Smart money and general consensus – not to mention an unblemished race record replete with five Grade 1 victories – figures to yield the 2019 Horse of the Year title to Bricks And Mortar when the trophies are handed out at the 49th annual Eclipse Awards Dinner Thursday night at Gulfstream Park.
Bricks And Mortar, readying for the start of his stud career in Japan, went a long way in his career. Bred by George Strawbridge Jr., he sold for $200,000 as a yearling at the 2015 Keeneland September sale before landing in the care of trainer Chad Brown.
The son of Giant’s Causeway didn’t make it to the races until February of his 3-year-old season but made up for lost time with four straight victories culminating with the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes in August 2017 at Saratoga.
We covered the Hall of Fame in the Aug. 5 edition of The Saratoga Special – the same issue where we previewed eventual Horse of the Year Gun Runner’s start in the Grade 1 Whitney, and Brown gave a hint of what was to come for Bricks And Mortar.
He’s undefeated, he’s done nothing wrong, you’ll hear more from this horse,” he said at the end of Tom Law’s piece titled “4-for-4” that appeared in the Aug. 5, 2017 edition of The Saratoga Special.
We didn’t hear it right away; Bricks And Mortar lost his next two starts in the Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga and Grade 3 Hill Prince at Belmont Park before going to the sidelines with what his connections initially thought was a “career-ending injury.”
Fortunately, and after some work by Ian Brennan and the team at Stonestreet in Ocala and Brown and his crew, Bricks And Mortar returned to the races in late 2018. The racing office managed to get a high-level allowance-optional to go three days before Christmas that Bricks And Mortar won and he returned about a month later and took the inaugural Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational. Five more wins – four in Grade 1s, including the season-ending score in the Breeders’ Cup Turf – later he became the Horse of the Year favorite.
Here’s a look back at two stories, Tom’s Hall of Fame recap and Joe Clancy’s feature on Bricks And Mortar that appeared in the Aug. 3, 2018 edition of The Special in the feature Saratoga Memories Presented by Keeneland.
Bricks And Mortar stays perfect in Grade 2
By Tom Law
Cloud Computing holds the clubhouse lead in the Chad Brown barn for unraced 2-year-olds who overcame their early physical issues before going on to graded stakes success. Bricks And Mortar started his late surge a week later than his stablemate and over a different surface, but he too is doing his best to make up for lost time.
Another step forward came Friday in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes, which marked win No. 4 from as many starts for the 3-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway. He won the $200,000 feature by three-quarters of a length over 2-1 favorite Yoshida with 3-1 second choice Big Handsome third in the field of nine.
Bricks And Mortar didn’t make it to the races until Feb. 18, a week after Cloud Computing broke his maiden on the inner track at Aqueduct, and he’s become a graded stakes winner in a shade more than six months’ time. It took Cloud Computing a little more than three months, but who’s counting?
“He’s everything you want to see in a lightly raced 3-year-old, whether they’re a dirt horse or a turf horse, constant improvement and the will to win,” said Brown, winning his fourth Hall of Fame since 2011 and third straight. “He settled down with a target and he gets there.”
Joel Rosario rode the winner and just as he did in the colt’s other three victories, he made sure the colt got there in time.
“I was there, I just had to stay where I was,” Rosario said. “I took my time trying to put him out, behind the two horses who were on the lead they were keeping on running, you know. He’s a nice horse, he tried very hard.”
Rosario was content to stay on the inside in the early stages of the 1 1/16-mile Hall of Fame after breaking from the rail. He discussed doing just that in the paddock with Brown, who ended Friday with a meet-leading 16 wins in the midst of a strong start toward defending his training title.
Brown also wanted Rosario to keep Bricks And Mortar closer to the pace than he did in the $100,000 Manila Stakes at Belmont July 4. They closed from last that day, into a :47.89 half, and still managed to get up to defeat Big Handsome by a neck with Secretary At War another head back.
“That’s the trip I wanted,” Brown said. “We talked about it in the paddock. Although he won the Manila Stakes last time he was far back off a very slow pace and he flew home to get there, which was remarkable really. Against these horses this time around we talked about it, if he’s was that far back he just wouldn’t get there.
“Joel really did good job to get him out of the gate and get a good pocket trip, forwardly placed today is what we talked about. From there it’s turf racing, he’s either get through or he’s not. I knew if he was able to save that ground and not be too far away that he was good enough.”
Bricks And Mortar won in 1:39.47, fastest of the eight editions of the Hall of Fame run at 1 1/16 miles and a little more than a second off Ring Weekend’s course record of 1:38.29 set in last year’s Grade 2 Bernard Baruch.
