Bricks and Mortar, with Iran Ortiz Jr. up, passes United, ridden by Flavien Prat, to win the Breeders Cup Turf on Saturday during the 36th Breeders Cup World Championship at the Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. Photo by Mark Abraham/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Bricks and Mortar built a solid case for Horse of the Year honors with a hard-fought, narrow victory in Saturday's $4 million Longines Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita -- the climax of the day's world-class turf events.
Iridessa, Uni and Belvoir Bay also posted wins over the firm California grass. But it was a gutsy performance by Bricks and Mortar, going farther than he ever had been before, that carried the day.
With Irad Ortiz Jr. riding for trainer Chad Brown, the 5-year-old son of 2000 Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up Giant's Causeway edged 50-1 shot United by a head, improving his season's record to 6-for-6 -- five of those Grade I races. Anthony Van Dyck, winner of this year's Group 1 Investec Derby on the Epsom Downs, was third in Saturday's race, confirming the quality of the competition.
For Brown, the victory capped a year that saw him win turf races across the continent, several times saddling all three top finishers. Along the way, he won all the stakes races, including three Group I's, on Arlington Million day as Bricks and Mortar won the Million itself.
Still, there were doubters going into the 1 1/2-miles Breeders' Cup event -- a full quarter-mile more than Bricks and Mortar had tried previously. He answered the call, racing in mid-pack until the final turn, seemingly too far behind the leaders to succeed. But once Ortiz got him room outside rivals, he slowly mowed them down and had just enough to eke out the win.
With several other contenders for Horse of the Year honors coming up short, the performance earned Bricks and Mortar a lot of support.
"We just went race to race and when we got through each one it was, 'Okay, what are we going to do next?' There were a lot of things to decide," Brown said. "A mile and a half, do we run him after the Arlington Million, can I get this horse ready after 13 weeks?
"I wasn't sure until he hit the wire. He needed every inch of the mile and a half. I was worried when he was in between horses. I talked to Irad and he said he was pulling the whole way so he gave him his head and let him get in the clear, and once he saw daylight he just went."
The rest of the action on the turf in the second day of the Breeders' Cup World Championships:
In the $2 million Maker's Mark Filly & Mare Turf, Iridessa won a furious stretch duel with Vasilika, scoring by a neck while the favorite, Sistercharlie, came up third with a late rally, losing for the first time in 2019 and effectively ending her chances for Horse of the Year honors.
Iridessa and Vasilika both took station behind the breakaway leader, Mirth, who led by more than 12 lengths down the backstretch. As Mirth tired, Iridessa, under Wayne Lordan, rallied alongside Vasilika and the race was between them for the final furlong. The final time for the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf, starting on the downhill course, was a quick 1:57.77.
Iridessa, a 3-year-old filly by Ruler of the World, is trained by Joseph Patrick O'Brien, son of Aidan O'Brien and a former Breeders' Cup winner as a jockey. The filly was a dual Group 1 winner in Ireland earlier in the year. Two other trans-Atlantic invaders, Fanny Logan and Just Wonderful, finished fourth and fifth with Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore riding, respectively.
"While we thought that we were coming with a really legitimate contender," O'Brien said, "it was hard to believe she would have won. She has not won every race but you can't expect a horse to win every race."
O'Brien said there are no immediate plans for the filly past the Breeders' Cup. "We get her home and there's a good chance hopefully she'll stay in training next year. And we've already got something in the spring, see where the season brings us from there."
Uni had only two rivals beaten heading into the second turn of the $2 million TVG Mile on the turf, circled the field and was dueling for the lead by the time she headed for home. From there, it was between her and Got Stormy with Uni getting the job done by 1 1/2 lengths. Without Parole was third, a nose in front of the top European invader, Circus Maximus. Uni, a British-bred, 5-year-old mare by More Than Ready, reported in 1:32.45 with Joel Rosario riding for Chad Brown.
Uni scored her third win from four starts this year, following up a victory in the Grade I First Lady over the Keeneland turf Oct. 5. She was 4-for-4 in 2018 and has a career record of 9-3-3 from 17 starts, the first six of which were in France.
Brown said the relationship between Rosario and Uni "is about as strong as you can get. The first time he saw her and breezed her, we saw this little, pint-sized keg of dynamite and I didn't think he would run a mile and a quarter." Once she did that respectably, he added, "It was always in my mind to cut her back ... So we waited until she was 100 percent and eased her back into training and got her sound and it all worked out."
Mark Casse, trainer of Got Stormy, noted owner Gary Barber has her in Fasig-Tipton November sale but subtly campaigned for a change of heart. "She'll make a great 5-year-old," Casse said. "She ran her butt off."
In the $1 million Turf Sprint, Belvoir Bay, started from the outside gate in a field of 12, shot right to the lead and never looked back. After showing the way under Javier Castellano, the 6-year-old, British-bred Equiano mare cruised home first by 1 1/4 lengths, finishing the 5 furlongs on firm going in course-record time of 54.83 seconds. Om edged Shekky Shebaz for second as another in a parade of weekend upsets produced big payoffs. Belvoir Bay posted two impressive wins at Santa Anita early in the year before traveling to Dubai, where she reported second, losing only to the world's top grass sprinter, Blue Point, in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint. She had not won in to starts since returning Stateside, however.
Peter Miller, who trains both Belvoir Bay and Om, said the winner is "just a tough filly. She's just so tough. I was telling everyone all week that she ran second to Blue Point and Blue Point would be even-money in this race." Belvoir Bay went to the post at odds of 14-1.