02/19/2015 12:45PM

Main Sequence starts another championship drive in Mac Diarmida

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Barbara D. Livingston
Main Sequence was voted champion turf male and older horse last year.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Four straight Grade 1 wins and two Eclipse Awards in 2014 will be a tough act to follow for Main Sequence, who launches his much-anticipated 2015 campaign as the heavy favorite in Saturday’s $200,000 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream Park. The 1 3/8-mile, Grade 2 test drew a field of eight, including the defending Mac Diarmida champion and Main Sequence’s arch rival, Twilight Eclipse.

Main Sequence capped off a perfect season with a half-length triumph over Flintshire in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. A Flaxman Holdings homebred son of Aldebaran, Main Sequence also won the United Nations, Sword Dancer and Turf Classic Invitational en route to being crowned champion turf horse and older male in 2014.

Trainer Graham Motion is using the Mac Diarmida as a prep for Main Sequence’s first major goal of the season, the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan on March 28.

“I couldn’t be happier with how everything’s gone since the Breeders’ Cup,” Motion said. “We’ve been able to do everything we’d hope to do with him from a breeze-schedule standpoint, and I feel good about running him. I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t run his race. But Animal Kingdom got beat in his prep [for Dubai], so anything can happen. And Twilight Eclipse is always right there with him, so it’s not going to be easy by any means.”

Main Sequence, the 123-pound highweight in the Mac Diarmida, will break from the rail with regular rider Rajiv Maragh back aboard. Maragh guided Main Sequence to his first three wins in 2014 but was injured and replaced by John Velazquez for the Breeders’ Cup.

Twilight Eclipse finished second twice and third twice behind Main Sequence in their four meetings last year while beaten a total of three lengths. Twilight Eclipse rallied to finish third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Main Sequence, in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. His one-length decision over Amen Kitten in the Mac Diarmida was his only victory in seven starts in 2014.

“We were very happy with his race in the Breeders’ Cup, and he couldn’t be doing any better coming into this race,” said Tom Albertrani, who trains Twilight Eclipse for West Coast Thoroughbreds.

Divine Oath and Artic North also demand respect while coming off big efforts earlier in the meet.

Divine Oath overcame a wide trip to register a half-length decision in the W.L. McKnight when stretching to 1 1/2 miles for the first time. The McKnight gave Divine Oath his third Grade 3 win. He is trained by Todd Pletcher.

Artic North, claimed for $50,000 last summer in New York, rallied from far back to finish second in the two-mile Allen Jerkens in his local debut. He also was Grade 2-placed earlier in his career.

TOP CONTENDERS

Main Sequence (Last 3 Beyers: 106-104-102)

◗ Having his star break from the rail Saturday is of no concern to Motion.

“People were worried about him coming from post 11 in the Breeders’ Cup, but he tends to break a step slow anyway, so I don’t think the post will be an issue,” said Motion.


DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 1 Main Sequence. Trainer Graham Motion is 27-2-3-2 with a $1.49 ROI over the past five years in turf route graded stakes of 10 furlongs and longer following a layoff of 45 days or more. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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◗ Twilight Eclipse (Last 3 Beyers: 103-104-100)

Leading jockey Javier Castellano has taken off Divine Oath, whom he rode to victory in the McKnight, to retain the mount on Twilight Eclipse.


DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 6 Twilight Eclipse. Trainer Tom Albertrani is 26-2-4-5 with a $0.64 ROI over the past five years in turf route graded stakes following a layoff of 45 days or more. Click for more details. Mike Hogan


Divine Oath (Last 3 Beyers: 97-88-87)

◗ He comes off a career-best effort in the McKnight and appears to have found his niche in three-turn races.

◗ He’s perfect in three starts at Gulfstream, having launched his career with back-to-back victories going 7 1/2 furlongs here last winter.


DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 7 Divine Oath. Trainer Todd Pletcher is 11-2-1-1 with a $4.50 ROI over the past five years in turf route graded stakes of 10 furlongs and longer following a layoff of 45 days or more. Click for more details. Mike Hogan