Currently the top-rated Thoroughbred in the country, Bricks and Mortar looks to make it four-for-four on the year Saturday when he heads a field of 10 in the $1 million Manhattan (G1) over 1 1/4 miles of Belmont Park’s inner turf.
After a convincing victory in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) to start the season, the Chad Brown trainee has had to overcome obstacles in registering his two most recent wins. A dawdling pace set by longshot Markitoff kept him only a nose behind Bricks and Mortar in the Muniz Memorial (G2) at Fair Grounds. Last time, Bricks and Mortar had to motor home late to catch the returning Qurbaan over a softening Churchill Downs course in the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1), the winning margin being only a half-length.
Firmer conditions are expected Saturday, which should help Bricks and Mortar’s stablemate Robert Bruce. Last year’s Arlington Million (G1) winner has encountered wet turf in his last three without showing his best, the latest being a fifth in the Fort Marcy (G3) behind another barn mate, Olympico.
“He caught a soft course and the race didn’t unfold the way we expected,” Brown said. “He’s fit and strong and hopefully he’ll move forward.”
Brown also has a fourth Manhattan contender in Raging Bull, who captured the Hollywood Derby (G1) last fall and adds blinkers after consecutive fourths in the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) and Old Forester Turf Classic.
The consistent check-getter Qurbaan has been second or third in five straight races since taking his U.S. debut over the Labor Day weekend in the Bernard Baruch (G2) at Saratoga. Meanwhile, Channel Maker exits a photo-finish score in the Man o’ War (G1) over 1 3/8 miles. He’s specialized in longer events than Saturday’s, taking the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) over Robert Bruce and the Bowling Green (G2) last season.
Unsurprisingly, Brown also has the horse to beat in the $700,000 Just a Game (G1) for fillies and mares at one mile. Rushing Fall has won seven of eight lifetime starts and kicked off her season April 13 with a game victory in the Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland over Got Stormy, subsequently second to Beau Recall in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2).
Daddy Is a Legend should move forward off her third in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, her first outing since finishing a half-length second in the Matriarch (G1) at Del Mar in December. Chad Brown’s second string is Environs, a stakes winner in France who impressively captured her U.S. debut at Keeneland before finishing an ineffective fourth in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile.