Main Sequence aims for third straight G1 in Joe Hirsch Turf Classic

December 10, 2019

ELMONT, N.Y. - Since arriving in the United States earlier this year, all Main Sequence has done is win Grade 1 races. On Saturday, the English-bred gelding will be favored to make it three in a row in the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic for 3-year-olds and up at Belmont Park.

The 39th renewal of the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic is carded as race 9 on an 11-race TVG Super Saturday program that includes six graded stakes, anchored by the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Trained by H. Graham Motion for Flaxman Stable, Main Sequence made his North American debut on July 6 at Monmouth Park, overcoming a slow start to snap a 10-race losing streak dating back to June 2012 and capture the Grade 1 United Nations by a neck.

Motion brought the 5-year-old son of Aldebaran back in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer on August 17 at Saratoga Race Course. Main Sequence brushed the gate but rallied on the outside to win by a head over Imagining at the Joe Hirsch's 1 ½-mile distance.

"I guess you'd say his biggest flaw right now is worrying about the gate. It's going to be hard to spot these kinds of horses lengths," Motion said. "He's a very good horse, you know. He beat a couple of serious horses [in the Sword Dancer] and spotted them three lengths at the start. It tells me that he's extremely talented, probably more talented than we realized."

Jockey Rajiv Maragh has ridden Main Sequence in both his U.S. starts, and returns aboard the 2-1 program favorite from post position 6 in the seven-horse field.

"Credit to Rajiv; the way he rode him made all the difference [in the Sword Dancer]," Motion said. "To ride a cool race when you get left like that is not easy to do. He rode a great race, he really did, and he has a lot of confidence in the horse."

The world record holder for 1 ½ miles on turf, Twilight Eclipse was second to Main Sequence in the United Nations and third in the Sword Dancer, where he was beaten three-quarters of a length.

After returning from a disappointing 12th-place finish in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic in March, the 5-year-old Purim gelding was fourth in the inaugural two-mile Belmont Gold Cup Invitational on June 6.

"The first race back, we kind of knew we might have been a little short that day," trainer Tom Albertrani said. "We didn't really have that race on our radar until the last minute, and I think he just needed that race from his trip back from Dubai. His last two races he's been right back on his game."

Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, Twilight Eclipse had the lead at the top of the stretch in the United Nations and grudgingly gave way late. He was in contention all the way around in the Sword Dancer before settling for third.

"He was a little unlucky in the Sword Dancer, I thought," Albertrani said. "He was in a little tight on the inside through most of the race and it just took him a while to find some running room and got caught late. In saying that, his last two races have been huge. We just have to keep maintaining and keep on course."

Regular rider Jose Lezcano will be in the irons from post position 1 on Twilight Eclipse, 4-1 on the morning line. A three-time Grade 2 winner, Twilight Eclipse is still seeking his first Grade 1 triumph.

"He's been very, very honest for us. Hopefully, this Saturday will be his day," Albertrani said. "He's been right there in his last two races. We've just got to find that little something extra, hopefully."

Trainer Chad Brown will send out a pair of Grade 1 winners in the Ken and Sarah Ramsey-owned entry of Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution. Promoted to victory in the Grade 1 Arlington Million via disqualification last summer, Real Solution was last of seven in his title defense on August 16.

"I'm just going to draw a line through that race," Brown said. "For whatever reason, despite our efforts to school the horse in the days prior to the Million, he didn't handle himself particularly well in the paddock. He was the returning champ in that race and should have handled the trip well. He really came unglued prior to the race and was soaking wet going into the gate and ran that way.

"We still like the horse very much," he added. "He's training well. He ran very well in the Joe Hirsch last year, finishing third with a wide trip. He wasn't beaten that far for the whole thing. A mile and a half is probably not his best distance, but there's not a lot of other options right now for a horse of his caliber."

Real Solution won the Grade 1, 1 ¼-mile Manhattan on June 7 at Belmont Park and also has a second and two thirds in five lifetime tries over the track.

"He's always run well at Belmont," Brown said. "I'm confident he likes the course here, and for a horse like him that's not a great shipper, it's always a plus if you can run out of your own stall."

Big Blue Kitten returned from a nine-month layoff to rally for a three-quarter length victory in the $100,000 Lure on August 2 at Saratoga, run at 1 1/16 miles. Twenty-two days later, the 6-year-old son of Kitten's Joy closed willingly to finish second by a half-length in the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger at Monmouth Park

Winner of the 2013 Sword Dancer, Big Blue Kitten has enjoyed success in three starts at Belmont with two wins and a second by a nose to Little Mike in last year's Joe Hirsch.

"For him to really reach down and get up to win [the Lure], when we really weren't even expecting him to win that day, really goes to show not only how much talent but how much heart that horse has," Brown said. "It served as a great start to a campaign that got started a little later than we had hoped.

"He ran on short rest at Monmouth and ran second in a very fast race where they were very close to the track record that day. I thought he finished very well in that race and came back good, so hopefully those two starts will give him the foundation he needs to go ahead and give it another try in the Joe Hirsch."

Javier Castellano will ride Real Solution from post position 4 with Joe Bravo and Big Blue Kitten directly to his outside. The entry is 5-2 on the morning line.

Also entered in the Joe Hirsch are Sword Dancer runner-up Imagining, winner of the Grade 1 Man o' War on May 11 at Belmont; Hangover Kid, who captured Belmont's Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap on July 12 in his most recent start; and Grade 3 winner Medal Count.

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