IT is a measure of Richard Fahey’s domination of York races that David O’Meara had not even begun his career when the Malton maestro was winning the fourth of his seven consecutive training titles on Knavesmire.
Yet, as York’s 2013 season draws to a close after today’s racing and tomorrow’s Coral Sprint Trophy feature, there is every likelihood that Nawton-based O’Meara will become the track’s leading trainer for the first time in his burgeoning career.
O’Meara – who only teamed up with his stable’s backer Roger Fell in 2010 – currently leads the race with 10 winners to date. Hambleton’s Kevin Ryan heads the chasing pack on eight followed by the defending champion Fahey and Skipton-born William Haggas, who are both on seven.
For O’Meara, York’s prize would cap what has simply been a magnificent season for him, and the track, which has already welcomed more than 300,000 racegoers this year.
“It would be brilliant,” says O’Meara, who was a journeyman jump jockey for many years with the likes of Sue Smith and Tim Easterby before making a very assured transition to the training ranks.
“Where we train, we are not too far away from York and we always try to have plenty of runners and winners there.
“Lots of our owners like having runners at York. So to get the winners there is great for the team and our owners – a lot of them are Yorkshire-based.”
The season as a whole has been a memorable one. With well over a century of triumphs on the board and more than £1m in prize money, O’Meara can afford to look back with huge satisfaction on such achievements when considering he saddled just 25 winners as recently as 2010, which yielded just over £100,000.
“It’s been a great season,” says O’Meara who has formed a particularly effective association with his still under-rated stable jockey Danny Tudhope.
“Last year I think we ended up with 68 winners and while we didn’t set ourselves any target, as we were getting close to the 100, we thought that it would be great to do it. I think we’re on 126 as we speak now. It’ll be tough to match year-in, year-out but we’ll do our best.”
What stands out when assessing O’Meara’s statistics is the consistency of his string. The winners have flowed from the outset and show no sign of slowing as we approach the final weeks of the season.
It is a credit to not only the man at the helm, but also his staff who work tirelessly to ensure the horses remain happy and healthy.
O’Meara, who backed out of the acquisition of Ferdy Murphy’s West Witton stables in the middle of the summer because he was conscious of the risks of over-expanding his string of around 90 horses, says: “It’s been a very busy season. The horses hit the ground running at the beginning of the season and we had some very good months – we averaged 20 winners a month for three or four months.
“The horses have remained in good form and some of the handicappers that you wouldn’t expect much progression out of, just keep on progressing through the season – the likes of Mont Ras and Robert The Painter and others.”
Smoothtalkinrascal opened O’Meara’s York account for 2013 with a nose victory over Lucky Beggar back at the Dante Festival in May.
That triumph was followed up by Grandorio and Smarty Socks in June, while Chancery could not have been more impressive when running away with a competitive handicap on John Smith’s Cup day.
Nurpur, Frog Hollow and Innocently were among the winners for him at Knavesmire’s popular July Music weekend, but it was August’s Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival that he will surely remember most.
“It was a great week,” he reflects. “Dutch Rose, who’d won at the meeting last year, she came right back to her best to win again.
“Mont Ras won a big handicap and has been a great horse for us on fast ground. Chancery was brilliant – so it was a really good week. There were expectations – but getting winners there is tough. To get three and have a double one day was great.”
Ryan also notched up three victories including the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Gimcrack Stakes with the highly regarded Astaire.
Having started the year with a bang, Fahey drew a blank at the Ebor Festival, giving his rivals the edge.
However, with only three winners separating the top four trainers, it is still wide open and O’Meara observes: “Kevin Ryan is only a couple behind us, so one good day could change it all.
“There are quite a few races at the last meeting which suit some of our horses, so we will put in plenty of entries and hope we can get some horses there in good form and be competitive.”
Of O’Meara’s four runners today, Dick Bos in the Novus Stakes will provide a further opportunity for young apprentice David Bergin to demonstrate his prowess.
Meanwhile, Kiwayu can start to repay some of his recent purchase price with victory in the Parsonage Hotel And Cloisters Spa Stakes Handicap at York.
Bought for £75,000 at Doncaster in August, the four-year-old gelding made his first start for new trainer Phil Kirby at Carlisle last month and was hardly disgraced in finishing third.
Given that was his first outing since July, there is every reason to believe Kiwayu should improve for the run which should see him make his mark for the in-form Middleham handler.