan next year.
He will be joining a roster that includes former U.S. champion Drefong and U.S. Grade 1 winner Mind Your Biscuits, both of whom started their careers at Shadai in recent years.