02/27/2015 12:01PM

Sparkman: Main Sequence's pedigree a tapestry of greatness

Michael Amoruso
Champion Main Sequence began his 2015 campaign with a victory in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Stakes on Feb. 21 at Gulfstream Park.

The late Stavros Niarchos made his first big splash in the international Thoroughbred industry at the 1956 Keeneland January sale when he purchased 1955 Horse of the Year Nashua’s dam, Segula, for $126,000, then a world-record price for a broodmare. About 20 years later, Niarchos began a serious expansion of his Thoroughbred holdings, notably through the purchase of 1978 Keeneland July sale-topper Nureyev, by Northern Dancer.

Four years later, Niarchos picked up another Northern Dancer foal at Keeneland, paying $530,000 for the filly Northern Trick, out of Trick Chick, by Prince John, a daughter of foundation mare Fast Line, by Mr. Busher. A tall, narrow, leggy filly not at all typical of Northern Dancer, Northern Trick may have been the most talented daughter of that great sire. Winner of the 1984 Prix de Diane (French Oaks) by five lengths, Northern Trick defeated Epsom Oaks winner Circus Plume in the Group 1 Prix Vermeille and then ran second to Sagace in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

At about the same time, Niarchos acquired another Group 1-winning filly, 1984 Phoenix Stakes winner Aviance, by Northern Dancer’s son Northfields, a granddaughter of foundation mare Best in Show, by Traffic Judge, privately from Robert Sangster. Some 35 years later, the female lines founded in the Niarchos stud by those two high-class runners combined to produce the latest champion bred by the Niarchos family, Main Sequence, who won his first start of 2015 in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Stakes on Feb. 21 at Gulfstream Park.

Main Sequence’s sire, Aldebaran, by Mr. Prospector, is a Niarchos-bred grandson of Aviance, while his dam, Ikat, by Pivotal, is a great-granddaughter of Northern Trick.

A small, lightly made filly, Aviance did not train on well at 3, but she produced three stakes winners, including multiple Grade 1 winner Denon, by Pleasant Colony, and European highweight filly Chimes of Freedom, by Private Account, for Niarchos. Aviance’s stakes-winning daughter Imperfect Circle, by Riverman, is the dam of another European highweight in Spinning World, by Nureyev, who also counted a Breeders’ Cup Mile among his top-level victories for Niarchos. Imperfect Circle’s stakes-winning daughter Visions of Clarity, by Sadler’s Wells, is also the dam of Irish highweight Pathfork, by Distorted Humor.

Chimes of Freedom won 6 of 9 starts at 2 and 3, including the Group 1 Coronation Stakes, and like her dam produced two Grade 1 winners, plus Grade 3 winner Sea of Showers, by Seattle Slew, and stakes winner Tomisue’s Indy, by A.P. Indy. Her son Good Journey, by Nureyev, captured the Grade 1 Atto Mile, and has sired two Group 1 winners in Australia.

Aldebaran, Chimes of Freedom’s 1998 colt by Mr. Prospector, began his racing career, like most of the Niarchos-breds, in Europe, but did not really blossom until transferred to trainer Bobby Frankel part way through his 3-year-old year. Trained in England by Henry Cecil, Aldebaran won his only start at 2, a seven-furlong maiden race at Doncaster. Aldebaran ran six times at 3 in 2001 for Cecil, finishing second in the first five, including a neck defeat to eventual European champion sprinter Mozart in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Transferred to Frankel in October, he won his first start, the Nassau Handicap at Belmont, running the mile in 1:33.62 before running third in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby in his final start at 3.

In 16 more starts over the next two years for Frankel, Aldebaran ran only once more on turf, a futile effort in the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Mile. He showed an immediate affinity for dirt in his first start at 4, winning a seven-furlong optional claimer at Santa Anita by three lengths in 1:21.77. He did not win again that year in seven more outings, again posting five consecutive seconds, but those races included the Grade 1 Metropolitan, Forego, and Vosburgh.

