Bricks and Mortar wins Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year

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Bricks and Mortar has been named Horse of the Year, as well as Champion Male Turf Horse, at the 49th Eclipse Awards after an undefeated year. The Chad Brown-trained 6-year-old was sire Giant’s Causeway’s winningest offspring in 2019, earning over $6.7 million in six starts with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard.

“We ran him against the best competition we could find,” owner Seth Klarman said as he accepted the Male Turf Horse award early in the night. “He danced every dance.”

Bricks and Mortar’s dominant year comes after a total of 440 days off between October 7, 2017 and December 22, 2018 due to an uncommon neuro-muscular condition in his right hind leg called stringhalt. Brown was told the horse had a 50-50 chance at returning to the same level of racing after corrective surgery.

A month after his return, Bricks and Mortar won the inaugural $3 million Pegasus World Cup Turf by three lengths. He went on to win a G2 handicap at Fair Grounds before picking up three big Grade 1 stakes races: the Old Forrester Turf Classic at Churchill, the Manhattan at Belmont and the Arlington Million. He closed out 2019 with a win in the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita in November. Last month, Bricks and Mortar arrived at Shadai Stallion Station in Japan to begin his second career.

The connections of Bricks and Mortar also fared well at the Eclipse Awards. Ortiz Jr. beat out his brother Jose Ortiz for Outstanding Jockey, and Brown took home Outstanding Trainer for the fourth year in a row. Klaravich Stables, Inc. and William H. Lawrence, the partnership behind Bricks and Mortar, claimed Outstanding Owner, and his breeder George Strawbridge Jr. won his respective category as well.

Midnight Bisou was named Champion Older Dirt Female. She won seven of her eight starts in 2019, with her sole loss coming in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Todd Pletcher’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso won Champion Older Dirt Male.

Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Uni (GB), also trained by Chad Brown, took home Champion Female Turf Horse. Met Mile and Breeders’ Cup Sprint victor Mitole was the Champion Male Sprinter. Crowd favorite and Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Covfefe was named Champion Female Sprinter and 3-Year-Old Filly. Three-time Grade 1 winner (and disqualified Kentucky Derby runner) Maximum Security was crowned Champion 3-Year-Old Male.

The Champion 2-Year-Old division went to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner British Idiom for filly and Storm the Court, the 45-1 longshot winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, for male.

The dramatic and historic 2019 Kentucky Derby, which saw Maximum Security disqualified after crossing the Churchill Downs wire first, was the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA)’s Moment of the Year.

In addition to honoring some of horse racing’s best, the NTRA honored retired Thoroughbreds at the Eclipse Awards by showing photos of former racehorses in their new careers as part of the new #NeverEclipsed campaign.

All Eclipse Award finalists (winners in bold): 

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

Newgate wins Robert B. Lewis Stakes; Baffert runs 1-2-3-4

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Newgate won the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes by a neck, with Bob Baffert as the trainer of all four horses in the Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Newgate ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.11 and paid $4 and $2.60 as the even-money favorite. There was no show wagering because of the field size.

Hard to Figure returned $5.20 at 12-1 odds. Worcester was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Arabian Lion was fourth.

“So much improvement in all these horses,” Baffert said. “I was actually nervous before the race, worried that something weird might happen, but I can relax now.”

The Lewis was a Kentucky Derby prep race, but no points were awarded because Baffert has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The Hall of Fame trainer was in Louisville to testify in federal court as he seeks a temporary injunction to end the suspension, which runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet. It was meted out following a failed drug test by Medina Spirit after the colt finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Newgate earned his first graded stakes victory. The colt was second, beaten by a neck in the Sham Stakes last month in his previous start.

“Frankie Dettori has been teaching him how to just sit back, relax and come with a punch and that’s what he did today,” Baffert said.

The victory, worth $120,000, increased Newgate’s career earnings to $241,975, with two wins in six starts.

Baffert: 2-year Churchill Downs suspension hurt reputation

bob baffert
Sam Upshaw Jr./USA TODAY NETWORK
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs never gave advance notice nor reached out to explain its two-year suspension, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said in federal court, and reiterated that the penalty has caused irreparable harm to his business and reputation.

Baffert has sued the historic track and is seeking a temporary injunction to stop his suspension following a failed drug test by the now-deceased Medina Spirit after the colt came in first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

The suspension for a series of failed tests by his horses runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet and could exclude Baffert from the Derby for a second consecutive spring.

Almost a year ago, Kentucky racing officials disqualified Medina Spirit and suspended Baffert for 90 days for those failed tests. Churchill Downs elevated Derby runner-up Mandaloun to winner.

“They’ve hurt my reputation,” Baffert said during nearly two hours of testimony in U.S. District Court. “My horses should’ve made much more money. I didn’t run for 90 days, and I had to let people go.”

Churchill Downs wants the case dismissed, citing nine failed tests by Baffert-trained horses as justification for disciplining horse racing’s most visible figure. The list of violators includes 2020 Kentucky Oaks third-place finisher Gamine, who was ultimately disqualified.

Medina Spirit failed his test for having in his system the corticosteroid betamethasone, which Baffert and attorney Clark Brewster have argued came from an ointment rather than an injection.

Track president Mike Anderson said the decision by Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen stemmed from Baffert’s “refusal to take responsibility for repeat violations” during a news conference at his backside barn after Medina Spirit’s failed test was revealed.

“We wanted to make a statement that this was a consequence of not doing the right thing,” Anderson said.

Attorneys Matt Benjamin and Christine Demana, who are representing Churchill Downs, also disputed Baffert’s contention that business has suffered by noting his latest crop of promising 3-year-old colts on this year’s Derby trail.

One of them, Arabian Knight, won last week’s Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn by 5+ lengths to give Baffert his record sixth win in the race. The horse is ineligible to earn Kentucky Derby qualifying points as the winner because of Baffert’s suspension.

A slide presented also showed that Baffert horses made 477 starts from May 10, 2021, through December 2022 and won marquee races such as the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Corniche, the Eclipse winner) along with Grade 1 wins in the Pennsylvania Derby and Malibu Stakes (Taiba).

Friday’s 3 1/2-hour hearing followed four hours of testimony on Thursday. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings gave no indication when she would rule. But Brewster said he expects a decision “within several days.”

Baffert testified that he had had a good relationship with Churchill Downs, though he noted that he was paying for his seats at the track and having to “grovel” to get them. He also insisted that he tried to be a good ambassador for horse racing, especially after American Pharoah and Justify won the Triple Crown in 2015 and 2018, respectively.

“I think today was great because I finally got to tell my story in a nonbiased atmosphere,” he said. “I hope for the best, and hopefully we’ll be here.”