08/16/2011 1:26PM

Del Mar: Callaghan crosses Atlantic and finds success

Shigeki Kikkawa
Trainer Simon Callaghan won his first stakes at Del Mar with Up in Time in the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap on July 24.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Simon Callaghan was 26 years old when he decided he needed a career change.

By the end of the English flat racing season in 2009, Callaghan had spent two seasons at Rathmoy Stables in Newmarket, which he had taken over from his retired father, Neville. For a relatively small stable, the results were decent – 33 wins in 2008, 34 in 2009 – but left Callaghan wanting more.

He announced in fall 2009 that he was headed to California.

“I was determined to do well,” he recalled last weekend.

Developing large stables in England can be difficult, and Callaghan was willing to try to do the same at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar. Less than two years into his American career, Callaghan is starting to see the results he sought.

Now 28, Callaghan won his first Grade 1 stakes in the Gamely Stakes at Hollywood Park in May with Dubawi Heights, a filly he brought with him from England. As an 8-1 longshot, she finished a game second to favored Stacelita in the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park last Saturday.

On July 24, Callaghan won his first stakes at Del Mar with Up In Time in the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap over a mile in an 11-1 upset. She is a contender for Saturday’s $250,000 Del Mar Oaks and will be ridden by top jockey Rafael Bejarano.

“She’s ready and she’s been so much better in her works,” Callaghan said. Bejarano “was excited with the way she worked, and he’s committed to ride her.”

The one-mile San Clemente was Up In Time’s first stakes win. The Del Mar Oaks will be her first start at 1 1/8 miles since a fifth in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 11.

“I think the added distance will be no problem,” Callaghan said. “The way she galloped out last time suggests that it’s in her range.”

Up In Time was beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Sarah’s Secret in the Honeymoon, a loss that Callaghan blames on himself. On reflection, Callaghan wishes that he had not asked jockey Martin Garcia to keep her close to the pace.

“She finished right behind the best fillies the time before,” Callaghan said. “I blame myself with the instructions. She broke and raced a little more.”

Horses such as Dubawi Heights and Up In Time have raised Callaghan’s profile at a time when he admits there is room for the stable to grow, in several directions.

The stable has about 16 horses right now, a figure that will increase in coming weeks with the addition of European-based runners. He has the support of prominent owner Michael Tabor as well as Anthony Ramsden, who owns Up In Time.

Eventually, Callaghan wants the barn to at least double in size.

“I’d like to get up to 30 or 40 horses,” he said. “For here, it would be a good number.”

Byrama, a 2-year-old filly who won a maiden race in her second career start in England on July 24, will join the team soon for the newly formed Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners. The Grade 3 Miesque Stakes over a mile on turf in the fall is a long-term goal. With a lengthy list of stakes for 3-year-old fillies in Southern California each year, Callaghan describes Byrama as “the perfect filly to have out here right now.”

Next month, Callaghan will venture to the Keeneland September yearling sale, hoping to acquire prospects that can race on dirt in 2012. He says his name might even appear in the claim box, should the right opportunity arise.

“I don’t want to be labeled as just a European turf trainer,” he said. “Some people have the misconception that I don’t take outside horses, or I only take a certain kind of horse. For the yearling sale, I’ve got some people that want to buy younger stock.”

This fall, Dubawi Heights could be Callaghan’s best publicity. She is likely to start in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes at the Santa Anita Autumn meeting in October in advance of an intended trip to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs in November.

“She’s justified there,” Callaghan said.

Dubawi Heights was with Callaghan when he left England nearly two years ago. The stable he wants to build in the next year will have a more American feel.