Lanigan has Sequence in top shape for Epsom
Their second child is due within days, but Tipperary native David Lanigan yesterday reported his wife and secretary to be still at her desk in the office of their new Lambourn stables.
Should things start happening sooner than expected, moreover, 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 Epsom 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. This time, the former assistant to Henry Cecil finds himself saddling third favourite Main Sequence, as short as 8/1 in places. At 36, he will be the youngest trainer in the race.
However, it seems a long time since the son of vet Bob Lanigan -- who owns Tullamaine Castle Stud but was general manager of Coolmore for 25 years -- spent school holidays riding work for Vincent O'Brien at Ballydoyle.
Now he finds himself taking on a hot favourite from those same Co Tipperary acres trained by O'Brien's successor and namesake, Aidan. "Just to get a Derby horse is a very hard thing to do, even for the best outfits," Lanigan said. "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 which 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, he 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 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, didn't use it often.
"You never know how they'll act at Epsom until they go round there, but this colt has done everything we've asked so far," he said.
Having started in Newmarket, Lanigan has made a flying start in Lambourn but he was still feeling his way round unfamiliar new gallops when Main Sequence was ready to resume this spring.
"That's why we ran him in another handicap," he explained. "But the horse has now earned the right to go to Epsom. We've still a few days to go, and you saw 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."
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 found to be lame on the morning of the race, Meehan said yesterday that the colt will make his delayed return in the Prix du Jockey-Club at Chantilly on Sunday.