David O’Meara can look back on 2016 with considerable satisfaction. Not only did he saddle his 100th winner from a new purpose-built base near York in December, but the prolific Irishman also topped the trainers’ table in the All-Weather Championships on the run-up to Christmas.
Fittingly, it was his star performer Mythical Madness who brought up a fourth consecutive century by claiming the middle leg of a Wolverhampton treble, while another winner at the West Midlands track, Hard To Handel, edged him to the top of the charts after a remarkable run of five winners from six runners.
Operating with a strike rate in excess of 20 per cent on the All-Weather this season, O’Meara has been in particularly good form at Lingfield and Wolverhampton. He began Christmas week with a record of four from nine at the Surrey track (a strike rate of 44 per cent) and seven from 24 at Wolverhampton (29 per cent).
O’Meara is also among the top trainers on the new Tapeta surface at Newcastle – “a brilliant track” – and looks forward to saddling plenty more winners on the run-up to the £1 million Finals Day on Good Friday.
His leading hope is Wolverhampton winner Mythical Madness, claimed for what looks a bargain £10,000 last month and fast developing into a legitimate contender for the Group 3 Winter Derby and the Easter Classic.
The Godolphin cast-off’s rise to prominence goes some way to compensating the Helmsley team for the loss of sprint sensation Lord Of The Land, who suffered a career-ending injury after winning the Listed Golden Rose Stakes at Lingfield in November.
“Realising within 30 seconds of winning that race that he’d sustained a bad injury was devastating,” he recalls. “Lord Of The Land was a fast improving sprinter who looked like he would be the one they’d all have to beat on Good Friday.
“It’s remarkable that he won the race under the circumstances,” he adds, “but there’s a happy ending for him. He’s a full brother to successful sire Lope De Vega so he’s going to stand as a stallion next year.”
Lord Of The Land contributed three wins to O’Meara’s century – a tally he is rightfully proud of. “It’s been a great effort by all the team,” he adds.
“We didn’t really have runners until March after moving and were still building stables in the spring. We had a new gallop to get used to but the horses have thrived. We’ve won plenty of nice races again but the highlight would have to be Mondialiste’s success in the Arlington Million.”
Here, David nominates ten horses to follow on the All-Weather to Simon Mapletoft of attheraces.com.
“Alfie just loves Lingfield. He’s won four times around there and was third to Captain Cat in the Mile Final in 2014 (for Geoff Oldroyd). He was a good second to my Lord Of The Land over 7f before running another big race over 1m in November. He deserved to get his head in front again over 7f after that. I think that’s his best trip.”
“I’ve got plenty of options for this horse but we’ll keep on going back to Lingfield because he’s so good there. I may run him over 1m on New Year’s Eve and go back for two valuable races over 7f and 1m in January. He’s eight now, rising nine, but we’ll aim him at the Good Friday Final again and I’m sure he’ll run his usual honest race.”
“This gelding has had a break. He hasn’t run since June but will be ready to go again in January. He won an 8.5f maiden at Wolverhampton for us on debut in 2015 and won again on turf at Beverley earlier this year. He’s on a fair mark off 73 and showed with a strong finish at Beverley in May that he stays 10f well. He’ll come back onto the sand a fresh horse.”
“This gelding’s done most of his racing on the All-Weather and has won seven times on it. He seems to go really well around Wolverhampton and has dropped back to a more competitive mark. He’s a very consistent horse and pays the penalty but I’ve found a 0-85 handicap over 9.5f for him at Dunstall Park on Boxing Day that should be ideal. I think he retains plenty enough ability to win again.”
“This mare came to me from Mark Loughnane and made a very nice start for us at Kempton early in December, staying on well to finish a length second in a 1m3f handicap. She’s up a couple of pounds to 85 for that but I’ve no doubt she can be competitive off that mark in the same sort of grade. She’s won five times on the All-Weather and is effective around Wolverhampton, where we’ve done so well this winter.”
“I’ve been really pleased with this filly, who has won her last two races, both at Wolverhampton over 6f. She used to have a habit of missing the break but since overcoming that she’s really progressed. Graham Gibbons got her to win at the 12th attempt before Danny Tudhope followed up on her off a 5lb higher mark. There’ll be more 6f handicaps to go at with her in the New Year and I’m very hopeful she will add to her tally.”
“This Cape Cross gelding has won twice around Wolverhampton for Dr Marwan Koukash, firstly over 9.5f and then over the extended 1m. He looked good when beating a nice prospect of David Simcock’s, Nonios, over the longer trip but I think the latter is probably his optimum. He did have excuses when bidding for his hat-trick last time and is having a little freshen up before coming back in the New Year off a decent enough mark.”
“This gelding is also effective over 7f at Lingfield, as he showed when beating the useful Shyron there in early December. He’s not quite as good as Alfred Hutchinson but he’s up to 94 for that win (from 92) so he’s on the threshold of those good races.
“He’s No Saint is basically a fast ground horse. He has a lot of natural speed to I’d feel more inclined to drop him back to 6f rather than go 1m with him if I needed another option. Southwell might suit him as they go fast there but my main target is a good handicap back at Lingfield on 14th January. ”
“Claiming him for just £10,000 (from Brian Ellison) is looking like good business. I was keen to get him at Wolverhampton that night because I remembered him splitting last season’s Good Friday winner Volunteer Point and my own Firmament at Chelmsford last December. Firmament has gone on to be a serious horse himself so I knew he was useful. He’s a very uncomplicated horse with a good cruising speed and a turn of foot, as he demonstrated at Wolverhampton the other week.
“I was tempted to have a go at Battalion and Grendisar in the Listed Quebec Stakes but decided to wait for a valuable handicap at Wolverhampton on Boxing Day instead. I’m hoping he can win another one of those off 97 before he steps up in class. The Winter Derby Trial at Lingfield in February would have to be on his agenda then. I’m not saying he will win those big Middle Distance races but he’ll definitely be well worth his place in them.”
“We took our time with School Run who showed plenty of promise on her belated debut over 6f at Wolverhampton on 16th December, finishing third. She’s got plenty of early speed, which is important on the All-Weather tracks, and I’m hoping she can break her maiden over the winter. She’s by Invincible Spirit, one of the top All-Weather sires, out of a dam who won on the sand. There’s a nice race for her at Wolverhampton on Boxing Day.”
“I’m really pleased with this horse’s progress. I had him down for an 85 horse but he’s done nothing but improve since the autumn and after his latest win at Newcastle he’s up to 100. All being well I’ll send him back there in mid-January for another valuable handicap over 7f and my young apprentice Patrick Vaughan will ride him after doing such a good job last time.
“He’s effective over 7f or 1m but he likes to be produced off a strong pace. That’s why the straight track at Newcastle suits him so well. I don’t really see him as a Lingfield horse but that doesn’t mean to say that we won’t have a crack at the Mile Final on Good Friday. I’d be keen to get him down there for a run beforehand.”