TRAINER David O’Meara’s versatility is such that he saddles Rose Of The Moon in today’s Grand National one week after running Penitent at the Dubai World Cup meeting.
Yet, while O’Meara has become established as an ambitious – and successful – Flat trainer from his stables at Nawton near York, the National still has a special resonance.
Growing up in Ireland, it was the one race that meant more than any other. While O’Meara never rode in the race, he did win the Foxhunters Chase in 2000 over the famous fences when the Philip Hobbs-trained Bells Life prevailed.
It is experience which will come into its own when O’Meara, who served his racing apprenticeship with Sue and Harvey Smith as well as Tim Easterby, legs up young jockey Jake Greenall, 21, who will be riding in the race for the first time.
His advice will be simple. “Get him in a rhythm, get him popping away, nothing fancy for the first couple of miles,” O’Meara told The Yorkshire Post.
“If you are still in touch with the main bunch of the horses out in the country second time around, then you start to ride in the race.
“Just to have a runner is great for the yard and everyone who works in the yard. We have an awful lot of Flat horses, that is our business rather than jumps. With so few National Hunt horses, just to be able to compete is massive.”
A first National runner for O’Meara, the grey Rose Of The Moon’s progress is emblematic of his training career and ability to revive the fortunes of horses who have perhaps lost their way at other yards.
Unplaced in last December’s Becher Chase, O’Meara knew the horse, owned by a Middleham Park Racing syndicate, had to win at Wetherby in January to have any chance of making the National line-up – and he did.
“He is a horse that is best fresh. It was a great staying performance at Wetherby under AP McCoy,” added O’Meara. “He didn’t look like he was doing a lot when in front, but he was pricking his ears. Hopefully, he has a bit left for today. He doesn’t want to be too handy early on. The further he goes, the better he will be.”