SIX years of waiting – one great chance. The time is now for Ollie Pears. “He’s the real deal,” he says of his brightest hope – the horse that will, luck permitting, drive the Norton trainer into a new sphere of his training career.
Pears has always been shrewd. The man who can take the horse that others couldn’t improve and get them to win.
It’s helped him find regular winners since the back end of 2007.
But with No Leaf Clover, he’s got a genuine shot at the big time. A chance to really make his mark.
Think hard enough and you might remember the two-year-old.
He was the bay colt going flat out only to be collared by Mushir in the Listed Rockingham Stakes at York Racecourse last October.
An unheralded 20-1 shot with the punters, Osbaldwick jockey Robert Winston was only just held as he rallied and narrowly failed by a head to land Pears a £25,000 first prize and a magical win at his local track.
“We were beaten by a head by a Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum horse, who was odds on first time out,” he added.
“He was very highly thought of and we went up 19lbs for finishing second. I’ve totally blown his handicap mark but we were all of the opinion ‘let’s give it a go’.
“I’ve never had people saying well done for finishing second. There was a lot of prestige but it was a bit frustrating.
“I am so proud of him.”
Options abound as thoughts turn towards the Flat season. The Greenham Stakes at Newbury in April, the Pavilion Stakes at Ascot – both races Pears has watched with longing eyes.
“I’m getting myself educated about these better contests,” he said. “It’s great to have a horse that is not just capable of running in these races but will be competitive in most of the races I’ll put him in.
“We will always ride to run well. He won’t be up front early and fading. He will always be coming off the pace.”
Costing 65,000 euros at Goffs sales in Ireland, No Leaf Clover was snapped up by Charles Wentworth, who owns Caspar Netscher and claimed the Gimcrack Stakes at York in August 2011.
The association was unexpected.
Pears explained: “He’s tremendous. He just rang me and asked me to train a horse. The first one we got wasn’t very good.
“I didn’t really like it and couldn’t keep it sound. I told him, gave it away, and thought ‘Is that the last I’ll see of him?’ and we have got five in the yard owned by him and his wife now.
“We get on really well, which helps. He trusts me and I think he enjoys supporting, and being involved, with a smaller yard.
“He knows what we think of the horse. No Leaf Clover’s not going to win a lot of races. When you run in those sorts of contests, you don’t.
“He isn’t going to be easy to place but he needs just one. It’s all in front of him.”
Pears knows it’s a big year. Noodles Blue Boy has won ten for him. It gets a paragraph in the Racing Post.
Powerful Pierre, last week, made it six wins from his last nine races when striking at Wolverhampton – “I don’t think anyone even noticed,” lamented Pears.
But if No Leaf Clover makes a mark in the Greenham or, better yet, at Royal Ascot, it will make people sit up in their armchairs.
“You need those horses like Powerful Pierre, because they are the winners that add up at the end of the year,” said Pears.
“But it’s great that we have got a horse like No Leaf Clover.
“It gives you a bit of a buzz. You are always trying to find a decent horse.
“Charles has bought him to race and he is not for sale. He is more for keeping them.
“We believe the horse will definitely get seven furlongs. I don’t think he is a miler as he has a hell of a lot of speed.
“As long as the ground isn’t too deep we are going to take him for the Greenham at Newbury – seven furlongs – and there are usually about five runners.
“There could be some very good prize money and, most importantly, Black Type on offer for finishing in the places.
“It would be nice to run well in the Greenham, run well in a Listed race – whether it is Ascot or somewhere else – and gradually work his way up. He’s a horse that will stand plenty of racing.
“I would love to go to Royal Ascot. I think it’s the premier meeting in the country – forget Cheltenham.
“Any winner at Royal Ascot would be unbelievable. He’s the best horse we’ve had since we started.”