Main Sequence not the only focus as Derby expectancy grows for Lanigans


Their second child is due within days, but David Lanigan yesterday reported his wife and secretary to be still diligently at her desk in the office of their new stables in Lambourn. Should things start happening sooner than anticipated, Amy knows just what to expect – above all on Saturday, when her husband will have no less a distraction than an unbeaten colt in the Investec Derby. "For our first-born, she drove herself to the hospital," Lanigan confessed. "I joined her there after third lot."

Nobody was expecting a great deal of Lanigan's first runner in an Epsom Classic, two years ago, but Meeznah ran Snow Fairy to a neck in the Oaks, her first start outside maiden company. This time, the former assistant to Sir Henry Cecil finds himself saddling the third favourite, now as short as 8-1 in places. The Irishman has brought Main Sequence through the ranks quietly but quickly – and, in only his fourth season, is plainly making parallel strides in his own career. At 36, he will be the youngest trainer in the race.

Nonetheless, it seems a long time to Lanigan since he spent school holidays riding work for Vincent O'Brien at Ballydoyle. Now he finds himself taking on a hot favourite from those same, golden Co Tipperary acres, trained by O'Brien's record-breaking successor and namesake, Aidan. "Just to get a Derby horse is a very hard thing to do, even for the best outfits," Lanigan stressed. "With all those great horses he has had, Aidan himself hasn't won it since High Chaparral. But I must say Camelot looks very impressive."

Camelot is odds-on to put an end to that long sequence of Ballydoyle near misses since 2002, but Main Sequence is now stabled in the same yard that produced Snow Knight, the 50-1 shot who upset another 2,000 Guineas winner, Nonoalco, in the 1974 Derby.

The colt's more immediate antecedents represent a departure from tradition, however. After a 50-1 debut success, Main Sequence won two handicaps before his Derby rehearsal at Lingfield was transferred from the saturated turf course to the all-weather.

"Everyone says it was an unconventional trial," Lanigan said. "But we ran him there rather than in the Dee Stakes at Chester, where the ground was bottomless, borderline unraceable. That could take a lot out of a horse, and I'd have been very worried to be backing up three weeks later. As it was, there could be a nice race and a true result, and the horse has come out of the race in good order."

As a rule, the Lingfield trial would at least have established whether a big colt like Main Sequence has the agility demanded by a similar hill at Epsom. But Lanigan notes that Vincent O'Brien, having gone to the lengths of constructing a Tattenham Corner gallop at Ballydoyle, did not tend to use it very often. "A lot of people think they will only go down a hill once," he said. "You never know how they will act at Epsom until they go round there, but this colt has done everything we've asked so far. In the end, it's very rare to see a lucky winner of the Derby."

Having started his career in Newmarket, Lanigan has made a flying start in Lambourn. But he was still feeling his way round unfamiliar gallops when Main Sequence was ready to resume this spring. "That's why we ran him in another handicap," he explained. "It would have been stupid to go up 10lb for finishing fifth somewhere, when needing the run. But the horse has now earned the right to go to Epsom. We've still a few days to go, and you saw only last weekend how things can go wrong.

"Jim Bolger runs a very tight ship, but Parish Hall evidently got an infection in a hind-leg. Which just shows it can happen to anyone. When you're brought up with horses, you know they can let you down. You just try to do everything right by them. Please God, we can just get him there with all the wheels on."

Another trainer who can testify that things can go awry at the 11th hour is Brian Meehan. Obliged to scratch Most Improved from his Guineas trial, when he was found to be lame on the morning of the race, Meehan said yesterday that the colt would make his delayed return in the Prix du Jockey-Club at Chantilly on Sunday.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Escape To Glory (6.15 Folkestone) Has hinted at better in sprints but worth another chance at this trip, finishing well into midfield after getting behind in a better grade at York last time.

Next Best

Battlecat (4.00 Newton Abbot) Warrants perseverance after bumping into a couple of useful prospects since switch to hurdling; likely to last home better on this drying ground.

One to watch

Sky Khan (Ed Dunlop) Is eligible for handicaps after a spin at Lingfield yesterday. A nice finish into midfield promised better to come over longer trips.

Where the money's going

Camelot is in continued demand with Coral for the Investec Derby, now 8-13 from 8-11, while Ladbrokes have laid Thought Worthy from 25-1 to 14-1.