Bricks and Mortar Horse of the Year, Stars at Eclipse Awards

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Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar | Horsephotos

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The stars of racing were out in full force for the 2019 Runhappy Eclipse Awards in Gulfstream Park’s Sport of Kings auditorium Thursday night. The newly-minted hosting trio of TVG’s Gabby Gaudet, NBC and TVG’s Brittany Eurton and Gulfstream’s Acacia Courtney led the evening’s program, reflecting on a season that had it all–celebration, challenge and above all, tremendous change. While a total of 11 equine champions and five human divisions were crowned, it was a single individual that cast a thread through several of the victorious connections of the night. Bricks and Mortar (Giant’s Causeway) took down the big prize of the evening-Horse of the Year-in addition to the Champion Turf Male title. The five-year-old was also instrumental in bestowing his trainer-Chad Brown-with his fourth consecutive training championship. Other divisional winners with close ties to the five-time Grade I winner are Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence (Owner); George Strawbridge (Breeder); and Irad Ortiz Jr. (Jockey).

Also a major talking point through the two-hour show was that of Thoroughbred Aftercare. With video segments of retired off-the-track Thoroughbreds shown periodically throughout the evening, equine care and safety were touched upon by winners and presenters alike.

“The safety of our horses and riders are our number one priority, every race, every day, every racetrack,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. Underscoring it’s importance to many of those in attendance, Waldrop announced that Courtney, Gaudet and Eurton all were donating their wages for the evening to the cause of aftercare.

All Roads Lead to Brown
The very first winner of the night appeared to set the tone for the rest of the evening as Bricks and Mortar, trained by Chad Brown, earned the title for Champion Turf Horse and rounded out the night with a Horse of the Year title. Giving credit to his staff, owners and rider, in addition to the racing circuits he frequented for much of the year, Brown tied his former mentor Bobby Frankel, Todd Pletcher and Laz Barrera as the only trainers to win four consecutive training titles. Among his notable achievements in 2019, Brown tied his 2018 mark of 20 Grade I victories again in 2019 and surpassed his own personal record with 54 graded wins. He also bagged an enviable quartet of graded stakes at Arlington Park Aug. 10 when taking the GI Arlington Million (Bricks and Mortar); GI Secretariat S. (Valid Point); GI Beverly D. S. (Sistercharlie {Ire}); and GIII Pucker Up S. (Cafe Americano).

And not one to rest on his laurels, Brown is already looking on to the next challenge.

“Jan. 1 is a clean slate for everyone,” he said. “It’s great to go back and think about the great year we had with so many highlights of Bricks and Mortar. Also, Arlington Park stands out. Going there for the day and winning those four races that day was just unbelievable. I replay that in my head. I do take time to think about it, but you’ve got to keep moving forward. That bit of history is already secured, which is comforting, but we’re also in a business of what have you done for me lately. So, we have to keep moving forward, appreciate what has happened and be thankful for it.”

Brown also trained Champion Turf Female winner Uni (GB) (More Than Ready)-campaigned by Michael Dubb, Head of Plains Partners, Robert LaPenta & Bethlehem Stables.

“I take tremendous pride in sharing this Chad Brown and his staff,” said Uni’s co-owner Michael Dubb. “I’ve been with Chad from the beginning when he has just a dozen horses. We claimed horses together, we won stakes races together and the die was cast. Chad is like a brother, a son and a most of all, a best friend. And this all couldn’t have happened without Chad.”

Maximum Redemption
One of the most talked about horses in 2019 was without a doubt Maximum Security (New Year’s Day), disqualified from first in the GI Kentucky Derby. Much drama ensued, both immediately after the races and in the months to come, however, the 3-year-old closed out the rest of the season in impressive fashion, collecting the 3-year-old male title over Code of Honor and Omaha Beach. He was the third consecutive Eclipse Award winner for Gary and Mary West following West Coast (3-year-old) in 2018, Game Winner (2-year-old) last year. West, who was very vocal as he spent much of the year trying to get the Kentucky Derby disqualification ruling overturned, was gracious in accepting his trophy, giving props to his trainer Jason Servis and his team. Resulting from all the ensuing fallout, Maximum Security’s Derby disqualification earned him a second title on the night, the 2019 NTRA Moment of the Year.

When asked by Courtney to describe his emotions through that roller coaster 2019 Kentucky Derby result, Servis quipped, “Where is the guy with the horn?” in hopes of having himself ushered off the stage.

Ladies Day
Several ladies were lauded over the course of the night, chief among the LNJ Foxwoods Covfefe (Into Mischief), who completed a notable double over the course of the night: one for champion 3-year-old filly and also an award as the leading female sprinter in 2019. The filly was trained by Brad Cox, who was also responsible for the undefeated champion juvenile filly British Idiom (Flashback). Stuart Grant, accepting on behalf of British Idiom, acknowledged his co-partners on the filly and longtime bloodstock partners and friends, Micheal Dubb and Mike Caruso, in addition to Cox, Sol Kumin, Liz Crow, Brad Weisbord and Javier Castellano.

“As much as British Idiom has been, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without my long-term partner Mike Dubb and Mike Caruso,” said Grant. “We’ve been together with horses for over a decade. One could not have asked for better partners or better human beings. Mike and Mike have done so much for the sport and for their communities and I’m proud to call them my friends and share this award with them. And thanks to my more recent partner Sol Kumin, who brings a level of enthusiasm to the game that few can match.”

Another filly that was honored Thursday evening was Bloom Racing Stables, Allen Racing and Madaket Stables’s Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute), who was named the leading older dirt female.

“What an amazing filly,” said an overwhelmed Jeff Bloom. The whole thing is surreal. Midnight Bisou who exemplifies class, heart and determination and she truly epitomizes the true racehorse.”

Among other notable moments of the evening, was a touching segment featuring those racing figures who passed in 2019, including Marylou Whitney, Morton Fink, Randy Romero, Jimmy Crupi, Carmen Barrera, Bob Fortus, Howard Wolfendale and one of TDN’s very own, Ben Massam.

In a contested division, the award for champion Older Dirt Male went to Vino Rosso (Curlin), trained by seven-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher and owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable.

“Very exciting and honestly, quite frankly humbling,” said Vinne Viola. “Vino Ross aged like a fine wine.”

Setting the tone not only for the evening but probably the entire 2019 season was Seth Klarman’s acceptance speech as leading owner.

“Even as we celebrate Bricks amazing year, I want to share a few thoughts about my concerns for the great sport of horse racing,” said Klarman. “The sport is not organized at the national level. We lack uniform rules, such as on medication and the use of whips. Stewards decisions go largely unexplained and creating a sense of chaos and unfairness. The sport is criticized, and not wrongfully when the interest of the horses are placed second behind economics and personal glory. Those of us who love horse racing, everyone in this room, will appreciate the majesty and the courage of our equine athletes and must fix the sport or risk its demise. We must care for out Thoroughbreds in their retirement and we must ensure the track safeness at all times. And when they’re not, races should not be run. We must end the impact on medication on the health and safety of racehorses. And we must ensure that nobody ever runs unsound horses. Only when we put the horses first, are we able to put the sport first. Nothing less will do. We’re at a tipping point. We truly have no choice, but to come together, reform and re-prioritize. Everyone in this room has had a richer, more exciting and more memorable life because horseracing made it so. Everyone knows what is wrong and that we can and must do better. Thank you for listening and thank you for this incredible honor.”

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