06/08/2010 11:00PM

Kinsale King eyes more overseas glory


INGLEWOOD, Calif. − The $1.2 million in prize money is safely tucked away, at least the portion that has not been spent in celebration since late March, when Kinsale King traveled from California to Dubai to win the $2 million Golden Shaheen Sprint.

That doesn't mean the party has stopped for owner Patrick Sheehy and trainer Carl O'Callaghan. All they have done is shift the event to a new venue. Earlier this week, Kinsale King was back on an airplane for another international destination, this time England for the Group 1 Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot next Saturday, June 19.

The number of friends and family Sheehy and O'Callaghan will have in attendance that day from their native Ireland is expected to be in the hundreds.

"I'm getting a little nervous," O'Callaghan said last week before leaving for England. "Before I was under the radar, and now I'm not under the radar."

Kinsale King has accomplished so much in the last six months that the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs has become a realistic target. As late as December, Kinsale King did not belong in stakes, let alone the best sprints in the world. Now, he is bound for Royal Ascot.

"That's what this business is like − you never know what the good horses will come from," Sheehy said. "You've got to keep the faith. I feel very lucky. He's such a nice animal. I don't know how he fell into my hands, but I feel very lucky."

Sheehy, 70, a physician from Newport Beach, Calif., who specializes in cancer care, had watched Kinsale King win once in four starts for trainers Jesus Mendoza and Eoin Harty in 2008 and early 2009. After Kinsale King was given a layoff necessitated by foot problems in the spring and early summer last year, Sheehy turned Kinsale King over to O'Callaghan, who was launching a training stable. The goals were low.

"We actually thought he was a $40,000 claimer," Sheehy said.

Time and better luck managing Kinsale King's troubled feet have helped. In his first start for O'Callaghan, Kinsale King pulled a 61-1 upset in an optional claimer at Santa Anita last October before winning the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park in his stakes debut last December.

It was then that O'Callaghan, 34, began dreaming about Dubai. Sheehy said he thought O'Callaghan was joking.

But after Kinsale King won the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita in January, beating a field that included 2009 Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Dancing in Silks, O'Callaghan was firmly on course for Dubai.

He took Kinsale King and several other horses to Golden Gate Fields for workouts over the Tapeta Footings synthetic main track, similar to the one used at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. O'Callaghan was convinced the experience would give Kinsale King an advantage.

In the Golden Shaheen over approximately six furlongs, Kinsale King had a perfect trip under jockey Garrett Gomez, taking the lead in early stretch and winning by a half-length after a tough, stretch-long drive.

Sheehy was at a loss for words afterward, shaking with delight. O'Callaghan was not as shy, bouncing around Meydan's spacious walking ring like a human pogo stick as Kinsale King preserved his lead in the final furlong.

"It's still a shock that we did it," O'Callaghan said. "We went to Dubai and won the big one."

O'Callaghan and Kinsale King were still in Dubai when the Golden Jubilee entered the discussion for the summer. The Golden Jubilee, which will be worth approximately $650,000, is run over a straightway six furlongs on turf.

The Golden Jubilee will be Kinsale King's first start on turf and on a straightaway course. O'Callaghan said he knows the venture will not be easy. For one, Gomez will not make the trip; he is expected to have riding commitments at Colonial Downs that day.

Jockey Kieren Fallon will ride Kinsale King and even traveled to Belmont Park in early June to work him. O'Callaghan shipped Kinsale King to New York for a week in early June before continuing on to England, a pit stop to break up the long journey.

Earlier this week, English bookmakers had Kinsale King as a 10-1 shot in the Golden Jubilee, with Showcasing, a 3-year-old trained by John Gosden, favored.

"He's never run on grass, but I think he deserves a shot," Sheehy said. "We thought, 'Hell, we'll go.' We anticipate it will be pretty tough."

O'Callaghan is seldom without a smile and has the carefree reputation of someone who enjoys life and entertaining. A few years ago, he played guitar and sang at a nightclub near Del Mar during the summer.

He emigrated to the United States as a teenager and worked for Todd Pletcher on the East Coast before moving to California in late 2006. He began training his own stable last year after working as an exercise rider in Southern California.

Having Kinsale King in the stable and winning the Golden Shaheen has been an eye-opener. O'Callaghan has studied various options to prepare Kinsale King for Royal Ascot.

"I'm a serious person to a certain extent," he said. "I'm doing my homework. It's all new for me. I didn't take him to Dubai for a glory trip for me.

"Going to England and winning would mean a lot for me," he said. "It would show we had a lot of courage to do something like this."