David O’Meara knows this more than most.
Having become one of the fastest trainers in Britain to train 1,000 winners, he understands that success is never guaranteed and does not come overnight.
"We were very lucky! It took us maybe ten years to reach that, but I think we have also had nine consecutive years where we have had 100 winners. "So that's quite an achievement that we're quite proud of."
As the Irish trainer competes in his eighth UAE season with his prepared brigade, he spoke with us about his beginnings in the industry and where the team is now having success along the way.
Early Years with Horses
Fermoy, County Cork, Ireland, is where he was born.O’Meara grew up with a family involved in horses, and his passion grew from there.
"It is a very horse-oriented area, and John Magnier from Coolmore Stud would have been born there, and Coolmore would have started there," he said.
"My parents were into horses, point-to-point, and National Hunt racing. My dad would buy some yearlings and sell them as three-year-olds when they didn’t sell as point-to-pointers. I got into it that way and because of their enthusiasm for it. "The fact that we were living in that area and that everybody in that area had a vested interest in it"
He began as a jockey and rode for 13 seasons before deciding to pursue training as a career.
"I'd say all in all, I rode as an amateur for probably three or four years and as a professional for nine." During that time, I got to ride some very nice horses like Mister McGoldrick and a few good chasers.
"As an amateur, I won the Foxhunters at Aintree, which was a great thrill." "That was probably the biggest race I ever won as a jockey."
From Trading to Training: The Big Jump
In his twenties, O'Meara would jump from the saddle into training, as he recalled.
"I was always interested in horse training, and I was always buying and selling horses since I was about 25 or 26 years old."
"I would buy a young horse, get it 90% fit to run in a bumper, and then send it into training, where hopefully it could run well, and then sell it on." I was doing that well before I got my training licence and was running an odd horse, so it was always something I was very interested in.
"At 31, I thought I wanted to pack in the riding relatively young to have the energy to go and do something else, and luckily for me, it was training."
The Willow Farm Journey
Since getting his licence in June 2010, he has gone on to have a career that has seen him win some great races, train quality horses, and record success along the way.
He moved training operations to the 120-acre purpose-built facility at Willow Farm in 2016.
"It took a lot of investments and a lot of hard work." We have it how we like it now, with its two gallops and every facility we really want on one site.
"We have a great team, which is important, but it took a while obviously to build that team." "When you move, you lose some team members because of the location, but you gain others."
His stable has included horses such as G-Force, Amazing Maria, and the great Lord Glitters.
"We've gone to America very successfully but have had a bit of a dry spell since then. A few years ago, we won three Grade 1s in North America: Woodbine Mile, Arlington Mile, and Shadwell Mile. We got a second in the Breeder’s Cup Mile, so we had some good trips over there.
Amazing Maria was a big highlight, as was a horse of mine named Custom Cut, who won me multiple group races. We have won a lot of heritage handicaps in the UK.
"We’ve won quite a few races in Dubai with a few horses, including Lord Glitters."
O'Meara's Globe-Trotting Grey
The gelded son of Whipper finished his career at 46: 11-10-5 and relished racing in the UAE, making his debut there as a 6YO in the 2019 season. Sent to the United Arab Emirates to contest the Dubai Turf over 1800 metres at Meydan Racecourse on March 30, in which he started a 22/1 outsider, he passed a bulk of the field to take third place behind the Japanese mares Almond Eye and Vivlos.
In the following year, as a 7-year-old, he ended the season with a trip to Bahrain, where he finished a close fifth behind the locally trained Simsir in the Bahrain International Trophy over 2000 metres at Sakhir Racecourse on November 20.
As an 8-year-old, he found his best in the UAE when, on his seasonal debut in the Grade 2 Singspiel Stakes over 1800 metres at Meydan, ridden by the Dutch jockey Adrie de Vries, he won after being restrained toward the rear but hitting the lead 300 metres from the finish, drawing away to win by three lengths from Zakouski and record his first victory for nineteen months.
At the time, the trainer told the media that he was overjoyed with his star's performance.
"He was brilliant. The race fell right for him, and Adrie gave him a great ride. He ran a lovely race in Bahrain in November when it wasn't run to suit. The fact that he's eight now but is still able to run at that level is amazing. "That was a hell of a run, and we know he likes the track."
Three weeks later, he finished third behind Zakouski and Court House in Group 2, Al Rashidiya, beaten by less than a length from the winner.
Last season, Lord Glitters once again began the campaign in Dubai, finishing fourth in the Al Rashidiya before taking the Singspiel Stakes for the second time, beating the favourite Royal Fleet by a length.
He would be retired in July 2022 following a poor race in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown, but his legacy is one to be remembered, and he is missed by the stable and O’Meara.
