11/01/2014 6:56PM

Main Sequence caps perfect year with BC Turf win

Barbara D. Livingston
Main Sequence (left), with John Velazquez aboard, beats Flintshire in the Breeders' Cup Turf on Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – When Main Sequence turned for home in Saturday’s $2,760,000 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita, jockey John Velazquez had a clear path, but a formidable group of European-based runners to catch.

Velazquez was thinking 300 yards down the track.

“I was going so good,” he said. “My concern was getting the horse to the lead too early.”

Velazquez had perfect timing. Main Sequence rallied wide to take the lead in the final sixteenth and held off a stubborn rival in Flintshire to win the Grade 1 BC Turf by a half-length.

Main Sequence ($14.40) ran 1 1/2 miles in 2:24.91, getting his fourth consecutive Grade 1 win since arriving at trainer Graham Motion’s stable from England last winter. Motion, who won the 2004 BC Turf at Lone Star Park with Better Talk Now, was thinking similar thoughts as Velazquez when the final quarter-mile of the race unfolded.

“I thought at the top of the stretch he would win,” Motion said. “It all worked out so well. The only question was whether he got to the front too early.”

Main Sequence was the 6-1 third choice in a field of 12 led by two European-based runners – the 8-5 favorite, Telescope, and Flintshire, a 3-1 chance who finished second in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Oct. 5.

They were two of the four horses in front of Main Sequence with a furlong to go. Velazquez had Main Sequence on the outside of the field throughout the race, running in eighth or ninth through the first half-mile. Main Sequence made steady progress on the turn and was seventh with a quarter-mile remaining, trailing the leader, Hardest Core, by about 3 1/2 lengths.

In early stretch, Main Sequence began closing on the leaders. Flintshire led narrowly over Telescope with a furlong remaining, but neither could hold off Main Sequence. Flintshire fought to the wire after being passed.

“When the winner ran by us, he tried to kick on again, but it was much too late,” said jockey Maxime Guyon, who rode Flintshire.

Twilight Eclipse, second and third behind Main Sequence in three Grade 1 races in New York and New Jersey this year, closed from eighth in the final quarter-mile to finish third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths.

“I need to find out where Graham is going to take his horse next,” joked Terry Finley, the president of the West Point Thoroughbreds syndicate that owns Twilight Eclipse. “I thought we had a shot.”

Telescope finished fourth, followed by Chicquita, Hangover Kid, Imagining, Hardest Core, Big John B, Finnegans Wake, Brown Panther, and Starspangled Heat.

With the victory, Main Sequence made a compelling case to claim the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding turf horse of 2014.

Main Sequence was bred in Kentucky by the Niarchos family. Maria Niarchos and her niece, Electra, attended the race. Main Sequence was second in the 2012 English Derby behind Camelot but had an unsuccessful 4-year-old in season in 2013, losing six races in England. At the time, trainer David Lanigan suggested to the Niarchos family that Main Sequence be sent to Motion’s stable in Maryland for a change of scenery.

Main Sequence, who was gelded at the end of his 4-year-old season, has won 8 of 18 starts and $3,298,386. He is unbeaten in the United States, having won the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park in July, the Sword Dancer at Saratoga in August, and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park on Sept. 27.

Rajiv Maragh rode Main Sequence in those races but was injured in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the race immediately after the Hirsch Turf Classic. Maragh remains sidelined. Velazquez picked up the mount in late October. Though out of action, Maragh played a scouting role in Saturday’s win. Maragh, Velazquez, and Motion had a strategy session earlier in the week.

“The three of us got together, and we just really talked and hashed out all his little idiosyncrasies,” Motion said. “I think it really helped.”

For Velazquez, the win came a year after he lost his spleen in a spill on the Saturday of Breeders’ Cup week at Santa Anita, a memory that remains vivid for Motion.

“A year ago, I was sitting in hospital with Johnny V., and he was in critical condition,” Motion said, his voice cracking. “It’s quite a turn of events.”