You can hear them all over Fair Hill Training Center – conversations about Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Main Sequence. The talk spans the horse’s early days, when he was sick and on antibiotics, to his training sessions, his races, his Horse of the Year chances.
Exercise rider Robbie Walsh is smiling. He’ll have a big night at the Eclipse Awards dinner as the morning rider for Main Sequence and the afternoon rider for steeplechase champion Demonstrative.
Trainer Michael Matz is talking about the next step – Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai. “He’s only run four times this year,” he tells Graham Motion.
Congratulations fly at Motion from the rail, the phone, the barn, even from horseback.
The horse won’t be back until Tuesday, but there’s no doubting his impact on the place, right down to a celebration lunch next week.
Owned by Flaxman Holdings, Main Sequence produced his best race yet to remain unbeaten in the United States – rallying past Flintshire and Telescope in the stretch to win the $3 million Turf by a half-length at Santa Anita Saturday. The win all but assured an Eclipse as turf champion, perhaps a second as champion older male and maybe even a third as Horse of the Year.
Last week, before he left for California, Motion said his horse had yet to capture the public’s attention on a national scale. That all changed Saturday – first with the win and second with Bayern’s controversial win in the Classic. Now, everybody knows Main Sequence, a Kentucky-bred who made his first 14 starts in Europe and returned to the U.S. about a year ago.
“We all want to train a champion,” Motion said Tuesday. “It’s a great honor for the horse. You want it for yourself, but you also want it for the horse. He had a great year and came a long way.”
Motion watched the Turf like the rest of the fans, and loved the way it unfolded. His horse broke with the field – compared to ugly, scrambling, delayed starts in his three prior U.S. starts – found a relaxed spot and waited for his cue. He responded to John Velazquez, who never turned up his whip, and roared through the stretch to deny the Europeans.
Motion credited some gate work at Fair Hill with the improved start. With a goal of making Main Sequence feel “less anxious” while in the gate before a race, schooling sessions involved standing in the gate and walking out the front. It helped that he was one of the last horses to load Saturday, but Main Sequence stayed calm in the stall and broke well.
“Once he broke with the pack, that put him on a level playing field with everybody else,” said Motion. “All his other races, he’s had to spot them a few lengths and you had to hope he was good enough to make up the ground. This time, he broke with the field. He was already right in contention.”
Main Sequence stayed at Santa Anita with several other Motion trainees, but was expected to ship back to Fair Hill early next week. The chestnut son of Aldebaran was invited to races in Japan and Hong Kong, but will decline and be pointed instead for the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic, part of the World Cup card at Meydan Racecourse March 28. Motion figures on an easy month at Fair Hill, then some time in Florida at Palm Meadows and a prep at Gulfstream Park along the lines of the schedule Animal Kingdom used to win the 2013 Dubai World Cup.
– Fair Hill-based Ageless gave Lael Stable and trainer Arnaud Delacour a thrill in the Turf Sprint, kicking off the hill and looking briefly like a winner in deep stretch at 36-1. She merely stayed on late, however, as Bobby’s Kitten roared past to get the win. Ageless wound up fourth, beaten less than a length for everything and a neck and a nose from the runner-up spot in the $1 million race. Delacour was proud of the 5-year-old mare, who earned $60,000.
“She has a furlong and a half kick and she used it and then leveled off for a bit,” he said. “She has heard and she tries though. I was happy with her.”
Ageless was back at Fair Hill this week, and will be pointed for a 2015 campaign.
– Up the road a bit in Pennsylvania, Turf starter Hardest Core was also back in his stall after finishing eighth. The Arlington Million winner was keen early and wound up in front through fast fractions. He led until the stretch, then faltered – beaten about 5 lengths by Main Sequence. Trainer Eddie Graham was frustrated but philosophical.
“Just bad racing luck,” he said. “Things like that keep you humble. The way I look at it is I have a nice horse for next year. Chin up and keep going. He came back great and he’s happy to be home.”
The scenario worried Graham going in, and his horse got too sharp behind a slow first quarter. Hardest Core never got covered up like he did in the Million or an earlier win at Delaware Park, and dragged Eriluis Vaz to the front with more than a mile to go. The 1 1/2-mile race’s second quarter-mile went in :22.76 and the third was clocked in :23.39 (both faster than Bayern’s fractions in the 1 1/4-mile Classic).
Owned by Andrew Bentley Stable, Hardest Core will get a break -days in a turnout paddock and nights in the barn – and start back to work in January.
Launch Breeders’ Cup 2014 photo Gallery from Eclipse Sportswire below: