Two years ago at Del Mar, an underachieving 3-year-old named Kinsale King
was transferred to then 33-year-old trainer Carl O’Callaghan.
The son of Yankee Victor had shown a tendency to have foot and other
problems, produced one win in four starts and had been routed, beaten nearly 30
lengths, in a Santa Anita allowance to open 2009. So owner Dr. Patrick Sheehy
made the move to O’Callaghan, an Irishman with experience under John Kimmel and
Todd Pletcher in New York and a low California profile to that point.
“Dr. Sheehy didn’t think he (Kinsale King) was much and told me to run him
for $25,000 (claiming),” O’Callaghan said Friday morning from outside his Barn
S stable. “I got on him one morning here at Del Mar, like I do with all my horses,
jogged him one mile, got off and called the owner cryin’. I said ‘This horse
will take us to Dubai next year.’
“He said, ‘Are you drunk?’ I said ‘No, this horse will take us to Dubai. I
went back to my office and pulled out my charts, working back from March 27
(2010) and he never missed an oat.”
Kinsale King won four straight races for O’Callaghan, culminating with a
victory in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen 6-furlong sprint on March 27,
2010. And now, after a mysterious ailment short-circuited plans for a
title defense in the same race last March, Kinsale King will make his first
start in more than five months in Sunday’s 6-furlong, Grade I, $250,000 Bing
Crosby Handicap, first of two major sprint events of the summer meeting.
“You hate to come back in a Grade I and not having a prep for this
race,” O’Callaghan said. “But it’s the only spot I really had. I kind of want
to run him so I can make some other races down the road. I didn’t think I was
going to make this race. I was hoping to get in a maintenance race, but you’ll
notice there’s a blank in his workouts.
“ He got a little sick on me. But he healed up and last Sunday with Martin
Pedroza up on him, he threw in a six-furlong workout (1:12.80). He galloped out
real strong and I was content with it, and we’ll take a shot.”
O’Callaghan is well aware of the strength of the opposition.
“It’s a tough race,” he said. “Euroears is obviously a monster and he’s
training real good. Smiling Tiger is a beast and you’ve got Amazombie who’ll be
breathing down their throats. Probably one of the best races I’ve seen since
I’ve been at Del Mar.
There are reasons for optimism.
“He runs fresh, and I believe he runs for the people,” O’Callaghan said.
“He’s got a lot of heart and he loves synthetic tracks (6-for-9 with earnings
Two banners greet visitors to O’Callaghan’s barn. One is the flag of
O’Callaghan’s native land. The other banner, wishing Kinsale King luck, was
imported from England after being hung there when Kinsale King ran at Ascot and
Newmarket in the summer of 2010.
O’Callaghan, whose hobbies include writing and playing Irish music, was
homesick, depressed and quite down-and-out in New York City in the months after
his arrival in the U.S. as a teenager in the early 1990s. So he went to
Belmont Park, seeking work as a stable hand and got it under Kimmel and
Pletcher. And Kinsale King has brought to O’Callaghan a small but treasured
measure of the success those mentors have had.
“To win in Dubai, with Garrett Gomez riding and the world watching, was
huge,” O’Callaghan said. “It’s a feeling that’s very hard to describe.”
A feeling that was not fated to repeat this year.
“He went to Dubai and trained really good. Then the morning of the race,
seemed like four or five horses in the barn blew up,” O’Callahan said. “ I
don’t know if it was an insect bite or what it was, but his legs were swollen,
his neck was swollen and the swelling never went away.
“I waited as long as I could and treated him the best I could without
medication (according to rules) in Dubai. Then I just pulled him out. I didn’t
want to ruin the horse; he’s the only big horse that I have.
“I probably could have run him, but would he have been 100 percent? Probably
not. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself and the horse. For me and for Dr.
Sheehy it’s all about the horse. He’s been so good to us and so good for my
help, brought a lot of dreams true; he’s made a lot of money for us. So you’ve
got to think about it that way.”
Kinsale King was brought back to the states, given tests that showed the
horse’s blood chemistry was “all out of whack,” O’Callaghan said. The tests
didn’t, however, provide a definitive cause.
Kinsale King, given eight weeks off at Magali Farms in Santa Ynez, will make
his comeback as an outsider in the Crosby morning line. O’Callaghan, who rides
the horse in morning exercises every day and is seldom away from Kinsale King’s
side, expresses confidence in jockey Martin Pedroza.
“When you’re a small trainer like me, the bigger trainers have the
pull (with the premier riders),” O’Callaghan said. “(Rafael) Bejarano had been
working my horse religiously. Mike Smith worked him before Dubai and they all
“Of course they do, he’s done nothing wrong for them and made them lots of
money. But when you’re a small outfit like me, it’s hard to get someone to be
committed all the time. Pedroza has been absolutely fantastic with us.
“He rides really hard for me. He comes by the barn all the time, he’s always
happy and he takes care of us. He deserves a chance. Everyone knows he’s a
consistent top-10 rider, he’s a veteran and he knows what he’s doing.
“And if the horse is ready and willin’, I could ride him myself.”