Camelot’s fall a stark contrast to the rise of O’Meara

HOW times change. A month ago, on the morning of the Ladbrokes St Leger, the unbeaten Camelot was a near-certainty for Flat racing’s Triple Crown – while David O’Meara could only dream about training horses of this stature.

Now there are fears that Camelot, the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby winner, will never race again after losing his unbeaten record in the St Leger and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe before undergoing emergency surgery on Thursday night for colic, a condition that required part of the horse’s intestine to be removed.

Though the latest reports were more optimistic – the colt’s Coolmore Stud owners tweeted “Camelot’s colic surgery went well and he is doing great” – trainer Aidan O’Brien is said to be resigned to the horse, one of the best to pass through his Ballydoyle stables, never racing again.

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Contrast this with Nawton-based O’Meara. His 20-1 chance Doc Hay won the Ladbrokes Portland, a fiercely competitive sprint that preceded the St Leger, before winning a Listed contest at Ascot last week and earning an entry in the Coral Sprint Trophy, the centrepiece of York’s final meeting of a vintage 2012.

If the horse lines up in the six-furlong test – the unsuitably testing conditions are an uncertainty – he could complete a treble to remember for O’Meara, a journeyman jump jockey with Bingley’s Sue and Harvey Smith before establishing himself as one of the country’s most promising Flat trainers after teaming up with yard owner Roger Fell.

If not, O’Meara has an eyecatching reserve in the shape of the consistent Louis The Pious who is a recent acquisition from Kevin Ryan’s Hambleton yard. Although the four-year-old has not won since completing a hat-trick of victories in July last year, it would not be the greatest of surprises if he was to get his head in front today.

This is very much the trainer’s modus operandi – he’s proving particularly adept at transforming the fortunes of those horses who relish a change of scenery.

It was the same with Doc Hay; he was spotted, and brought on, by Keith Dalgleish, another former jockey who has made a successful transition to the training ranks before being switched to O’Meara’s yard by the owners.

Likewise Penitent who was previously trained by the Classic-winning William Haggas, son-in-law to one Lester Piggott. He’s been a transformed horse since switching to Yorkshire, winning twice at Group Two level, before chasing home the William Buick-inspired Gordon Lord Byron in the Group One Prix de la Foret at Longchamp’s Arc meeting a week ago.

Now he is to line up in next weekend’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, the centrepiece of the Qipco Champions Day grand finale that will see brilliant Frankel race for the final time in the Champion Stakes.

“It’s the way we’ve gone all along, it suits our business model,” explained O’Meara whose success has helped to transform the career of Danny Tudhope who is now regarded as one of the North’s pre-eminent riders.

“It’s probably cheaper to get horses this way than going to the sales and it works. We’re up on both wins and prize money compared to last year. I think Penitent deserves to take his chance at Ascot; he’ll handle the soft going better than the others.”

That sentiment is shared by the horse’s owners, Barton-upon-Humber-based Middleham Park Racing, who are supplementing Penitent in the one-mile contest.

“There aren’t that many options left for him and the owners have a few quid in the bank, so we thought it was worth a go,” said Middleham Park’s Nick Bradley. “Now there’s horses like Excelebration, Elusive Kate and Cityscape and we’re looking forward to the race. It’s £70,000 to supplement, which is a lot of money, but I think the horse deserves a crack at it.”

As well as O’Meara’s entries, the Coral Sprint Trophy field is headed by dual course winner Heeraat as the aforementioned Haggas, a proud Yorkshireman, bids to become York’s leading trainer in 2012 for the first time in his distinguished career and end Richard Fahey’s six-year dominance.

In a twist of fate, Heeratt – owned by Sheikh Hamdam Al Maktoum – will be ridden by champion jockey Paul Hanagan who has enjoyed so much success previously with Malton-based Fahey who is quadruple-handed.

Johannes is probably the best of his quartet on a weekend in which Fahey runs Barefoot Lady – runner-up in York’s Musidora Stakes last year – in the $1m EP Taylor Stakes in Woodbine, Canada.

Victory in the Grade One race, over a mile-and-a-quarter, would see the durable four-year-old earn a place in next month’s Breeders’ Cup in America. Though she won the Grade Two Canadian Stakes at Woodbine last month, Fahey warned: “She needs to step up again but has never let us down. If she wins she’ll be guaranteed a run at the Breeders’ Cup – if not, this could be her last race. She’s in the Goffs Sale.”

However, it was another in-form Yorkshire trainer – Great Habton’s Tim Easterby – who was in the ascendancy yesterday on the Knavesmire when No Poppy won a poignant Acorn Web Offset Handicap.

Easterby is a considering a tilt at next year’s Lincoln at Doncaster for the four-year-old filly, who was delivered with calculated precision by young jockey Adam Carter.

While his more experienced rivals made a beeline for the near rail, the 5lb claimer came up the centre and was not overly pressed in beating Credit Swap, the 2010 Cambridgeshire winner, by just over a length.

No Poppy carries the esteemed silks of Easterby’s mother, Marjorie, who died last month. “She was given a great ride,” said the trainer whose father Peter enjoyed such phenomenal success with National Hunt titans Night Nurse and Sea Pigeon.