Follow the Brick Road to B.C. Classic

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Bricks and Mortar | Sarah K. Andrew

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Race by race, Bricks and Mortar (Giant’s Causeway) is building a formidable rampart against any rival that might yet emerge from the flux of summer to batter his (or her) way into Horse of the Year contention. But we all know how those green stains on his shoes will tend to weaken his cause, in that theater no less than when he retires to stud. In fact, with the yearling market still only paying lip service to the “growing importance” of turf racing in the U.S., Bricks and Mortar has already booked his passage to Shadai.

But his connections do retain one option that might secure him Horse of the Year by a landslide–and also make the Kentucky farms repent of their (perfectly understandable) dread of the way even proven, top-class turf stallions are generally treated in the sales ring. And that is to remember the example of his sire.

Giant’s Causeway made one of the most stirring switches of surface in Breeders’ Cup history when running the dirt monster Tiznow to a neck in the 2000 Classic. For his owners, it was a bet to nothing. He had already established his class and constitution on turf, and running down the field in the Classic wouldn’t have taken a dime off his stud fee. As it was, he showcased his genetic assets to a different market and, as a son of a champion sire on both sides of the ocean, was soon able to command fees as high as $300,000.

Since Bricks and Mortar appears to be ideally suited by an intermediate distance, neither the Mile nor the Turf would appeal as platforms to measure his domestic supremacy against European grasshoppers at the Breeders’ Cup. And he’s surely no less eligible than his sire to roll the dice in the Classic himself.

Poor, lamented Roaring Lion, besides being rushed into the race just days after a gruelling experience in heavy going last year, was in any case by an unequivocal turf sire in Kitten’s Joy. But a son of Giant’s Causeway, immediately, represents a far less challenging proposition.

So far as the bottom half of his pedigree is concerned, the most striking thing is the replication of Storm Bird as grandsire of both his dam, Beyond the Waves, and his sire Giant’s Causeway. They were respectively by one of Storm Bird’s least distinguished sons, in Ocean Crest; and his most glamorous and accomplished son, Storm Cat.

Ocean Crest was soon exiled to Turkey, but left behind as one of his best efforts the Listed winner Beyond the Waves, who mustered Graded/Group podiums in France and the U.S. Those came on turf, as did the finest hour of Ocean Crest himself, in the GII Del Mar Derby.

But bear in mind that he was out of a full-sister to Slewpy, who like their sire Seattle Slew very much traded in dirt. Ocean Crest, moreover, is the damsire of Emcee (Unbridled’s Song), winner of a marquee dirt sprint in the GI Forego S.; while a half-sister to Beyond the Waves produced Bordonaro (Memo {Chi}) to win a similar prize in the GI Ancient Title. As for that Storm Bird 3×3, you’ll also find that in dirt champion Summer Bird (Birdstone).

Beyond the Waves was out of an unraced daughter of Exceller, whose resume stands as a vivid rebuke to the prescriptive labelling of horses (never mind entire bloodlines) as either turf or dirt. His Group 1 wins in Europe included one over nearly two miles, but he famously crowned his later successes on dirt by beating two Triple Crown winners in the GI Jockey Club Gold Cup.

And the third dam, herself a stakes winner on dirt, was by Belmont winner Stage Door Johnny out of a daughter of Olympia, whose speed became integral to so many Fred W. Hooper pedigrees (and beyond). Her name was Little Blessing, and she actually recurs in the same slot in the pedigree of Pioneerof the Nile.

There’s no way you can tell me that this, inevitably and irretrievably, can only be a turf pedigree. But horsemen nowadays, being so lacking in adventure, tend to reverse the tenets of natural justice and assume a horse to be “guilty until proven innocent.”

The history of the breed tells us that the premier asset sought for every discipline of racing–namely, speed that can be sustained through two turns–has often been kindled most effectively when transferred between gene pools.

Sadly there’s been precious little transatlantic traffic of that kind, over the past generation or so. Because he had demonstrated his own versatility, however, the stock of Giant’s Causeway has been permitted opportunity to achieve a similar reputation. And, with the dirt sophomores struggling for a divisional leader, it’s surely worth giving Bricks and Mortar the opportunity to enhance it. Japanese breeders, after all, are already familiar with the transferability of perceived genetic traits, from one surface to another, through Sunday Silence.

As it is, they will have noticed the posthumous gains of Giant’s Causeway as a sire of sires this summer. Shamardal has produced the two most accomplished juvenile colts of the European season: Pinatubo (Ire), five-length winner of the G2 Vintage S. at Goodwood, and Earthlight (Ire), who beat three Royal Ascot winners in the G1 Prix Morny the other day. Footstepsinthesand (GB), meanwhile, has just had a stellar week at the big Ebor meeting at York. First a £45,000 yearling named Mums Tipple (Ire) posted numbers rarely seen outside stakes company when careering 11 lengths clear of 20 pursuers over just six furlongs; and the next day another juvenile, Threat (Ire), was a decisive winner of the G2 Gimcrack S. In the U.S., meanwhile, the brilliant Mitole has caused many to wonder whether Eskendereya was exported prematurely.

It was poignant, then, to be ringside in Deauville the other day as a son of Giant’s Causeway entered the arena. (Still more so, after he failed to make his reserve.) Because while there is strictly one more crop still to come, the rusting Iron Horse only covered nine mares before his death last April, and even these penultimate yearlings come from a book of 31. This yielded just 15 live foals, so the filly who has made Book One at Keeneland (Hip 18) must be counted a real collector’s item.

Presumably the exertions of Giant’s Causeway were being carefully managed in his last years, when still advertised at $75,000, though he may also have suffered from the self-fulfilling prejudice against ageing sires–which would have denied the breed many a champion had it gained currency earlier than it did, in this era of witless fads for unproven newcomers.

Sometimes it pays to go against the tide. That was certainly the case when Giant’s Causeway took on Tiznow at his own game, in his own backyard. There is an “iron” quality to Bricks and Mortar, too. Nature has favoured him with the toughness and consistency of his sire; and he will have gained still more from nurture, raised as he was at Stone Farm. Stone and iron, bricks and mortar, turf and dirt. He would have much to gain, in the Classic–and virtually nothing to lose.

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