Main Sequence (outside) defeats Imagining by a head in the Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)
Ten years ago, trainer Graham Motion used the Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes as a springboard to Breeders’ Cup Turf glory for deep-closing stable star Better Talk Now.
Motion is hoping to complete the same double again in 2014 with Main Sequence, whose explosive late rally Sunday allowed him to collar Imagining in the final strides of the 1 ½-mile Sword Dancer at Saratoga Race Course.
Main Sequence improved to two wins in as many starts in the U.S. after taking his stateside debut in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes on July 6.
With back-to-back Grade 1 victories, Main Sequence proved he is one of the top horses in the U.S. turf male division and a leading contender for the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Grade 1 winner Imagining dueled for the early lead with O’Prado Ole before taking command through a spritely half-mile in :47.15.
Imagining maintained his lead into the stretch, where he was challenged by Twilight Eclipse but battled bravely. Main Sequence swept into the lane from the outside and slowly started reeling the leading pair before finding another gear late and surging to the front just before the finish line. He completed the 1 ½ miles in 2:24.72 to boost his record to six wins in 16 starts for owner Flaxman Holdings, the U.S. racing operation of the Niarchos family.
2014 SWORD DANCER INVITATIONAL
Video courtesy of NYRA
The $300,000 winner’s share boosted Main Sequence’s career earnings past the seven-figure plateau to $1,288,386.
Imagining finished second in the Sword Dancer with Twilight Eclipse three-quarters of a length back in third in the 7-horse field.
A 5-year-old gelding by Aldebaran, Main Sequence was a Group 3 winner in Europe in 14 starts with trainer David Lanigan before he was transferred to Motion. He competed against elite talent overseas, including a runner-up finish to Camelot in the 2012 Epsom Derby, but after winning his first four career races, Main Sequence endured a 10-race winless stretch that he halted in the United Nations.
“He seems like a happy horse,” Motion said. “I knew he was a really good horse, but you don't expect to win these kinds of races off the bat like this.”
Better Talk Now gave Motion his second career Grade 1 victory — Film Maker in the 2003 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes was his first — and really helped launch the trainer into the national spotlight. The now 15-year-old gelding remains close to Motion as he lives at his Fair Hill, Maryland barn alongside his very first stakes winner, Gala Spinaway.
Since Better Talk Now’s Breeders’ Cup Turf victory, Motion won the 2011 Kentucky Derby and 2013 Dubai World Cup with champion Animal Kingdom. But there is little doubt another Sword Dancer-Breeders’ Cup Turf sweep a decade after Better Talk Now’s would be especially gratifying.
For an Equibase chart, click here.
WATCH BETTER TALK NOW'S 2004 SWORD DANCER VICTORY