Bricks and Mortar: Superstar Miler in the Making?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

It's not every week that I single out a listed stakes race as the feature race for an Unlocking Winners blog post, much less a rather obscure one-mile turf race at Aqueduct on a quiet weekend in November. But when I examined the entries for the $150,000 Artie Schiller Stakes—a race that could well be a Grade 3 based on the excellent quality of this year's field—I knew I had to feature the race because a horse I've been waiting months to see back in action is among the expected starters.

That horse is Bricks and Mortar, a four-year-old son of Giant's Causeway who came within 1 ½ lengths of going undefeated in six starts last season. And truthfully, he showed so much promise in those six starts that I thought he had the potential to be a superstar miler in the making.

Indeed, for a time, it seemed as though Bricks and Mortar was immune to unfavorable pace setups, because his turn-of-foot in the homestretch was so stellar that he repeatedly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. His debut going 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream Park was arguably the least impressive of his victories, which is saying something considering that he flew home the final five-sixteenths of a mile in less than :29 seconds to win going away.

But yes, Bricks and Mortar only got better from there. In a one-mile allowance race at Belmont Park, he finished the final quarter-mile in less than :22 seconds to beat the capable Snap Decision by three-quarters of a length, and in the Manila Stakes going the same distance a month later, he was dead last at the quarter pole, but somehow defied the limits of feasibility to finish in around :21 2/5 and win by a neck. For good measure, he came right back to win the 1 1/16-mile National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. II), running the final five-sixteenths in about :27 4/5 to defeat none other than the future two-time Grade 1 winner Yoshida by three-quarters of a length.

It was a freakish display of talent backed up by the race ratings produced by, which revealed that the final three victories in Bricks and Mortar's win streak came in races that ranked among the top 5% of speed-favoring events. All things being equal, Bricks and Mortar should not have been able to win any of those races, let alone all three. But all things weren't equal—Bricks and Mortar was simply that much superior to his very capable rivals and won regardless of his poor setups.

Unfortunately, circumstances brought Bricks and Mortar's win streak to an end in the Saranac Stakes (gr. III) at Saratoga. A poor start left the colt much farther off the pace than usual, and he was further hampered by unleashing a huge mid-race move that saw him rally from ten lengths off the lead to a mere half-length off the lead in the span of a quarter-mile. Understandably, Bricks and Mortar couldn't quite sustain the move, though he fought on gamely in the homestretch to be beaten less than a length by the future Grade 1 winner Voodoo Song (the winner) and his previously-conquered rival Yoshida.

Bricks and Mortar again encountered difficulties in the Hill Prince Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park. While he was able to stay closer to the pace, he had to fight his way through a very narrow opening on the rail turning for home, and even once he got through he found himself racing in between horses with very little room to run. His finishing speed was still powerful—he came home the final three furlongs in around :33 2/5, an excellent fraction—but the more forwardly-placed Yoshida and Lucullan got the jump on him, and with his traffic difficulties in the homestretch, Bricks and Mortar couldn't out-kick those two when it counted and he had to settle for third place, beaten three-quarters of a length.

To date, that remains Bricks and Mortar's most recent start. Following a half-mile workout on October 28th, 2017, he disappeared to the sidelines and did not return to training until August, when it was too late for him to make a run at the 2018 Breeders' Cup. But since returning to trainer Chad Brown's barn, Bricks and Mortar hasn't missed a beat in his workouts and will finally return to action in the Artie Schiller Stakes.

Overall, this is a pretty deep field, with the graded stakes winner Qurbaan, Blacktype, Proforma, and Projected ensuring that Bricks and Mortar won't find himself out for a morning stroll in his first start since last October. But Bricks and Mortar has already held his own against high-class company—Yoshida and Voodoo Song are no slouches—and if Chad Brown has this colt ready to roll off the layoff, I'm not particularly concerned about the class of the race or the quality of competition. If Bricks and Mortar comes back as good (or better) than he was last year, I still think we could be looking at a superstar miler in the making, so even with the layoff, he's my choice to win on Saturday.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Artie Schiller Stakes?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website

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