In a handful of strides over the Saratoga Race Course turf Aug. 4, Bricks and Mortar went from a horse who looked primed to suffer his first defeat to one who still has yet to encounter a rival that can withstand his closing kick.
The powerful turn of foot that carried the son of Giant's Causeway to victory in his first three starts kept him unbeaten in his toughest challenge to date. He worked his way to a clear path in late stretch before running by race favorite Yoshida en route to a three-quarter length victory in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (G2T).
Trainer Chad Brown can barely walk his shedrow without running into one of his accomplished turf proteges, so the fact the Eclipse Award winner was especially effusive in his praise of his newest graded stakes winner is a testament to Bricks and Mortar's ability.
Since his Gulfstream Park debut in February, the dark bay colt has shown he is handy enough to win in any manner of his choosing, be it his last-to-first run in the July 4 Manila Stakes at Belmont Park, his rally from midpack in his maiden outing, or rating just off the pacesetters as he did in Friday's test.
"He's everything you want to see in a 3-year-old, whether it's a dirt horse or a turf horse. He's constantly proving that he has the will to win," said Brown, who has won the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes for three straight years. "With this horse, if you set him down in the clear and give him a target, he gets there. We talked about it in the paddock. ... and even though he won the Manila Stakes last time, he was far back off a very slow pace and he flew home to get there, which was remarkable, really.
"For a lightly raced 3-year-old—he's undefeated—he's done everything we've asked. You can't ask for better than that. Yoshida is a top class horse and to kick clear you're really going to have to run a fast last quarter to catch him."
Jockey Joel Rosario wisely had Bricks and Mortar much closer to the early runners this time around, as Secretary At War cut fractions of :23.94 and :48.11 with Big Handsome tracking second and the eventual winner saving ground along the rail in third. When Yoshida made his move three-wide with three furlongs to go, Bricks and Mortar was still sitting inside of foes as the nine-horse field settled in for the stretch run.
Rosario never stopped working on his mount, however, and kept tipping him out further until finally he had clear aim at Yoshida and Big Handsome, who were knocking heads for what looked to be the drive for top honors. Bricks and Mortar ruined that two-horse show with a brilliant surge in the final yards to hit the wire in 1:39.47 for 1 1/16-miles over a course rated firm.
"I just took my time to take him out," Rosario said. "The last race he had, the final quarter-mile was very fast. He tries hard every time so I knew he had the turn-of-foot to get home, I just waited until I could get him out. He's very honest and as long as he's comfortable he'll take it from there. You can put him wherever you want."
"I got a perfect trip. No excuses," said Yoshida's rider, Irad Ortiz Jr.
Bred by George Strawbridge and owned by Bill Lawrence and Klaravich Stables, Bricks and Mortar improved his earnings to $256,800. He was purchased by Oak Bluff Partners for $200,000 out of the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale and is out of the graded stakes-placed Ocean Crest mare Beyond the Waves.
"He handled the mile and sixteenth well, but at some point we're going to have to address how far this horse wants to run," Brown said. "I want to enjoy this. Whether he'll come back at this meet or not, I'm not sure; it's probably unlikely. But he's undefeated, he's done nothing wrong and you'll hear more from this horse."