01/07/2010 12:00AM

Transplant trainer may make splash


Simon Callaghan is the latest trainer to trade the dampness of Newmarket for the sunny climes of Southern California. The 26-year-old Englishman will have his first starter at Santa Anita on Saturday when he saddles Locksley Hall in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race on the hillside turf course.

Callaghan is no stranger to American racing, having worked as an assistant to Todd Pletcher for a couple of years in his early 20s. The son of Irish-born trainer Neville Callaghan - who sent out such equine luminaries as Danehill Dancer, Danetime, and Excellent Art - Simon took over at his father's Rathmoy House Stables in Newmarket upon the elder Callaghan's retirement in 2008. A chip off the old block, the younger Callaghan had 33 winners from 256 starters in his rookie year, and went one better in 2009 with 34 winners from 217 starters. In his two British seasons his horses earned approximately $1.1 million. He trained Mrs Kipling to win the listed Premio Divino Amore in Rome last year before she was switched to Neil Drysdale, for whom she won Hollywood's Senorita Stakes in July.

Callaghan hopes to improve upon those figures at Santa Anita.

"This is an opportunity to train a higher grade of horse," he said. "I have 14 horses at present, all of them from Europe. I'll be getting a few more from England in the near future and will be at the Miami breeze-up sales next month looking for others."

The close relationship his father had with Michael Tabor and John Magnier continues with the son.

"Michael Tabor was the one who suggested to me that I might benefit by working with Todd Pletcher," he said. "One of the horses I've brought with me from Newmarket, Turning Top, is owned by him."

Callaghan also has horses owned by Magnier's son, Michael Vincent, as well as the prominent British-based Arab owners Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar, who campaigned Epsom Derby winner Authorized in 2007.

In Dubawi Heights, Callaghan has an accomplished 3-year-old maiden filly who finished second in a couple of valuable sales races, the Tattersalls Million and the Watership Down Stud Sales Race. She is also Group 2-placed, having finished third in the Lowther Stakes at York and has earned $380,791 to date.

Callaghan arrived at Santa Anita on Dec. 6 after having been exonerated in an investigation into whether a horse of his was asked for his best at Windsor in June 2008. A long British Horse Racing Authority investigation was dropped last month, no charges ever having been brought against him. Starting with a clean slate in the land of opportunity, Callaghan is banking on Locksley Hall to get him off to a fast start in this second stage of his career on Saturday.