It all goes back to Northern Trick. Stavros Niarchos, international shipping tycoon and worldwide Thoroughbred owner/breeder, spent $530,000 to buy the yearling daughter of Northern Dancer at Keeneland in 1982.
Bred by Warner Jones Jr. and Will Farish III, Northern Trick went to France to be trained by Francois Boutin. The chestnut filly won the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) and Prix Vermeille - and finished second in the 1984 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe - as a 3-year-old. Behind her in the Arc came All Along, Strawberry Road, Sun Princess and Sadler's Wells. That was Alan Cooper's first year on the Niarchos team, and he remembered it Monday when Northern Trick's great-great grandson Main Sequence was retired with a tendon injury.
"That family has been a part of my life, and our lives, for a long, long time," Cooper said. "It's one that keeps producing racehorses. I remember the great pleasure Mr. Niarchos had at Chantilly when she won the French Oaks. That kind of win was an aspiration. Group 1 racing was what the stable was built to do."
Niarchos died in 1996, but his racing stable continues under his daughter Maria's direction. Main Sequence, who raced for the Niarchos family's Flaxman Holdings, simply carried on the family tradition. Foaled in Kentucky, he was held back from Keeneland September because he was late developing and went to England to race with trainer David Lanigan.
"From the very beginning, he was a special horse to us," Cooper said of the dual 2014 Eclipse Award winner and earner of $3.4 million. "He was unbeaten going into the Epsom Derby remember, and was the runner-up to Camelot. He brought us to another classic in the St. Leger and his record in the States was unbelievable."
On behalf of Flaxman, Cooper expressed sadness at the end of the career but was also pragmatic about his role in it. The real people feeling the retirement work in the barn of trainer Graham Motion.
"It's a very tough time for Herringswell because you know how much they work at it," Cooper said. "I feel for his riders, his groom Rafa (Caraballo) and the whole team there. Graham just got another couple of colts from us. Hopefully something good will come out of all of that."
Main Sequence moves on to recovery mode, with a prescription of stall rest and turnout time to allow the tear in his left front tendon to heal before final retirement plans are made. Horses frequently return to racing after such injuries, but require a year or more away from the races and are at risk for a subsequent injury to the same area.
"My experience is it's very rare for a horse to come back and race at the same level he raced at before the tendon injury," Cooper said. "We'll basically give him all the time to get the soreness out of his leg and then we'll all put our heads together and make sure he's going to have a nice happy retirement."
Thanks to Northern Trick, the family isn't going anywhere. She produced eight daughters. Her second, Lingerie, produced nine daughters. Among the latter were 1999 Irish Group 1 winner Shiva, who was foaled in Japan; 2007 Epsom Oaks winner and $691,000 earner Light Shift; and two-time winner Burning Sunset. While not quite as accomplished as her sisters, the English-bred Burning Sunset (by Caerleon) produced the Irish-bred Ikat whose first foal was Main Sequence.
Filed under more current events, Northern Trick's daughter Nova Cyngi produced 2015 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Dodging Bullets and Burning Sunset's daughter Cosmic Fire is the dam of recent Ascot 2-year-old winner Ray's The Bar (by Exceed And Excel).
As impressive as the Flaxman involvement in Main Sequence's deep female family is, consider the top line as well. Flaxman bred and raced Main Sequence's sire Aldebaran, an Eclipse Award-winning sprinter, and bred his dam Chimes Of Freedom (a Group 1 winner in England and Ireland). In addition to Aldebaran, Chimes Of Freedom produced millionaire Grade 1 winner Good Journey for Flaxman.
"It's a rarity," Cooper said of a breeder producing the sire and dam of a homebred champion. "And Aldebaran won an Eclipse Award as a sprinter and gets a mile-and-a-half Eclipse Award winner in Main Sequence . . . it's monumental when you think about it. When you become an owner/breeder and you have horses at that level, that's all part of the dream."