Carl O'Callaghan's Kinsale King may cap rags-to-riches tale for Irish trainer

UNTIL the Americans race more on grass like most other sensible nations and regularly send their best cuddies over here instead of always keeping them Stateside, Royal Ascot will have to settle for being just the greatest Flat race meeting in Europe.

For my money, the Royal meeting is the best anywhere but since the Breeders Cup has bigger prize money and has at least a few turf races, it can rightly claim to be the world championships of racing, though no matter how much cash is thrown at the Breeders Cup, or the Dubai World Cup meeting, none of them will ever have the history, tradition, competitiveness and sheer class of Royal Ascot.

American-trained horses at Royal Ascot are as rare as Saltires over Downing Street, but next Saturday, a serious American challenge will be mounted in the Golden Jubilee Stakes. If Kinsale King lifts the Group 1 race, the media will be full of a rags-to-riches story that should have Hollywood beating a path to the trainer's door.

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For should Kinsale King win and Her Majesty the Queen decide to present the prize, she will be shaking hands with a man who not so long ago was homeless on the streets of New York.

Carl O'Callaghan, now 34, had bought a one-way ticket to the USA at the age of 14, and two years later he left his first job on a farm in New York State to live rough in the city for a spell before his sheer gall gained him a job with top Belmont racetrack trainer John Kimmel.

He stayed for seven years, learning all the stable trade, before moving to Todd Pletcher's mighty stable just as that trainer's career was taking off. O'Callaghan, who had developed a useful sideline as a bar crooner – he has released four albums – gained a reputation for his work with injured horses.

Striking out on his own, O'Callaghan moved to California and last year a fellow Irishman, Dr Patrick Sheehy, sent him Kinsale King, a potentially world-class sprinter who had a serious problem with tender feet and cracked hooves – two other trainers had tried with the horse, who won just one race.

The results obtained by O'Callaghan and his blacksmith, Englishman Robert Guest, were extraordinary. He promptly went on an unbeaten run in major sprints at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park, and in March of this year he went to Dubai and comfortably lifted the 1.2m Dubai Golden Shaheen in his first crack at Group 1 company.

The Racing Post noted after that victory: "Though it is still very early in the season to be definitive, he should be the leading contender for the Golden Jubilee Stakes if he shows up in the same form."

The only detracting factor is that Kinsale King has yet to race on grass, but when you learn that O'Callaghan got the horse back to fitness by training it on grass, it suddenly seems far less of a problem.

O'Callaghan is very bullish about the five-year-old's chances, and though he bit a chunk of it rather than just kissed the Blarney Stone – he claims to communicate with the horse and feed it a diet of Guinness and eggs – the Irishman is undoubtedly a serious trainer of a serious horse.

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He has booked a serious jockey, too – Kieren Fallon, who took time off from his busy schedule to fly to the USA and work on Kinsale King.

Fallon does not do that for every mount, and that convinces me that Kinsale King – available at 10s last night – is the best bet of the week, certainly in ante-post each-way terms.

As hinted at in this column, Aidan O'Brien was indeed no certainty to win the Derby, but is he set for an outstanding time at Royal Ascot, with star miler Rip Van Winkle set to make his comeback. Follow O'Brien and O'Callaghan and you should have a profitable week.