Bricks and Mortar headlines list of Eclipse Award finalists

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) Bricks and Mortar had a perfect 2019 record and might have a couple more trophies coming his way.

The leading money-winning horse in North America last year headlines the three Eclipse Award finalists for Horse of the Year, to be presented at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 23. Bricks and Mortar, Breeders’ Cup sprint winner Mitole and Maximum Security — the would-have-been winner of the Kentucky Derby — are the Horse of the Year contenders.

Bricks and Mortar went 6 for 6 last year, five of those wins coming in Grade 1 races, and won just over $6.7 million. Bricks and Mortar is also a finalist for Male Turf Horse of the Year, which he’s a lock to win.

“We’ve never had a Horse of the Year,” Bricks and Mortar trainer Chad Brown said late last 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.”

Brown is a finalist for top trainer; if he wins, he’ll join Laz Barrera, Todd Pletcher and Bobby Frankel as the only in Eclipse history to claim that trophy four consecutive times.

Bricks and Mortar didn’t race for more than a year because of a ligament problem that required complicated surgery. His road back to the track in December 2018 after a 15-month layoff wasn’t easy.

And really, none of his races since has been easy, either.

Bricks and Mortar rallied in the final strides to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf by a head over 51-1 shot United, which was fitting given how virtually all his races in 2019 were decided at the very end. He started the year with a 2-1/2 length win in the Pegasus World Cup Turf race at Gulfstream — and his next five races were decided by less than three lengths combined.

Mitole won six of seven starts, and Maximum Security won seven of nine starts. Maximum Security crossed the line first in the Kentucky Derby, only to be disqualified after stewards ruled that he interfered with several other horses as the lead pack turned for home at Churchill Downs.

Mitole is also a finalist for Older Dirt Male, and Maximum Security is the likely winner of the 3-year-old male trophy.

The full list of finalists:

Horse of the Year: Bricks and Mortar, Maximum Security, Mitole

2-Year-Old Male: Maxfield, Storm the Court, Structor

2-Year-Old Filly: Bast, British Idiom, Sharing

3-Year-Old Male: Code of Honor, Maximum Security, Omaha Beach

3-Year-Old Filly: Covfefe, Guarana, Serengeti Empress

Older Dirt Male: McKinzie, Mitole, Vino Rosso

Older Dirt Female: Blue Prize, Elate, Midnight Bisou

Male Sprinter: Imperial Hint, Mitole, World of Trouble

Female Sprinter: Belvoir Bay, Come Dancing, Covfefe

Male Turf Horse: Bricks and Mortar, Mo Forza, World of Trouble

Female Turf Horse: Got Stormy, Sistercharlie, Uni

Steeplechase Horse: Brain Power, Scorpiancer, Winston C

Owner: Gary Barber, Peter Brant, Klaravich Stables, Inc. and William H. Lawrence

Breeder: Calumet Farm, Godolphin, George Strawbridge Jr.

Trainer: Steve Asmussen, Chad Brown, Brad Cox

Jockey: Javier Castellano, Irad Ortiz, Jr., Jose Ortiz

Apprentice Jockey: Julio Correa, Angel Diaz, Kazushi Kimura

Flightline, Pletcher, Godolphin lead way at Eclipse Awards

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Pat McDonogh/USA TODAY NETWORK
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PALM BEACH, Fla. — Flightline ran away in all six of his races, and ran away with top honors at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday night.

And trainer Todd Pletcher, for the first time in nearly a decade, received the sport’s top prize as well.

Flightline – the now-retired winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic to cap an unbeaten six-race career – won Horse of the Year as well as the Eclipse as top Older Dirt Male. It was no surprise that Flightline took home both awards, and he’s now standing stud.

“We’ll hope that his future is as bright as his past,” co-owner Kosta Hronis said.

Godolphin was also a double winner, sweeping the Eclipses as top owner and top breeder for the second consecutive year. It was also the third consecutive top-owner Eclipse for Godolphin.

“This is truly a golden era for Godolphin racing,” said Michael Banahan, the stable’s director of bloodstock. “And these awards and accolades recognize how special it is.”

It was Pletcher’s eighth Eclipse, extending his record for the most by any trainer, and his first since 2014. It was one of the few close races in the voting; Pletcher got 108 first-place votes, while four-time Eclipse winner Chad Brown got 95 and finished second.

“This really is not an individual award. This is a team award,” Pletcher said. “This is an award about the owners, and most importantly, the horses.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. won the Eclipse as top jockey for the fourth time in the last five years; he tied Pat Day and Javier Castellano for third-most in history, behind only seven-time winner Jerry Bailey and five-time winner Laffit Pincay Jr.

Ortiz led all jockeys with more than $37 million in purses in 2022.

“Wow,” Ortiz said. “It’s been an amazing year for me.”

Forte won the Eclipse as 2-year-old male, and will enter this year’s Triple Crown season as one of the early favorites.

“We’re all in this game for a horse like Forte,” said Mike Repole, the horse’s co-owner along with Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola and Teresa Viola. “We’re all in this game to one day maybe own a 2-year-old that has a chance. It’s great to have the Kentucky Derby favorite. … Forte’s an incredible horse.”

Epicenter won the 3-year-old male Eclipse, after running second at both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, then winning the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga over the summer.

Wonder Wheel was the winner as 2-year-old filly, while Nest won the Eclipse in the 3-year-old filly division. Malathaat was the Eclipse winner for older dirt female, Goodnight Olive for female sprinter and Regal Glory for female turf horse.

Elite Power was picked as the top male sprinter, Modern Games won the Eclipse for male turf horse, and Hewick was the Eclipse winner in the steeplechase division.

Jose Antonio Gomez won as top apprentice jockey.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

bob baffert
Courier Journal/USA TODAY Sports
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Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.