Horse Racing

Retired Irish Trainer Neville Callaghan Dies Aged 77

Group 1-winning trainer and colorful Newmarket character Neville Callaghan died Dec. 2 aged 77 after a long battle with illness.

A much-loved figure, Irish-born Callaghan trained more than 600 winners on the flat and nearly 100 over jumps in a 37-year career before retiring in 2007.

Originally from Fermoy in County Cork, the former assistant to Ken Cundell and Bruce Hobbs is best known for training Danehill Dancer, who landed a group 1 juvenile double at the highest level in Ireland in 1995 in the Phoenix Stakes (G1) and the National Stakes (G1) in the colors of Michael Tabor. Callaghan trained for Tabor for more than 30 years, a partnership that yielded the former bookmaker’s first winner as an owner with Tornado Prince in a seller at Haydock in 1975. 

Callaghan had another group 1 winner with Fairy Heights in the Fillies’ Mile (G1) at Ascot in 1993 and went closest to Classic glory when Rebel Rebel finished second to Footstepsinthesand  in the Two Thousand Guineas (G1) in 2005.

Callaghan’s first winner came with Blessed Beauty at Salisbury in 1970, and Lady Rowley gave him his first group success in the Molecomb Stakes (G2) at Goodwood in 1974.

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His other group winners included Stanford (Gimcrack Stakes-G1, 1978), Mansooj (July Stakes-G3, 1986), Always Valiant (July Stakes, 1988), Corrupt (Great Voltigeur-G2, 1991), Black Amber (Prix Robert Papin-G2, 1998) as well as the Tabor-owned Magistretti, who won the Dante Stakes (G2) in 2003 before finishing second in both the Juddmonte International (G1) and the Arlington Million (G1).

Callaghan, whose son Simon is a successful trainer in California, had his final group success when Excellent Art (GB) won the Mill Reef Stakes (G2) in 2006.

Callaghan’s longtime friend David Elsworth said: “I heard Neville sadly passed away early on Saturday. He was in a nursing home at Kentford and I went to see him there recently at the time of the Breeders’ Cup and we talked horses. 

“He was a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde and a bit of a rascal, but everyone loved him. He was always up to some kind of mischief and was a very colorful character. He loved a bet and controversy was not far behind him, but for all that he was a very popular and likeable fellow.”

One of Callaghan’s former Newmarket colleagues, John Gosden, said: “Neville was one of the all-time great characters and a complete one-off.”

Callaghan enjoyed much success over jumps, including with Tabor’s Royal Derbi, who finished runner-up to Granville Again in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in 1993. His best year on the flat was 40 winners in 1978, a tally he reached again in 2005. 

Callaghan leaves a widow, Jennie, as well as his son and daughter, Camilla.


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