Aldebaran improved again at age 5 in 2003, turning those seconds into firsts. He scored his first Grade 1 victory in the San Carlos Handicap in March and added the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap in May and the Grade 1 Forego Handicap in August. Aldebaran’s best distance was clearly seven furlongs to a mile on dirt, and since he had failed in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf the previous year, his connections chose the six-furlong Breeders’ Cup Sprint for his final career start.

Come-from-behind sprinters had virtually no chance at that distance over the speed-favoring Santa Anita strip of that era, but Aldebaran gave it a valiant try, closing through traffic from far back to finish sixth, beaten 5 1/2 lengths by winner Cajun Beat.

Retired to Darby Dan Farm in 2004, Aldebaran was rather more lightly made than a typical son of Mr. Prospector. Still he was an attractive, very well-bred horse with a champion sprinter Eclipse Award to his credit, but he did not live up to those credentials as a stallion. In five seasons at Darby Dan, his best offspring other than Main Sequence (who comes from his final American-conceived crop) were Grade 3 winners Eye of Taurus (out of Ocean Shore, by Silver Hawk) and Taqarub (Honor Bestowed, by Honor Grades) and Group 3 winners Arcadia’s Angle (Diane’s Birthday, by With Approval) and Mambia (Algoa, by Common Grounds).

Aldebaran was exported to Japan in 2008 when his first crop were only 3-year-olds. He has done no better there, and his 13 stakes winners from his first eight crops to date amounts to no more than 3 percent of his foals.

Northern Trick’s impact as a broodmare on the Niarchos stud has not been nearly so immediate nor so dramatic as that of Aviance. Her only stakes winner was the last of her 12 foals, Onda Nova, by Keos (by Riverman), who won the 2004 Prix Imprudence. By far her most important contribution to the breed, however, was Northern Trick’s second foal, Lingerie, by Shirley Heights, who placed five times in 12 starts but never managed to win a race.

Lingerie’s first two foals were born in Japan, where she had been sent to be bred to the Niarchos family’s European highweighted juvenile Hector Protector. The first, Limnos, by Hector Protector, won two Group 2 races in France and placed in three other stakes. His full sister, Shiva, developed into the top-rated older mare in Europe in 1999, winning the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup.

After her return to the Western Hemisphere, Lingerie continued her good work, producing 2007 Group 1 Epsom Oaks winner Light Shift, by Niarchos-bred Kingmambo.

Lingerie’s most important daughter to date, however, has been her first European-conceived foal, Burning Sunset, by Caerleon. Winner of the listed Prix Solitude and third in the Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt, Burning Sunset is the dam of 2014 Prix d’Harcourt winner Smoking Sun, by Smart Strike, who also ran second in the Group 1 International Gold Cup, and stakes winner Zhiyi, by Henrythenavigator.

Ikat, Burning Sunset’s daughter by Nureyev’s grandson Pivotal, won only the first of her eight starts at 2 and 3 in France but ran second in the Group 3 Prix d’Aumale and third in the listed Prix Francois Boutin.

Main Sequence is her first foal. The Mac Diarmida was his fifth win in five North American starts in a career that began in England in the stable of young trainer David Lanigan. He won his first four starts, culminating with a victory in the Group 3 Lingfield Derby Trial. Main Sequence ran well in his fifth start as well, closing late to finish second, five lengths behind the brilliant Camelot, in the Epsom Derby.

Main Sequence failed to win again in nine more starts in Europe over the next 18 months and showed enough signs of temperament to be gelded at the end of his 3-year-old season. Transferred to Graham Motion at the Fair Hill Training Center in 2014, he swept four Grade 1 races last year, including the Breeders’ Cup Turf to earn champion older male and champion turf male honors.

Ikat has since produced the winning colts Achernar, by Lemon Drop Kid, and Ragged Robbin, by Speightstown. Her current 3-year-old colt, Sneaking Budge, by Nayef, was unplaced in his only start at 2 last year. Ikat has a 2-year-old colt named Acrux, by Dansili, and a yearling colt by Dubawi.

Main Sequence is inbred 5x5x5x5 to Northern Dancer, but the striking feature of his pedigree is the convergence of foundational elements of the Niarchos stud in his pedigree. Main Sequence is a classic example of how great breeders weave the bloodlines of their great racehorses in the pedigrees of champions.