Breeders’ Cup: Build It Up

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Chad Brown waited out the last few minutes before boarding his redeye flight from Los Angeles to New York late Saturday night and allowed himself a moment to reflect on the weekend’s accomplishments while looking ahead just a little bit.

“It was a great day,” said Brown, who won three races at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships to move into a tie with Bob Baffert for second all-time and behind only D. Wayne Lukas. “But at the same time I’m here thinking about how hard it’s going to be to replace some of these horses. We’ve got to reload.”

Brown expressed similar sentiments about a month and a half before from the office inside his barn on the Oklahoma Training Track at Saratoga Race Course. He’d just returned from the Keeneland September yearling sale to do just that – try and reload – before running Guarana in the Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing.

“It’s tough losing these horses,” Brown said that mid-September morning while combing through a catalog for the September sale. “They’ve done so well for us.”

One horse leaving the barn did nothing but win for Brown in 2019. Bricks And Mortar, winner of Saturday’s $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf and the pro-tem leader for North America’s Horse of the Year, posted a 6-for-6 mark in 2019 with five Grade 1 wins for Brown and owners Seth Klarman and Bill Lawrence. The 5-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway won from late January in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf to early November in the 12-furlong Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita Park. He racked up $6,723,650 over his six starts to lead Brown’s gaudy stable earnings of more than $29.5 million through Monday.

Irad Ortiz Jr., who rode Bricks And Mortar and three other Breeders’ Cup winners on the weekend, joined Brown on the overnight flight to JFK along with Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano and his wife Abby, veteran New York valet Tony Millan and three exercise riders from Brown’s team. There was work to do Sunday at Belmont Park and Aqueduct.

Ortiz rode Bricks And Mortar in each of his seven consecutive wins – all in 2019 and another in his comeback race in late December – which the horse will take into retirement and stud duty in Japan next season. The final came by a head from 51-1 longshot United in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Brown said he felt “relieved” after the race, which came nearly three months after Bricks And Mortar won the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million.

“We were debating which race to run him in,” Brown said of the decision to go in the Turf over the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile. “He had never been a mile-and-a-half, and he had this long layoff to overcome. (I) wasn’t sure. Should we run him in between Arlington Million and now?

“So there were a lot of decisions that had to be made, and thankfully as a team we made the right decisions. The horse showed up. He showed up every time he’s ever run his whole career, if you look at his record. I’m just so proud of him. Definitely one of the best horses we have ever trained. And this was, this is the biggest win we have ever had.”

Bricks And Mortar was bred in Kentucky by George Strawbridge, and purchased for $200,000 on behalf of Klaravich and Lawrence. As a 3-year-old in 2017, the dark bay won his first four starts (including the Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga) and placed in two graded stakes to close the season. Then he went to the sidelines with a tendon injury, spending 14 months away from the races. He capped his career with the seven straight wins, will add the Eclipse Award as champion turf male with the Horse of the Year crown open to debate.

History shows Brown will rebuild without Bricks And Mortar and other top members of his stable. He’s topped $20 million in purses won the last five years and with a loyal roster of clients it’s no stretch to see it happening again in 2020.

One runner that will return from his three winners is Structor, a 2-year-old son of Palace Malice who ran his record to 3-for-3 winning Friday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. An $850,000 purchase by Mike Ryan on behalf of Jeff Drown and Don Rachel at the OBS March sale, Structor added his three-quarter-length win over Billy Batts in the 1-mile Juvenile Turf to his prior score in the Grade 3 Pilgrim at Belmont Park Sept. 28.

Uni defeated fellow female Got Stormy and a remaining field of males to win the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile and also figures to return. Head of Plains Partners’ Sol Kumin, who campaigns the Irish-bred 5-year-old in partnership with Michael Dubb, Robert LaPenta and Bethlehem Stables, said it was “a no-brainer to bring her back” for 2020.

“We talked about potentially trying to go to Ascot, after the race Tepin went to,” Kumin said after Uni topped Got Stormy by 1 ½ lengths for her second straight Grade 1 win this season. “We’ll have to do some arm twisting with Chad to see if it will happen, but it’s definitely something that’s on the table.

“A big question now, honestly, is do you give her a break or do you go back and try to win the Matriarch again. Maybe she has a chance to be champion (with a second win in that race).”

The Numbers: Brown’s three wins at Santa Anita give him 15 Breeders’ Cup victories. D. Wayne Lukas leads with 20 wins. Brown won his first with Maram in the Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2008 and has won at least one the last six years. Brown also won three in 2014 at Santa Anita with Bobby’s Kitten in the Turf Sprint, Dayatthespa in the Filly and Mare Turf and Lady Eli in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.