Bought on the first day of the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale for $200,000, Bricks And Mortar is out of the French Group 2-placed and U.S. Grade 3-placed Ocean Crest mare Beyond The Waves. He’s a half brother to Grade 3 Glens Falls winner Emerald Beech and stakes winner Beyond Smart.
Brown and Rosario agreed that more should be in store for Bricks And Mortar, who is owned by Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence.
“He handled the mile and a sixteenth well and at some point we’re going to have to address how far does this horse want to run,” Brown said. “Right now I’m not sure, I want to just enjoy this. He’s undefeated, he’s done nothing wrong, you’ll hear more from this horse.”
Saratoga Memories Presented by Keeneland
By Joe Clancy
Three years ago, Arthur Hancock and George Strawbridge discussed three yearlings by Giant’s Causeway, and their immediate futures. Strawbridge, the breeder, wanted Hancock to “pick one to sell.”
Hancock, whose Stone Farm boards Strawbridge’s mares and young stock, declined to commit – and turned to some sage wisdom for back-up.
“Never say anything about a horse until he’s been dead at least 10 years.”
The saying came from Hall of Famer Charlie Whittingham, who trained (among others) Sunday Silence for Stone Farm during a career of barely paralleled excellence, but was all Hancock.
“I told George a story about Aaron Jones, who asked me to sell his worst three yearlings one time,” Hancock said. “One of them was Valdez, who he wound up keeping. He was kind of crooked, but he turned out to be a good horse and I think they got $6 million for him after he finished racing so you never know.”
Hancock watched the three Strawbridge colts grow, change, move forward, slide backward as it came time for Keeneland September. One wound up with a bruised foot, and couldn’t sell. Another was from a nice mare, and looked like a keeper. The third one developed into a sales prospect, without standing out, and off he went. Out of the Ocean Crest mare Beyond The Waves, who placed in group races in France and a graded stakes in the United States, the colt sold for $200,000 to Oak Bluff Partners.
“As a yearling he was very nice, very businesslike,” said Hancock. “He walked well and he was kind and easy to do anything with – good people you might say. He was maybe a touch small, but a very nice colt.”
Named Bricks And Mortar by Klaravich Stable and Bill Lawrence, the dark bay didn’t run as a 2-year-old in 2016 but quickly made up for lost time last year. Trained by Chad Brown, Bricks And Mortar won his debut at Gulfstream Park in February, then added three more wins culminating in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga a year ago. The Kentucky-bred shined that day, clearing out from behind horses in the stretch to win by three-quarters of a length over favored Yoshida.
The success didn’t surprise Brown, who was optimistic early even if Bricks And Mortar didn’t get a chance to run as a 2-year-old.
“He always trained like a nice horse,” the trainer said Thursday. “He didn’t make it at 2, had some little things, baby issues to overcome, but once we got him going he always trained with a lot of promise.”
The Hall of Fame Stakes win had Brown, and plenty of others, thinking big but Bricks And Mortar ran into some tough luck when third twice to close 2017. He couldn’t catch the streaking Voodoo Song and future Grade 1 winner Yoshida in the Saranac on closing weekend, and was beaten three-quarters of a length. Back at Belmont, it was a similar experience as Bricks And Mortar wound up three-quarters of a length behind Yoshida in the Hill Prince despite racing in tight quarters in the stretch.
“He had some bad trips,” Brown said Thursday. “I personally think he should be undefeated if not for a couple trips he had.”
Bricks And Mortar hasn’t run since the Hill Prince, but did post a 3-furlong workout Thursday at Stonestreet Training Center in Florida – his first published workout of 2018. Brown hopes to get the stakes winner back soon to target a fall/winter campaign.
“The horse is one that, unfortunately, had several physical setbacks,” Brown said. “He’s such a nice horse and we’ve always liked him a lot. We’re giving him the time to try and get him back and hopefully he’ll rejoin our stable soon.
“They’ve done a great job rehabbing him down there, Ian Brennan and his team at Stonestreet.”
As for Strawbridge’s other two yearlings of 2015 by Giant’s Causeway? Utmost (out of Fugitive Angel) won twice in England and finished third in last month’s Cape Henlopen Stakes at Delaware Park in his American debut for Strawbridge and trainer Graham Motion. Tartini (out of Vignette) also raced overseas, winning his debut at Nottingham and later selling at a horses of racing age sale last year. He’s with trainer Jack Carava in California, and was fifth in an optional claimer at Del Mar Wednesday.
And nobody’s saying anything about him, or the others.