Division Rankings: Bricks and Mortar's Horse of the Year path

June 27, 2019 04:17pm

With every win Bricks and Mortar adds to his resume, his Horse of the Year candidacy improves. But, can the turf star really win Horse of the Year, especially if his connections bypass the Breeders' Cup?

The bar appears to be set much higher for a turf horse to have a chance at the top Eclipse Award. A grass runner not only has to have an outstanding season, but racing's glamour divisions, the 3-year-old and older males, have to go without a standout.

In the Breeders’ Cup era, only three turf horses have won Horse of the Year.

In 1984, John Henry skipped the inaugural Breeders’ Cup. Back then, however, the championships had nowhere near the impact on Eclipse Awards as they do now.

Eight years later in 1993, Kotashaan came along and was a deserving Horse of the Year with five Grade 1 wins and a tough luck second in the Japan Cup where, if not for a misjudged run to the finish line by his rider, he likely would have won that race, too. In 1993, the 3-year-old division floundered with the ill-fated Preakness winner, Prairie Bayou, winning the Eclipse. The older male Eclipse went to Bertrando, who was upset by 133-1 longshot Arcangues in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Kotashaan’s chief rival for the award that season was another turf star, Lure.

Wise Dan was the last turf horse to win Horse of the Year, and he did it back to back 2012 and 2013. In 2012, he would have won the award regardless of a Breeders’ Cup start, as the other divisions were severely lacking a standout.

In 2013, it was still in question prior to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Had Game on Dude won, he would have been Horse of the Year. But the 3-year-old male division didn't produce a serious contender in either season. I’ll Have Another won the Eclipse despite being retired after his Preakness victory, and Will Take Charge won the Eclipse after finishing off the board in all three Triple Crown races.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention 2015. Turf star Main Sequence would have most certainly been a serious Horse of the Year candidate, but the honor belonged to American Pharoah after his historic run through the spring classics and Breeders' Cup.
 

It appears that 2019 is shaping up much like some of those previous seasons. The 3-year-old male division is in disarray. The older dirt male division, while still lacking some identity, still has the potential to yield a few Horse of the Year candidates.

This brings us back to Bricks and Mortar and his path to the overall championship. For starters, his connections have been on record as stating that his preferred distance is 10 furlongs or less. He has never run farther than that.

The Aug. 10 Arlington Million (G1) is next. Beyond that, most relevant route races on the grass stretch longer.

It would seem like the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) is a good spot to at least test those distance limitations. 
If he runs well there, the decision is an easy one: head to the Breeders' Cup Turf and take your chances against the Europeans.

But beware: It’s one thing to beat up on what looks like a weak U.S. male turf division. It’s quite another to face off against some of Europe’s best. It didn’t work out well last year for the U.S contingent, with all far back of the winner, Enable.

If trainer Chad Brown is dead set against running the son of Giant's Causeway at a distance farther than 10 furlongs, maybe the Breeders’ Cup Mile is an option?

Or, how about what his sire did? Giant’s Causeway was thought of as a 10-furlong horse, so connections entered him in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. He came through with one of his best career races just missing to Tiznow in a memorable battle.

Top European grass horses come here often to try the dirt in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Why can’t a top U.S.-based grass horse do the same? If the connections of Bricks and Mortar really believe that 10 furlongs is his game, a Breeders’ Cup Classic run may be the move to make here.

It's a no-lose situation, after all. If he wins, he goes down in history as being the first U.S.-based grass star to pull off a win in the Classic and a lock for Horse of the Year. Even if he loses, he still would garner division consideration for a season-long record. The sporting attempt of a Classic run would not be lost on the voters.

Given that, here's a look at this week's rankings:

Older Dirt Males

1.  
Mitole 
– Super impressive in the Met Mile (G1). So, will his connections try and stretch him out even farther?

2.  McKinzie 
– Came running in the Met Mile, but it wasn’t quite enough. He could return to New York for the Whitney (G1).

3.  
Thunder Snow – Ran a remarkable race in his first start since Dubai. He's the real deal and a serious player with longer U.S. races ahead.

4.  
Seeking the Soul – I would like to see some consistency from the Stephen Foster (G2) winner. Should be a force for the remainder of the season.

5.  
Vino Rosso – Finally broke through to win the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) the Breeders' Cup Classic distance. It makes him a contender here.

Next 5: Catholic Boy, Quip, Gift Box, Coal Front, Gunnevera.
 
Older Dirt Females

1.  
Midnight Bisou  Has already won four graded stakes in 2019. Her Ogden Phipps (G1) victory was also her second straight Grade 1 win.

2.  
Elate – With no Midnight Bisou to worry about, she found the winner's circle in the Fleur De Lis (G2).

3.  
Blue Prize – The runner-up to Elate in the Fleur De Lis can likely do better this summer.

4.  
Come Dancing  Second in the Ogden Phipps, she won her previous two stakes starts at lower levels this year by wide margins.

