AS the trainer of two of the best female sprinters to have raced in Britain in the last decade, Michael Dods could have pretended his specialism was part of a masterful grand plan.

Having watched Mecca’s Angel and Mabs Cross claim Group One victories over the minimum trip, he could have spun an intricate tale of perfectly-executed plots and quirky training regimes. Ultimately, though, the truth is rather more mundane.

“Why have we done so well with female sprinters?” asked Dods, as the last of his early-morning string disappeared over the brow of the hill at his Denton Hall gallops on the outskirts of Darlington. “If I knew the answer to that, I wouldn’t have waited so long to put it into practice!

“I know people think there’s some kind of magic formula, but it hasn’t been like that at all. We thought Mecca’s Angel was the horse of a lifetime, and then bang, Mabs Cross comes along a year or so later and we’re flying high again.

“Success breeds success, so because we’ve done quite well with fillies, we have found we’ve been sent a few more fillies this year. That inevitably means you have to target certain races.

“We don’t really do anything different with them, although fillies do tend to be a bit more highly-strung than colts or geldings, so you maybe have to tread a little bit more carefully with them, especially when they’re young.

“There’s nothing fundamentally different with how we treat them though – it just so happens that our two best horses have been female sprinters. Not that I’m complaining mind.”

Throw in Intense Romance, a Listed winner in October who is set to step up to Group company this season, and it could be argued that Dods’ three best horses have been female speedsters. Clearly, County Durham’s leading Flat trainer has a way with the ladies.

Unsurprisingly, Mabs Cross remains the apple of his eye, with the five-year-old having provided two of the highlights of last summer’s Flat season. Her defeat by a nose in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York was as dramatic a piece of sporting theatre as it is possible to imagine, but any lingering disappointment was more than eradicated when she benefited from a masterful piece of riding from Gerald Mosse to claim the Prix de l’Abbaye on Arc day at Longchamp.

Given that her owner, David Armstrong, presides over a major breeding operation, this will almost certainly be her final season before she is retired to become a brood mare, so her connections are understandably keen to enjoy her while they can.

“She’s wintered really well and we’re looking forward to seeing her on the track again,” said Dods. “With a horse like her, the calendar really takes care of itself.

“There was a thought last season that it might be worth trying her over six (furlongs), but the way she won the Abbaye, there’s really no need. If would be very difficult to step her up after she did what she did.

“She’s be aimed at all the big sprints – the Temple Stakes, Nunthorpe, King’s Stand and the Abbaye – and unlike with Mecca’s, there’s not really any issue with the ground. She’s pretty straightforward in that respect, so we’d expect her to be kept pretty busy.”

It is set to be a busy summer for Dods full stop, with his stables pretty much full to bursting despite the retirement of a number of the older horses that have become such familiar names.

Stables cannot stand still, and Dods is especially excited about the crop of emerging three-year-olds that are ready to take centre stage this season. Never one to overly exert his horses in their two-year-old campaigns, it surely says much that Dods had a number of juvenile winners last summer. If they have trained on successfully, they should be capable of really making their mark over the next few months.

“The three-year-olds look nice,” he said. “I thought last year we were maybe a bit light on the three-year-old side of things, but this year we look pretty strong. We’ve got some nice three-year-old filly sprinters, and some horses that looked promising at two and will hopefully have taken another few steps forward.

“You look at a horse like Beaufort, he was a real backward type last year so you’d like to think there’s improvement there. Myrmidons won a race at Redcar, but he’s not got a handicap mark yet and has wintered well.

“Que Amoro is a speedy filly who won a couple of races at two. She’s rated 84 and will probably stay over five furlongs.

“Then you’ve got Pendleton, who’s a big horse who did well at two, and Heath Charnock, who won first time out at Newcastle. There’s quite a few who are quite exciting.”

In the older ranks, Get Knotted should continue to be a force to be reckoned with at York, Camacho Chief has gone up to be rated 95 and Jawwaal is an interesting addition to the ranks after he was purchased out of John Gosden’s yard, but it not just equine talent that has Dods counting down the days to the start of the Flat season, which has its traditional curtain call at Doncaster’s Lincoln meeting this weekend.

Paul Mulrennan is back in the saddle after missing a big chunk of last season through injury, and while Callum Rodriguez’s recent drugs ban was an unwelcome development, the return of Dods’ senior stable jockey is a major boost.

“We managed to get by without Paul towards the end of last season, but there’s no doubt he was missed,” he said. “It was difficult. We were lucky to have people like Connor (Beasley), Paula (Muir), Andrew (Mullen) and Callum who could slot in to cover the gaps, but Paul is one of the top jockeys in the country and you obviously want him riding.

“He’s 100 per cent now and has been riding out for us through the winter. He’s desperate to get a full season, and is champing at the bit to get going.

“Thankfully, there’s not too much longer to wait. The horses are fairly well forward with it having been such a dry winter, so once the races come, we’ll be ready to run.”