by Keith McCalmont
Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence's Bricks and Mortar rallied resolutely down the lane to capture the Grade 1, $1 million Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park.
A 1 1/4-mile route over the firm inner turf for 4-year-olds and upward, the Manhattan was one of eight Grade 1 races on Saturday's card, culminating in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.
Bricks and Mortar, one of four Manhattan entrants trained by Chad Brown, picked up his fifth-consecutive win, three in Grade 1 events, with a powerful stretch run under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. He bested stablemate Robert Bruce by 1 1/2 lengths, with stablemate Raging Bull another three-quarters of a length back for a Brown-trained trifecta that returned $23.12 for $0.50.
Brown said he was overwhelmed by the result.
"This ranks right up there. I have to digest it first but it's certainly way up there. I hold this race in such high regard," said Brown. "To run 1-2-3 in it really points out how fortunate I am to have so many talented horses in my barn. To see the others be not far from Bricks and Mortar gives us hope they are going to have really good years as well."
Bandua led the nine-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 23.68 seconds with Qurbaan, piloted by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, tracking his early foot followed by Catcho En Die and recent Grade 1 Man o' War winner Channel Maker.
Smith sent Qurbaan to the lead through a half-mile in 48.73, opening up a three-length lead into the turn as Bandua stayed on and Channel Maker and Bricks and Mortar launching their bids wide through the turn.
Qurbaan maintained a precarious lead at the top of the lane as Robert Bruce, last year's Grade 1 Arlington Million winner piloted by Jose Ortiz, waited in vain for racing room on the inside as Bricks and Mortar found smooth sailing outside rivals to secure the win in a final running time of 1:58.11. Robert Bruce found his gap late in the wake of Bricks and Mortar's decisive run to be best of the rest.
It was the fifth Manhattan victory for Brown, who scored previously with Desert Blanc , Real Solution , Slumber , and Flintshire .
"He ran great, he was carrying a lot of weight. Irad gave him a beautiful trip," said Brown. "He fell into a nice spot off the fence but had cover. Once again, he exploded in the stretch, this horse it just amazes me how consistently he is finishing on the turf. He's getting good trips, he's kicking at all different distances. Very rare horse."
A 5-year-old son of Giant's Causeway, Bricks and Mortar captured his first four career starts including a win in the 2017 Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga. After racing just once in 2018, the dark bay is undefeated in 2019, winning the inaugural Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park, the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds, and the Grade 1 Old Forester Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.
Ortiz, Jr. who first piloted Bricks and Mortar on December 22, 2018 to launch the current win streak, was full of praise for his charge.
"Since I've been riding him he hasn't got beat yet. I love this horse. He's a fighter," said Ortiz, Jr. "He's so good. The track was really fast. He always shows up. His last couple of races was on firm turf, this was softer. His feet can feel it a little more.
"He broke perfectly and put himself in a good position early so I didn't have to use him, and I can save ground," he added. "I followed Channel Maker the whole way, and when I turned for home and I kicked him out, he just took off."
Bricks and Mortar, bred in Kentucky by George Strawbridge, banked $535,000 in victory while improving his record to 9-0-2 from 11 career starts. Sent to post as the 3-5 mutuel favorite, he paid $3.30 for a $2 win wager.
Following Raging Bull in third was Channel Maker, followed by Channel Cat, Bandua, Olympico, Qurbaan and Catcho En Die. Epical was scratched.
NYRA Press Office