03/26/2015 2:01PM

Main Sequence heads strong field in Sheema Classic

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Mathea Kelley/Dubai Racing Club
Main Sequence, shown earlier this week in Dubai, will start Saturday in the Sheema Classic at Meydan Racecourse.

A glimpse at the past performances reveals something interesting about the 6-year-old gelding Main Sequence.

He never loses anymore.

Imported early last year from England, where he finished second in the 2012 English Derby, Main Sequence rapidly emerged as the best turf horse in America.

Yes, you say, but in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Perhaps, but Main Sequence appears to have quality well beyond a typical good American turf runner, and he stands a real chance of breaking a streak of American-based losers in major Dubai turf races that dates to 2000, when the Sheema Classic and the Duty Free became instrumental parts of the World Cup card.

:: DUBAI WORLD CUP: Get PPs, watch Saturday’s Meydan card live

The problem for Main Sequence: Even if he excels Saturday, he still could lose. The Sheema is amazingly strong on the top end, with at least four other truly elite entrants: Flintshire, Harp Star, Designs On Rome, and Dolniya.

Main Sequence beat Flintshire – and beat him on the square, as they say – in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Turf, but Flintshire has proven his mettle under a wider variety of circumstances. He was second in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and won the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase. The only time he raced with Lasix was in the Breeders’ Cup, while Main Sequence has run on Lasix in all his U.S. starts.

But Main Sequence’s trainer, Graham Motion, well knows the local medication rules and well knows the kind of horse to deal with them. He did win the 2013 World Cup with Animal Kingdom.

Main Sequence’s transformation came not because of Lasix but because he has thrived with American-style racing and training. In particular, flat tracks have proven easier on a sometimes-troublesome back end than the endless undulations found in Europe. Meydan is flat, too, and the long homestretch here should suit a horse who uses the far turn to position himself for wicked stretch acceleration.

“What gives me confidence is he’s a horse who always acts like there’s more in the tank,” said Motion.

:: DRF Live: Get real-time updates and insights from DRF reporters and handicappers on Saturday

While Main Sequence prepped for the Sheema by winning the Mac Diarmida Stakes in Florida, Flintshire finished second to Dolniya on March 3 in a synthetic-surface race at Deauville in France designed as a Dubai tune-up.

“We’ve had this race in mind for quite a while,” said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms. “He loves fast ground. He’s thrived since he’s come here.”

Dolniya, a 4-year-old filly, ranked among the top echelon in France last year, finishing fifth in the Arc de Triomphe.

“She has improved since last year,” said trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre. “I mean, she has always been a strong filly, but she has improved mentally. She is more grown up now.”

The Hong Kong-based 5-year-old Designs On Rome has won three in a row, two at the Group 1 level, and captured the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup on March 1. He is 0 for 2 at the Sheema distance, but trainer John Moore thinks the race suits him.

“With the slow pace they’re going to go, this will not be a test of stamina,” Moore said. “It’s going to be a test of who can quicken.”

Harp Star, the 4-year-old Japanese filly, finished sixth in the Arc de Triomphe and has been fifth in two other starts since her most recent win last August, but she has a gigantic run at her best, and for the first time, she picks up the services of jockey Ryan Moore.

Root for the American – even bet on him at a fair price – but regardless of outcome, this year’s Sheema should be a treat.

Rosemarie Cola More than 1 year ago
Saw Main Sequence run at Monmouth and it is fun to see him roaring up from behind, picking off horses like they are standing still and then getting up in the very last stride. Good luck beautiful son. Come back and dazzle us again at Monmouth, win or lose. ( you've got my bet )
John Murray More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the background info on the French filly Dolniya, and Asians Harp Star and Designs on Rome, with Flintshire and Main Sequence, the Sheema Classic is looking to be as good as the World Cup. To re- focus, how would Main Sequence have performed in the Arc?, maybe not so good. Best of luck to Graham Motion and MS, if anyone can bring this one back to the US, he can. Very good article.