Contact: Alicia Hughes, NTRA Communications, (859) 422-2663, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chad Brown had been there before, 14 times previously to be exact. In the dozen years he has spent reshaping what mastery of one’s craft looks like, the three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer has made trips to the Breeders’ Cup winner’s circle part of his indomitable routine, just one more arduous feat his barn racks up with casual ease.
In the moments after the 2019 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf went official at Santa Anita Park on November 2, Brown began going through those familiar motions for the 15th time in his career. There was the jubilant trek from the stands to the track, the embrace with grateful connections, the sight of yet another protégé from his barn being draped with the purple and yellow flowers bestowed to those who prevail during the two-day World Championships.
At the center of the revelry was the horse who, like his conditioner, made a career of out turning the grueling into business as usual. Since returning to the races in late 2018, Bricks and Mortar had done nothing but spark celebration with his exploits. His final act was to further stamp himself as the leading candidate for year-end honors with his victory in the Turf. In doing so, the son of Giant’s Causeway turned Brown’s most recent Breeders’ Cup achievement into one that sits with distinction on his emotional mantel.
“This horse is remarkable. This is the biggest win of my career, and the biggest for my team, for sure,” Brown exclaimed after Bricks and Mortar prevailed in the Turf. “I’m just so proud of him. Definitely one of the best horses we have ever trained.”
On January 23, Bricks and Mortar can become the horse who gives Brown one of the few major accolades his resume is missing as the dark bay is the top candidate to be named Horse of the Year when the 49th annual Eclipse Awards are announced at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino.
Brown has conditioned eight Eclipse Award champions with more expected to come later this month. In addition to having Bricks and Mortar head up the race for both Horse of the Year and Champion Turf Male, Brown has Uni (GB) and Sistercharlie (IRE) as finalists for Champion Turf Female, Structor up for Champion 2-Year-Old Male, and is himself the favorite to earn his fourth straight Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer.
In crafting a 6-for-6 campaign in 2019 to put himself in position to become the first Brown trainee to earn Horse of the Year accolades, Bricks and Mortar also made a case to go down as one of the greatest conditioning job his 41-year-old caretaker has uncorked.
A graded stakes winner at age 3, Bricks and Mortar went to the sidelines for nearly 14 months after developing a severe stringhalt condition that required a complicated surgery to correct. The odds of him coming back to race at all were tenuous at best. The notion that he could return to the track and have no peer was the stuff pipe dreams are usually made of.
“Throughout the course of his career, we were very high on this horse at three, and he really should have never lost,” Brown recalled. “We were getting ready for the (2017) Hollywood Derby, and it’s funny, he started to — he had injured his hock, basically, a ligament in his hock. And we didn’t know if he would run again. We sent him to Dr. (Larry) Bramlage and….Dr. Bramlage said ‘There’s a 50/50 chance this works if I do this surgery’.”
When Bricks and Mortar did return to the races at Gulfstream Park in December 2018, the skill and patience that went into his recovery received instant validation when he recorded a half-length win. The manner in which he won and the way he bounced out of that effort was enough to convince Brown and owners Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence to test him against top-level company next time out in the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes.
In that second try off the layoff, the then 5-year-old dark teased of what was to come when he captured the $7 million Pegasus Turf by 2 ½ lengths. From there, Bricks and Mortar proceeded to dominate the grass male ranks in methodical fashion by posting five more graded stakes triumphs including Grade 1 wins in the Turf Classic Stakes, Manhattan Stakes, and Arlington Million before capping his career in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
“You see how much goes into it with a horse like this, and if any of those people didn’t execute their talents we wouldn’t be here,” Brown said. “He would have to be right up there at the top. We never had a Horse of the Year, so if he’s fortunate enough to get that award and for his body of work and for what he’s overcome, all those things go into putting him right at the top as the best we have had.”
Bricks and Mortar recently arrived in Japan to begin his stud career at Shadai Farm. Bred in Kentucky by George Strawbridge Jr. out of the Ocean Crest mare Beyond the Waves, Bricks and Mortar retired with 11 wins from 13 career starts and $7,085,650 in earnings.
“I mean, what a nice story for horse racing,” co-owner Lawrence said after the Breeders’ Cup. “This is a (horse) that the owners were patient with, the trainer was patient with, they brought the horse back, and he ran the table. He took on every big race. We’re just proud of him and so thankful to have him.”