Every trainer can be presumed to have made some sort of resolution for improvement in 2013 – but none has matched intentions with deeds like David O'Meara, who has set himself impossible standards for the next 51 weeks. Another winner at Wolverhampton today took O'Meara to nine from 12 starters on the Flat since New Year's Day. With two seconds and a third, and both jumps runners placed, he has yet to have a runner off the podium.
This purple patch, astounding as it is, remains a mere flourish in the overall impression made by the former jump jockey since taking out a licence in Ryedale, north Yorkshire, during the summer of 2010. Quickly building a reputation for improving horses recruited from other stables, O'Meara sent out 25 Flat winners in that first, truncated campaign, followed by 48 in 2011 and 69 last year.
But he stressed last night that this spree had not been calculated. "It's just one of those situations when everything has come together," he said. "We did specifically keep a few in for the all-weather this time, and with so much racing at Wolverhampton at the moment it has just worked out that there have been plenty of suitable races. We do always aim to put them in races they can win. But we've also had an extraordinarily mild winter and, being quite high up here, our gallops have also been free from waterlogging, so we haven't been held up."
Having broken through at Group level with the likes of Penitent and Blue Bajan, O'Meara is keen to avoid becoming a victim of his success with horses that have looked moderate in other hands. "In fairness, some of those winning now are lesser lights that might not be good enough to win come the summertime," he said. "It's just as important to us that their owners get as much fun out of these horses, but we do have a lot of nice ones to come in later – and, hopefully, we'll find another Penitent among them."
Another trainer who has started the year in top form is Venetia Williams, whose treble at Taunton contributed to a tough afternoon for the bookmakers. All seven races were won by the favourite. One of them was Cantlow, who outclassed a small field to win his second race over fences. The first horse trained by Paul Webber for J P McManus, Cantlow has yet to convince with his jumping, but he could yet end up with a fair mark for one of the handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival, having finished a close third in the Pertemps Final over timber last year.
Chris McGrath's Nap: Dhhamaan (2.50 Wolverh'pton)
Had plunged down the handicap before making all round here last week and remains ahead of the game under his penalty.
Next best: Pine Creek (12.30 Leicester)
From a stable that continues to impress, this useful Flat recruit shaped well on his hurdling debut.
One to watch: Golantilla (Sean O'Brien) will surely be coveted by the game's big spenders after his runaway bumper win at Cork.
Where the Money's Going: On His Own is 14-1 from 20-1 with Coral for the John Smith's Grand National.