By Dick Jerardi
There were 241 votes cast for Horse of the Year, Bricks and Mortar, unbeaten in 2019 with five Grade I wins and six wins overall, got 204 of the votes. Mitole, voted champion sprinter, got 19 H/Y votes. Maximum Security, voted champion 3-year-old, got 14 H/Y votes.
Hard to argue with a horse that started his year in January with a win in the January 26 Pegasus Turf Invitational, ended it with a win in the November 2 Breeders’ Cup Turf and earned $6,723,650.
I voted for Bricks and Mortar based on his perfect record and not just because I cashed a very nice exacta when he beat 51-1 United in the Breeders’ Cup.
My vote may have been very different if Mitole had not caught a dead rail and finished third in the Vanderbilt at Saratoga. It was his only loss in a year that included four Grade I wins in races from 6 furlongs to 1 mile. His wins in the Met Mile and Breeders’ Cup Sprint were among the best performances of the year.
If it’s close between a really good grass horse and a really good dirt horse, I go with the dirt horse. In the end, a perfect season is a perfect season. And Bricks and Mortar was perfect.
I actually voted Maximum Security second and Mitole third for Horse of the Year. I have to believe Maximum Security would have gotten way more than 14 votes if he had not been disqualified from first in the Kentucky Derby. Whatever one thought of the stewards’ decision, there is no argument that Maximum Security was brilliant in the slop and the gloaming at Churchill Downs. He battled for the lead the whole way and then ran away from the field in the final quarter mile. It was a powerhouse performance lost in the aftermath.
Maximum Security ran eight times in 2019 and finished first seven times. The only time he was actually beaten came in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park where he missed the break and finished second behind King for a Day, a horse he crushed five weeks later in the Haskell. Maximum Security also won the Florida Derby, Bold Ruler and Cigar Mile. He almost certainly would have won the Pennsylvania Derby if he had not been scratched due to a very serious bout of colic the week of the race.
Mucho Gusto, second in the Haskell, just won the $3 million Pegasus at Gulfstream Park. Parx hero Spun to Run, third in the Haskell, came back to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Smarty Jones, M.P. Ballezzi Appreciation and finish second to Maximum Security in the Cigar Mile.
In the end, the voters, including me, went with the perfection of Bricks and Mortar whose connections were all rewarded with Eclipse Awards as well _ trainer Chad Brown (20 Grade I wins, $30 million in earnings), jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. ($32 million in earnings) and owners Seth Klarman and William Lawrence. Parx Hall of Famer George Strawbridge Jr, who bred Bricks and Mortar, was honored as leading breeder, giving the Bricks and Mortar people a rare sweep of the individual awards.