5.  
She’s a Julie – Just ended for the place in the Fleur De Lis by Blue Prize. Well clear of the rest.

Next 5: Secret Spice, La Force, Paradise Woods, Escape Clause, Mia Mischief.

3-Year-Old-Males

1.  
Maximum Security – Has done more than enough to keep this spot despite his recent loss in the Pegasus Stakes.

2.  
War of Will = The Preakness winner ran out of gas in the Belmont but should be a contender in the big races later on this summer.

3.  
Omaha Beach – Had some bad luck with the throat issues that caused him to scratch from the Derby and miss time. He should be a fresh horse in the fall.

4.  
Tacitus – Again came running in the stretch of a Triple Crown race but fell short of Sir Winston in the Belmont, where he was second best.

5.  
Game Winner – The Travers (G1) is his next major goal with a prep race to be determined. He's back on the work tab and, curiously, wearing blinkers again.

Next 5:
 Sir Winston, Country House, Owendale, Code of Honor, Mucho Gusto.

3-Year-Old-Females

1.  
Guarana – 
The Acorn (G1) winner has been spectacular in her two career starts. Can she keep this going?

2.  
Serengeti Empress – The Kentucky Oaks winner was simply second best in the Acorn but went extremely fast early.

3.  
Bellafina  Her fifth-place finish in the Oaks was disappointing for her connections. Nine furlongs may be a bit too far for the daughter of Quality Road. She will cut back to one turn for the Test (G1).

4.  
Liora  Was the only filly who really got close to Serengeti Empress in the Oaks, and the move to add blinkers has clearly made a difference. But she's now off to the sidelines due to injury.

5.  
Lady Apple – The Fantasy Stakes (G3) winner gave a good account of herself in the Kentucky Oaks with her third-place finish. Look for her in the July 5 Iowa Oaks.

Next 5:
 Champagne Anyone, Point of Honor, Jaywalk, Out for a Spin, Enaya Alrabb.

Turf Males

1.  
Bricks and Mortar – Has about as big of a lead in a division as you can get this early in the year with a last out Manhattan (G1) win.

2.  
Catholic Boy – Although he may focus more on dirt races now, I believe he is better on the grass.

3.  
Robert Bruce  Ran a great race when second to “Bricks” in the Manhattan. They could meet again in the Arlington Million (G1) later this summer.

4.  
Qurbaan – May have found the 10 furlongs of the Manhattan a bit too far.

5.  
Channel Maker – Got back into the win column with a gritty victory in the Man o’ War (G1) before an even fourth in the Manhattan.

Next 5: Almanaar, Catapult, Delta Prince, Arklow, World of Trouble.

Turf Females

1.  
Vasilika – The wins keep piling up with her latest in the Gamely Stakes (G1). It’s hard to envision her losing to her California rivals in this form, but you have to wonder about trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's status out West.

2.  
Rushing Fall – Won her second straight Grade 1 of the year in the Just a Game at Belmont Park.

3.  
Magic Wand – Did well running against the boys here in the U.S. and last week posted a runner-up finish as the favorite in Royal Ascot's Wolferton Stakes.

4.  
Rymska – Second to Rushing Fall and Vasilika in her last two starts, she won the Hillsborough Stakes (G2) before that.

5.  
Santa Monica – Winner of her last two starts, the Sheepshead Bay Stakes (G2) and the Orchid Stakes (G3). Another on trainer Chad Brown’s loaded roster.

Next 5: Hawksmoor, Competitionofideas, Beau Recall, Mitchell Road, Daddy Is a Legend.

Male Sprinters

1.  
Mitole – It will take an extraordinary effort to defeat this one in a sprint. 

2.  
World of Trouble – Would love to see this guy go against Mitole and the others this summer. His Jaipur (G1) score made him a Grade 1 winner this year on turf and dirt.

3.  
Roy H – He had to be scratched out of the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) due to a minor foot issue that showed quick improvement. Will focus on a return trip to the Breeders’ Cup.

4.  
X Y Jet – After two near misses and multiple knee surgeries, he put it all together to finally win the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), looking like a force on the front end.

5.  
Whitmore – An uncharacteristic finish in the True North (G2) has him headed to the sidelines.

Next 5: Bobby’s Wicked One, Promised Fulfilled, Imperial Hint, Coal Front, Imprimis.


Female Sprinters


1.  
Marley’s Freedom – Still holds this spot despite her runner-up finish in the Humana Distaff (G1).

2.  
Mia Mischief – Defeated Covfefe in the Roxelana at Churchill Downs’. Has done enough now to take over this spot.

3.  
Dream Pauline  Easily took care of business in her first start this year, the Hurricane Bertie (G3). Champion Shamrock Rose was among those left her in wake.

4.  
Spiced Perfection – The Madison (G1) winner finished fourth in the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs.

5.  
Selcourt - May not be as good as in the past, but on her best day sprinting is still near the top of this division. She last worked in May.

Next 5: Spiced Perfection, Break Even, Amy’s Challenge, Late Night Pow Wow, Covfefe.

 

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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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