Gehrke: Brown contemplates Bricks and Mortar's path

August 11, 2019 10:02am
Gehrke: Brown contemplates Bricks and Mortar's path
Photo: Coady Photography

After winning the Grade 1 Arlington Million on Saturday to up his record this year to five wins from as many starts, the Turf Male Eclipse is now a certainty for Bricks and Mortar, and Horse of the Year is within sights.

For the connections, though, the path to get to this point has been a long and patient one.

Bricks and Mortar made his debut in February 2017 and went on to win his first four starts. 
After a pair of third-place finishes that fall, he was headed for a run in the Hollywood Derby before trainer Chad Brown had to stop on him.

Reflecting on this after Saturday’s win, Brown reminded of how important Dr. Larry Bramlage was to Bricks and Mortar back in the winter of 2017.

“I couldn’t send him out there,” Brown said. “He was not moving right and he had a problem in the behind around his hock and (Bramlage) did some complicated surgery with a ligament back there and resolved it.

“If he hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be talking to you today. This horse is now in that elite group of some of the best he has worked on.”

With Saturday's victory now in the rearview mirror, Bricks and Mortar will likely get one more start before an expected run in the Breeders’ Cup. 

But where he runs next, and which Breeders’ Cup race in which he competes, will make for difficult decisions.

The connections have long felt that 10 furlongs was the best distance for Bricks and Mortar, and that 12 furlongs may be a bit too far for him to show his best.

Knowing this, I thought the Breeders’ Cup Classic could be an option.

Bricks and Mortar is sired by Giant’s Causeway. Back in 2000, that horse's connections faced the same dilemma.

They felt that 12 furlongs was beyond his scope of the five-time Group 1 winner, so they opted for the Classic. Giant's Causeway gave Tiznow all he had when beaten a nose in a runner-up finish.

So I asked Brown on Saturday what his thoughts were on looking at the Breeders’ Cup Classic as a possible option.

“The distance would certainly suit him, but he has never acted like a dirt horse to me,” Brown said. “I hear the angle with Giant’s Causeway, but he’s 5 years old and he’s never run on the dirt for a reason. If he gave me any feel, I probably would’ve done it.

“That’s what I’d say, but it’s not a crazy idea because a couple of points you bring up are interesting”

And as for Bricks and Mortar now appearing to be a clear leader in the Horse of the Year race?

“I think he’s in the conversation,” Brown said. "It’s one that I haven’t had a horse win that yet. I have a lot of respect for that award, and we’ll have to see how the second half plays out.”

With a championship in mind, Brown is keenly aware of how important the decisions are on where to take Bricks and Mortar next.

“I am going have to think about it and talk to the owners and really observe the horse,” Brown said. “I know that’s just normal protocol to just say that after a race, but I don’t think it can ever apply more to a situation like this with a horse."

Noting the pressure of Bricks and Mortar's record this season, Brown said, "He’s undefeated this year. I don’t want to make a mistake.

“The horse has done nothing wrong,” Brown added, “and I don’t want to be the one that’s the reason for him losing by picking the wrong race, so I need to think about that.”

Looking at the schedule, the Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park would be a good spot to try him at 12 furlongs on Oct. 5. 
Or there are several shorter events to test him at the Breeders' Cup Mile distance.

Although the Breeders' Cup Classic is a longshot at this point, it's certainly an intriguing option, too.


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Meet Chip Gehrke

Chip Gehrke has been with Horse Racing Nation since 2015 and currently serves as a Featured Writer. Based outside of Chicago, Chip can be found in the press box many weekends during the Arlington Park meet. The On The Air With Dr. Derby name originates from his local sports radio show appearances as an on-air racing expert. Now also a weekly contributor on FOX Sports radio's "The Fast Track," Chip can be heard giving his thoughts on the racing world every weekend.

In 2017, Chip was chosen to be a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association. As a part of the NTWAB, Chip became a voter for the year-end Eclipse Awards, something he takes very seriously. Some of Chip's favorite writings from the last couple of years is the best way to get to know him, along with following him on Twitter at @doctorderby.

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