Shifman: Bricks and Mortar's courage seals Horse of the Year

November 05, 2019 10:30am

With the year's final NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll out, Bricks and Mortar strengthened his hold on the No. 1 spot, a position that he held for most of 2019. With the poll serving as a glimpse of what will happen in the Horse of the Year vote in a couple of months, Bricks and Mortar’s remarkable victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf bolstered his hold on top position with 42 of the 44 votes.

Bricks and Mortar completed his 2019 campaign by racing a mile and a half, a distance he'd never gone. The victory gave the Chad Brown trainee his sixth win in that many starts with five of them coming in Grade 1 races all run at different racetracks.

“Definitely one of the best horses we have ever trained,” said Brown at his post-race press conference. “And this was -- this is the biggest win we have ever had. And I'm just so proud of him.”

Conventional handicapping wisdom says never bet on a favorite who is trying to do something for the first time. The son of Giant’s Causeway was sent off at even money anyway as he stretched to 12 furlongs at Santa Anita Park.

The Breeders’ Cup Turf was the fourth different distance run for Bricks and Mortar this year.

“Anyone who really follows the sport and follows turf racing knows how trip dependent you are, and for this horse to do this I still can't get my head around it,” Brown said.

As the race unfolded, it became clear that the Breeders’ Cup Turf was not going to include a typical trip for Bricks and Mortar, who likes to stalk the early pace, relaxing on the outside when waiting to make a winning move down the stretch.

From the start of the race, he was stuck among horses with no chance to move outside and settle into stride.

“When he passed by the wire the first time, I could see him a bit rank in there and again down the back side. And I was quite concerned.” Brown said.

Race caller Larry Collmus picked up on it immediately, pointing out, “Bricks and Mortar’s a bit headstrong.”

The top-ranked American thoroughbred was getting bumped and brushed all through the early going while in tight quarters. Collmus chirped in, “Bricks and Mortar tries to settle down between horses.”

Even turning for home, it looked like there was no way that jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. was going to be able to find a clear path. Once again, he was forced to be patient.

Brown knew that time was running out for the typical closing move.

“Where I was most concerned is really about from the half-mile pole to the quarter pole when he was actually losing ground in between horses. I said, well, maybe he's not going to go on. I couldn't really tell.”

Ortiz had ridden Bricks and Mortar in all six of his victories since he returned from the surgery that revived the 5-year-old’s racing career.

“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,” Ortiz said of the trip. “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. This is a special horse. He might be the best I’ve ever ridden.”

The mark of a great horse is that they can defy conventional wisdom, be successful at different tracks and distances, and find a way to win when things don’t go their way during a race.

With a perfect six-race campaign that included five Grade 1 victories, capped by the most courageous performance of his career in the Breeders’ Cup, Bricks and Mortar will be a most worthy Horse of the Year.

 Consensus Top 10

Matt Shifman’s Top 10

1.   Bricks and Mortar (42)

1.   Bricks and Mortar

 2. Mitole (2)

2.   Mitole

 3. Vino Rosso

3.   Vino Rosso

 4. Midnight Bisou

4.   Midnight Bisou

 5. Sistercharlie

5.   Uni

 6. McKinzie

6.   Sistercharlie

 7. Uni

 7. Covfefe

 8. Covfefe

 8. Maximum Security

 9. Blue Prize

 9. Omaha Beach

 10. Maximum Security

 10. McKinzie



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Meet Matt Shifman

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs, Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

Since 2012, Matt has been a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

Recently, Matt helped launch Derby Day Racing, a new 2-year-old racing partnership, that just purchased a promising Lookin At Lucky filly named Sooner Schooner.

You may also know Matt by his Twitter, Facebook, and HRN screen nameAndyScoggin.

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