10/30/2017 2:46PM

Irishman O'Meara has found top success in U.S.

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
Suedois wins the Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 7 at Keeneland.

DEL MAR, California – David O’Meara, who was born in Ireland, started riding jump races as an amateur jockey. He took up training 13 years ago in England, and there his star has risen quickly.

But it’s in America where O’Meara has found his most concentrated top-class success.

After eight starts on this side of the Atlantic, O’Meara has three wins, a second, two fourths, and a fifth, all in Grade 1 races. The recently retired Mondialiste is responsible for seven of O’Meara’s starts here, but with Mondialiste now out of the picture, Suedois has stepped into it.

Suedois turned in a sparkling final quarter-mile to win the Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 7 at Keeneland. Since the Shadwell is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In race for the BC Mile, Suedois is back in the U.S. to try and take care of some unfinished Mile business for the O’Meara stable.

Heretical as it might sound to Tepin’s legion of American fans, Team O’Meara wonders what might have been in the 2015 BC Mile at Keeneland. As it was, Mondialiste ran a blinding final half-furlong to finish second to Tepin, but that was only after jockey Danny Tudhope, as he said just after the race, “had to sit and suffer” while stuck in heavy traffic. “Bottled up, full of run,” reads the short comment on the official chart.

Suedois and Mondialiste differ in temperament, but both came into O’Meara’s barn as older horses with established form who thereafter improved considerably. Mondialiste was an Alain and Gerard Wertheimer homebred (the brothers of Goldikova fame) racing in France for trainer Freddie Head when he was sold as a 4-year-old. Suedois, a 6-year-old gelding, was purchased out of a French sale in October 2015 with 18 starts already behind him.

“We’ve gotten a lot of horses that way,” said O’Meara, who is just 39. “We’re still very young as a yard, and buying yearlings at the sale is difficult. It’s very expensive, and I’ve thought there’s a bit of value to be found with horses that have been racing. Some of these pedigrees, you’d never be able to buy them. Look, from what I can see, a lot of trainers start out this way, and gradually they get bigger budgets to buy better yearlings. Hopefully things will keep getting better.”

Already things are pretty good, especially for a trainer so young who never had the sort of connections to help catch on in the cloistered, expensive milieu of English Thoroughbred training. O’Meara was born in County Cork, Ireland, the son of a property developer and a physical therapist. He had horses as a child and dreamed of becoming a jockey, but university attendance was expected, so O’Meara mixed desire and duty studying equine science. He pursued riding seriously, putting together a 10-year career as a jumps jockey, but even before giving that up, O’Meara had turned his eye to training.

“It can be quite difficult to start training,” O’Meara said. “You need a premises, rent is high, and it’s hard to buy. A man named Roger Fell had bought a yard and it wasn’t going very well. He asked me to come up and get it going, and very quickly I got it going well.”

On the printed page that statement might connote boastfulness, but with O’Meara, all public speech comes across strictly as measured, calculated, and efficient. O’Meara’s communication and general bearing – as well as his rapid rise– suggest a mechanical and effective mind put steadily to good use.

“David is a very clever man. He doesn’t give too much away,” said Tudhope, who has been the O’Meara stable rider for about five years now. “I get on with him well because he trusts me in what I do with his horses. He’s got a very good eye for a horse, and when he buys horses he knows what he’s looking for.”

In 2015, O’Meara went looking for an upgrade in facility. He now trains 130 horses at the 120-acre Willow Farm in Upper Helmsley, York. O’Meara has exceeded 100 winners four years in a row.

“I was always pretty confident we could do pretty well, but never would have imagined it would’ve grown as quick as it did,” O’Meara said.

O’Meara had a horse-related trip to America long before he came with a horse he trains. In 1998 he spent a summer at Keeneland galloping a string of Niall O’Callaghan-trained horses overseen by assistant trainer and Irish import Jerry Quinn.

The first journey to America with Mondialiste, which produced a win in the 2015 Woodbine Mile, came about, O’Meara said, because of a horse named Trade Storm. Trade Storm had finished second behind the O’Meara-trained Custom Cut in the 2014 Strensall Stakes at York, a springboard to Trade Storm’s win in the Woodbine Mile that year.

“That’s what paved a way to travel horses to the States, really. We didn’t know Mondialiste would be so effective around a tight left-handed track before we brought him out. It was timing and the fact the race was a Group 1 and he was an entire by Galileo. When we did it once with him, it made sense to try again,” O’Meara said.

Mondialiste stretched to 1 1/4 miles to win the Arlington Million in 2016, but one-mile races have been a stretch for Suedois. Suedois raced over one mile making his career debut in October 2013, but his next 28 starts came at seven furlongs or shorter. Suedois actually lost his first 12 starts for O’Meara, but he placed and ran effectively in some of the top six- and seven-furlong races in Europe. Not only was Suedois sprinting, he was showing speed, racing close to the front in those sprints. Tudhope said he’d wondered for some time if Suedois might not be better suited to being taken back, and a change in tactics was plotted concurrent with a move out to one mile in the Group 2 Solonoway Boomerang Stakes on Aug. 24 at Leopardstown. Suedois beat no stars there, but he won well enough and comfortably stayed the trip, and if there was skepticism that his connections had uncovered something real with their changes, it was erased at Keeneland.

“He turned in at Keeneland still cantering, in my opinion,” O’Meara said. “It looked like it might take him awhile to pick up, but it didn’t. I don’t know that much about Del Mar. The draw will be important. There could be traffic. But he’s a proper street fighter. He’ll be fine.”

He just might be. The Irishman who lives in England has a magic touch in America.