Breeders’ Cup: Bricks and Mortar a Deserving Horse of the Year Pick

US Racing Team

Bricks and Mortar, 2019 Breeders’ Cup.

As trainer Chad Brown put it so succinctly moments after Bricks and Mortar won the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), it’s a “no-brainer.’’

The question: Does he deserve to be Horse of the Year?

“I think after what you saw, with his victory and some other defeats,’’ he said, “I think it’s a no brainer.”

Bricks and Mortar came into the 1 ½-mile Turf unbeaten in all five of his starts this year. He rallied in a thrilling stretch drive under Irad Ortiz, Jr., and collared 50-1 long shot United in the final yards to win by a head.

Already ranked No. 1 in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Top 10 poll before the races at Santa Anita, Bricks and Mortar all but sealed the Horse of the Year the deal as the 5-year-old completed a perfect 6-0 campaign – including five Grade 1 victories.

After Bricks and Mortar finished third in a pair of Grade 3’s in New York in 2017 and was training for his next race, Brown sensed something was wrong. The horse had an injured ligament in his hock. Surgery was performed. His racing career was 50-50. He was given 14 months off. And since his return, he has reeled off seven wins beginning with a triumphant comeback on Dec. 22, 2018 at Gulfstream Park.

This year, he’s won five Grade 1’s at five different tracks: the Pegasus World Cup Turf at Gulfstream Park; the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs; the Manhattan at Belmont Park; the Arlington Million at Arlington International; and Saturday’s BC Turf at Santa Anita.

Several other horses entered the Breeders’ Cup as Horse of the Year candidates, including sprint star Mitole. The 4-year-old colt put on a dazzling display of speed in winning the $1 million Sprint, completing his campaign 6-for-7. His lone loss came against Imperial Hint in the Alfred Vanderbilt (G1) at Saratoga a month after he won the prestigious Metropolitan Handicap (G1). Imperial Hint was a race day scratch from the Sprint.

Midnight Bisou came into the $2 million Distaff with a perfect record this year, and was No. 2 in the NTRA poll, but finished second to Blue Prize. Vino Rosso may have won the Classic, but his record doesn’t come close to matching the likes of Bricks and Mortar, Mitole or Midnight Bisou.

The Eclipse Awards will be presented Jan. 20, and after the votes are tabulated we’ll find out for sure whether Brown’s assessment is correct.

With that, here’s a look at the top 3 picks for Horse of the Year, along with comment, from a half-dozen of our US Racing correspondents:

BricksAndMortar

Bricks And Mortar

Margaret Ransom: “Bricks and Mortar went into the world championships without a loss all year, including five Grade 1’s, and faced some of the best grass horses in the world. He capped off his 2019 season the way he came in by never facing defeat, so if there were any doubts about who earned the Horse of the Year title going into the Breeders’ Cup, his impressive win dashed them all. It will be a surprise if he is not a unanimous choice.”

1 Bricks and Mortar 2 Midnight Bisou 3 Mitole

Mike Farrell: ‘’To the victors belong the spoils, especially in the Breeders’ Cup. Several horses entered the day with legitimate claims to Horse of the Year honors. Only the winners survived the cut … three emerged for the final round. Considering the body of work over the course of the year, Bricks and Mortar will get my vote. He went 6-for-6 against top competition from start to finish.”

1 Bricks and Mortar 2 Mitole 3 Vino Rosso

Lynne Snierson: “Bricks and Mortar ran the table with an undefeated 2019 campaign that included five Grade 1 wins and began in January with the Pegasus Turf (G1) and was capped by the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) in November, not to mention the Arlington Million (G1) along the way in the summer.

1 Bricks and Mortar 2 (tie) Midnight Bisou, Mitole

Ed McNamara: “Bricks and Mortar was the favorite for Horse of the Year going into the Breeders’ Cup and he clinched it by winning the Turf over 1 1/2 miles, a distance he never tried. If he’d lost, Mitole and perhaps Vino Rosso would have had claims. Midnight Bisou’s Distaff defeat eliminated her slim chances.

1 Bricks and Mortar 2 Mitole 3 Vino Rosso

Ray Wallin: Bricks and Mortar finished 2019 with an exclamation point in his quest for Horse of the Year honors. In an exciting finish to the Breeders’ Cup Turf, he proved he could get the mile and half distance.

1 Bricks and Mortar 2 Mitole 3 Midnight Bisou

Richard Rosenblatt: “I was pulling for Midnight Bisou to finish off an undefeated season, and she just couldn’t quite make up enough ground in the stretch in the Distaff. Bricks and Mortar was simply remarkable, not even on his best game but closing with authority to win the Turf and finish the season 6-0 with five Grade 1’s. Turf runners aren’t usually voted Horse of the Year. This year, Bricks and Mortar is an easy choice. I do need to toss in this nugget: Maximum Security has finished first in six of seven races this year – he won the Florida Derby (G1) and Haskell Invitational (G1), was DQ’d from first to 17th in the Kentucky Derby (G1), finished second by a length in his return after the Derby, and won the Bold Ruler (G3) a week before the BC races. He could possibly make another start in the Clark Handicap or the Cigar Mile (G1). If he wins, that’s a pretty stellar resume.

1 Bricks and Mortar 2 Midnight Bisou 3 Mitole

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