Bricks And Mortar, Sistercharlie face Euro turf challenge

Sistercharlie_Eclipse_Sportswire
Ridden by Hall of Famer John Velázquez, Flower Bowl winner Sistercharlie is the favorite to beat the Europeans and win the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. (Eclipse Sportswire photo courtesy Breeders’ Cup)

Arcadia, Calif.

 

They may carry the shortest odds of the 14 favorites racing in the Breeders’ Cup. But will Bricks and Mortar and Sistercharlie live up to the respect that bettors have paid them?

 

In other words, will Chad Brown’s perfect 2019 pair fend off the advances of Europeans that are usually so dominant on the turf in these championships?

 

And in yet other other words, do the Yanks actually know their grass from a hole in the wall when it comes to racing on the turf that is hallowed ground in the old countries?

 

European bettors have been skeptical of Bricks And Mortar (9-5 morning line, 9-5 foreign futures), the favorite in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Turf. This is in spite of his 5-for-5 year that includes four Grade 1 wins. Only this week did he become the favorite on the other side of the pond just ahead Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck (3-1, 5-2), according to Oddschecker.

 

“I think we’ve seen his best, and on Saturday he just has to show it again,” Brown said Friday morning after Bricks And Mortar turned in yet another impressive gallop here at Santa Anita. “He’s just so consistent. He’s all heart with such a strong closing kick.”

 

Even though Brown is widely regarded as the titan of turf in the U.S., and in spite of his 12 wins in the Breeders’ Cup before he turned 40, he is 0-for-10 in the Turf – capital “T” for the $4 million race. It was here three years ago when Brown saddled the favorite Flintshire only to see him finish second to Irish-trained Highland Reel.

 

That was yet another year when Aidan O’Brien won. He has a record seven victories in the Turf, and he saddles Anthony Van Dyck, one of the 10 horses that he watched take to the track for the first time here Thursday morning in the calm fashion of a cavalry-in-waiting.

 

“We feel he has a very nice chance,” O’Brien told reporters. “We think he’ll handle the track and the ground. He seems to be in good form.”

 

Not that O’Brien would say anything else. He may downplay the draw or talk up a rival, but he will never speak ill of the horse. Especially not the horse that he trains for his Coolmore bosses Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor.

 

“I’m delighted with them,” he said. “It was just a canter around (Thursday), and it seemed to go lovely.”

 

That assessment would also apply to Fleeting (6-1, 9-1), his best hope to derail Sistercharlie (8-5, 11-10) in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf, also Saturday. But it is Joseph O’Brien, Aidan’s 26-year-old son, whose 3-year-old Iridessa (8-1, 7-1) carries shorter odds in Europe among the challengers to Brown’s three-time 2019 Grade 1 winner.

 

But the conversation still comes back to Sistercharlie, the 5-year-old that has been so dominant against females that Brown admitted Thursday to being tempted to race her against the boys.

 

“We’ve thought of possibly trying that,” he said. “But with the schedule we put her on it just didn’t make sense and just didn’t work out.”

 

Dating to last year Sistercharlie has actually won five in a row, including this race in 2018 when it was 11 furlongs at Churchill Downs rather than this weekend’s 10. That victory was Brown’s fifth in the Filly & Mare Turf.

 

“She’s as good as any we’ve brought for the race,” he said. “She’s in great form, and I love how she’s working. She’s been very impressive in her training.”

 

However, Sistercharlie will be without her stable mate and rabbit Thais, the 5-year-old that Brown withdrew Thursday without saying why, even when asked. But rival Mirth (20-1, 40-1), a California-based Grade 1 winner, still figures to set a lively in a race that has been won by Europeans 13 of 20 times.

 

The one grass race in the Breeders’ Cup that has Europe has failed to dominate is the $2 million Mile, which has been won by North Americans 21 of 35 times. Yet it is the two-time Group1-winning Coolmore 3-year-old Circus Maximus (3-1, 10-3) that is the consensus favorite despite being drawn into post position 9.

 

“Maybe a few didn’t get good draws,” O’Brien said of his group. “But that’s the way it goes. It can’t go perfectly all the time. They’re all in good form. There’s a chance with some of them.”

 

Did you get all that? Good luck plugging that into your handicapping.

 

Look who is posting horse futures again

 

Wasn’t it less than two months ago when Nick Bogdanovich of William Hill told VSiN “you can lay –500 (the) answer is no” to whether his book would offer Breeders’ Cup futures this year? Well, guess what William Hill posted this week? Not for every race, but as first reported by Horse Racing Nation, it has odds up for the Classic.

 

McKinzie is the 3-1 favorite followed by Code Of Honor and Vino Rosso at 4-1, Elate and Higher Power 6-1, Yoshida 8-1, Mongolian Groom 12-1, Owendale 15-1, and Seeking The Soul and War Of Will 20-1.

 

Bogdanovich explained in September that “the only guy who does horses (for William Hill) runs Delaware sports and is slammed.” On Thursday he said that “the kid (also) put up Derby futures the other day.”

 

Ummm, OK. And yes, he did. Dennis’ Moment and Eight Rings, the two colts that figure to duke it out Friday in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, are listed as 10-1 co-favorites with Breeders’ Futurity winner Maxfield, scratched from the Classic, next at 12-1. There are 94 horses listed by William Hill with odds as long as 250-1.

 

Oh, anticipating the next question, I asked the Westgate Las Vegas if it would be posting Breeders’ Cup futures. In a texted reply, director John Murray said, “We won’t be doing that.”

 

I would say you can lay more than –500 that the answer will stay that way through the weekend.

 

Ron Flatter’s weekly racing column is normally posted every Friday morning at VSiN.com. It appears more frequently during coverage of big racing events, including this week’s Breeders’ Cup. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod at VSiN.com/podcasts. Breeders’ Cup trainers Dale Romans, John Sadler and Bill Mott, retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens and XBTV racing analyst Millie Ball are guests from Santa Anita on the regular episode. There is also a pop-up edition featuring Las Vegas racing handicappers Vinny Magliulo, Dave Tuley, Patrick McQuiggan, Johnny Avello and Chris Andrews. The RFRP is also available via Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher and at VSiN.com/podcasts. It is sponsored by Xpressbet.

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