Call it coincidence, destiny, or fate-- in one moment, lives can collide and change forever. Take the Graham Motion-Main Sequence chance encounter.
Back in May of 2012 Motion was shuttling back and forth between his Fair Hill base and David Lanigan's yard near Lambourn, England, preparing his champion Animal Kingdom for the final race of his career at Royal Ascot. Motion took a shine to a chestnut gelding who was getting ready to race in the famed Epsom Derby.
"I saw this horse train every day, I was impressed," declared Motion. "David had the foresight to suggest bringing him over here because he thought he would really do well in American racing. David thought he needed a change of scenery and that he would get a much more honest pace here than you do in Europe."
Great foresight. Whether it's been the pace, the firmer ground, the American rivals or new-found maturity, Main Sequence has proven himself to be among America's elite long distance turf runners. The five-year old pushed his record to 3-for-3 (all Grade-1's) on American turf with his gutsy neck victory in the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf at Belmont Park in late September. Main Sequence is pointed to the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf as a top contender where he'll battle a pack of Euro invaders and Chester County-based Hardest Core at Santa Anita Park.
Since being imported to the U.S. by his owner-breeder, Flaxman Holdings Ltd. of the Niarchos family, Main Sequence has won the United Nations, Sword Dancer, and the Hirsch. His margins of victory have been a neck, a head, a neck in the Hirsch, and he hasn't missed a beat since.
The Kentucky-bred Main Sequence is by Flaxman Holdings' champion sprinter Aldebaran (a son of Mr. Prospector) and of their Group-3 placed Irish mare Ikat.
After another awkward start in the Joe Hirsch, Main Sequence settled into fifth position under jockey Rajiv Maragh on the firm turf course. On the far turn he mounted his rally with Twilight Eclipse, came off the rail and navigated his way between foes three wide. Coming to the wire, Twilight Eclipse came outward under left-handed whipping from Jose Lezcano, and Main Sequence came in a little, so the pair collided with a hefty bump in the shadow of the winning post. Lezcano lodged an objection, the stewards conducted an inquiry, and Main Sequence's victory was allowed to stand.
"He wants to be a little antsy in the gate, but he also wants to be a little sluggish coming out of the gate, so there's a fine line between what you can do with schooling him," Motion explained. "We've schooled him several times and walked him out the front. He was still antsy (in the gate). You're not going to teach an old dog new tricks. He did it in England and David (Lanigan) had prepared me very well for it, so we were aware of it."
"Ironically, I thought he ran his most professional race today and then you had the bump right before the wire. The only thing I've ever told Rajiv is just not to worry about him. Even if he doesn't break well, don't worry about it. I was actually a little surprised how close he was once he got away from there today. He was much more in the race than he has been."
Though the horse never seems to win easily, Maragh likes what he sees.
"He's consistently good," the jockey said. "He's three-for-three in the United States and has done everything right. When he made the lead, it was a little sooner than we wanted. He started loafing a little bit; I tried to make him see the other horse and a little contact happened. I felt like I was going to be OK on the inquiry, but it was nerve-wracking."
Main Sequence's racing record now stands at 17-7-3-3, with a bankroll of $1,648,311. The chestnut gelding was originally trained in England by Lanigan. He won his first four career starts, two as a 2-year-old and two as a 3-year-old. He was runner-up to Camelot in the Epsom Derby and finished an unlucky fourth in the 2012 Grand Prix de Paris. The colt ended that season with a close second in the Group-2 Great Voltigeur and a fifth in the Group-1 St Leger. But Main Sequence fizzled in 2013, ending the year with a disappointing eighth in the Group-1 Champion Stakes at Ascot last October.
He was acquired by Motion late last year.
"He came over from England in a brutal point of the winter and ended up quarantined for a couple of weeks up in Newburgh in New York," Motion recalled. "The horse got quite sick with a high temperature and pneumonia, so you always worry how they’re going to come back from it. We really waited until we thought he was ready to run."
At that point Main Sequence hadn’t won since May 2012, beaten eight straight times. Motion put ten workouts into Main Sequence at Fair Hill between April 17 and early July. In his American debut Main Sequence scored a late-running victory at the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park, securing his spot in the $ 3 million Breeders' Cup Turf run at 1 1/2 miles.
“I knew he was fit enough,” Motion said. “I was concerned that it had been a long time between wins for him and if mentally he still wanted to do it. The company he had been facing in Europe was strong for the most part and he wasn’t being badly beaten, he just hadn’t won.”
Ridden by Maragh, Main Sequence broke last in the United Nations in the nine horse field and settled in toward the back of the group early in the 1 3/8-mile race. Main Sequence began to pick off horses on the final turn coming four wide into the stretch and then unleashed an electric turn of foot to get up just before the wire to defeat second favorite Twilight Eclipse by a neck.
The time was 2:14.23 on a firm turf course, less than a second off the course record established by Pop Panebianco in August 2009. Main Sequence earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure.
“We just wanted to get him in a good rhythm and not worry about the pace or anything else, just keep him happy in the stretch," explained Maragh. "We came around the outside into the stretch and when I called on him he just accelerated. He’s got a real turn of foot. He sprinted home the last quarter of a mile.”
"He can be quirky in the mornings, but Rajiv rode him great," Motion noted. "He is not fond of getting to the lead too early, but he showed a tremendous turn of foot (in the United Nations). The way he's been working at Fair Hill, I've been really anxious to run him for three or four weeks now. Looking forward I think the Breeders' Cup is now something we can consider."
In his second race on American turf favorite Main Sequence was once again slow out of the gate and trailed the field headed into the first turn, but charged home on the outside to edge Shug McGaughey trainee Imagining at the wire in the $500,000 Swod Dancer Invitational at Saratoga Racecourse on August 17.
"Coming off the turn, he was like, 'Let's go,' so we went," Maragh said. "He was full of run. I know we were catching two good horses, and they weren't going to go down too easily. But he was full of run, and it seemed like we might have just gotten there right on time."
Off a step slow in all three of his American turf victories, neither Motion or Maragh are that concerned. It's customary with most European horses in their early races in the States. Prior to his first race aboard Main Sequence, Motion provided Maragh with a video of his races in Europe to get familiar with the horse.
"I think what helps him over here is they tend to go perhaps a little quicker than they do at home, so he has a little bit of a pace to run at," Motion said. "Even when the fractions are slow, they still go a little quicker than they do at home. I think when he breaks a step slow he's still got a pace to run at and that really helps him.
"He's also a little quirky if he makes the lead too early, like you saw in his last race. He's a cool horse, but definitely a quirky horse. Still, he's definitely got a ton of ability."