"He was a very talented horse, and we were very lucky to have him."
"There have been many highlights; it’s been a good run."
Racing at Meydan
O’Meara has now been preparing horses for the UAE and the World Cup Carnival since 2014.
"Penitant was the first horse that went out there."
His stable currently houses between 130 and 150 horses as he prepares five to unleash on the tracks of the UAE for the current season.
Charging Thunder stepped out in his UAE debut in early January for the Dubai Racing Classic, finishing seventh under Danny Tudhope. He is the 5-year-old gelded son of War Command and has six wins to his name after breaking his maiden in June 2021.
"He is a very good horse. He had a great year last year and went down narrowly in a very good race. He liked the fast ground out there. He is a horse that is from a family that includes the Prince of Arran; he is his brother. The family gets better with age. So I'm sure this fella will as well—I expect him to have a good carnival."
Get Shirty is a 7-year-old gelded son of Teofilo who was set to make his debut in the UAE for the Dubai Racing Classic but was withdrawn, as O'Meara explains.
"We've had to give a lot of weight away for him so he can wait a couple of weeks and run in a listed race against the same horses."
O'Meara intends to race Get Shirty twice or three times, and he has a nomination for Saudi Arabia as well, with those plans contingent on his performance in Dubai.The trainer also added that a mile-and-a-half race in Qatar was not out of the question either.
"We're going to kind of just feel our way and just see how we get along with them."
Stablemate Shelir is the 7-year-old gelded son of Dark Angel, and on his UAE debut in the Al Fahidi Fort at the start of the month, he put in a decent performance, running third but only four lengths off the winner, Al Suhail.
"We dropped back to seven, but he’s probably better at the mile." You could argue that he would run maybe even slightly better on soft ground, but he has form on fast ground.
"He won the Balmoral very impressively in his last run for us and went up a fair bit in the handicap for it. We gave him that run at seven furlongs, but there are some mile races coming up for him in his campaign.
"He and Charging Thunder probably have two or three races each, I would say, out in Dubai as well this winter, depending on how they come out of each race.
"After the season they will come back (to the UK), and Shelir may run in the Lincoln if he’s still in good form and all has gone well."
"Charging Thunder may have a freshen-up when he returns because he prefers better ground, so he may get a break before a campaign in the UK in May, which hopefully leads him into the company of listed and group races in the UK."
The final pair are Orbaan and BoPedro.
"Orbaan had a great year last year. I always thought he was a soft-grown horse, but I think he's knocked that theory on the head this year as he has actually performed better on decent ground.
"Bopedro will have a start in the Lincoln, and I would hope he has a good prep between now and the end of March for that, as I am keen to run him there."
"They all left between Christmas and New Year's, and they all travelled well and settled in well."
O’Meara is also preparing 9-year-old Summerghand, who has been earmarked for the sprint in Qatar after winning the Ayr Gold Cup.
Stars in the Stable
A current star of the stable who has won his last three starts, 6YO Alligator Alley, will also see the track in Qatar.
"He is doing well at the moment!" He’s very much a five-furlong horse, but I might see if I can stretch him out to the six out in Qatar.
"So, I might send a couple out there for the sprint, and Shelir might go over for the mile race if he’s getting along well in Dubai."
Having been taking horses to Dubai and the Middle East for close to a decade, O’Meara speaks highly of the profile of racing in the regions.
"I feel that the racing in the Middle East is getting stronger." I mean, when you see the horses in training sales and in the UK in July, August, and October, a lot of our decent horses are getting sold out there.
"So, the standard is getting higher, and the prize money is very good, so there is a very strong draw to bring people out there to compete."
With the retirement of Lord Glitters, O’Meara admits that there is no longer a standalone star in the ranks, but this makes for greater prospects of discovering the next diamond in the yard.
"We lack an absolute superstar in the yard, but all the handicappers seem to have raised their game."
"Summerghand won the Ayr Gold Cup, Orbaan won the Feature Mile at Goodwood, Escobar won a big one at Ascot, and Get Shirty had a great season.
"For next year, Summerhand will be back again and heading to Qatar.
"We've got all the usual suspects back again, all a year older, so we'll see if they can keep the same level of form."
"We bought a few new youngsters this year. Then we’ve got quite a few 2-year-olds, so hopefully we’ve got another good one that can become competitive at Royal Ascot.
O’Meara is one of the most positive trainers I have interviewed in my career thus far, and as we speak about what is to come for the stable, particularly in the UAE, that confidence remains steadfast.
"Hopefully we have a good campaign out there and end up in the staying race on Super Saturday—that would be great."
"I guess this year our target would be to win the Lord Glitters Handicap—if Shelir could win that, it would be great, wouldn’t it?"