Newmarket shocked by tragic death of Golden Horn’s lad Michael Curran

Horse Racing Michael Curran
Michael Curran: “About the most popular chap in the stables” during his time with John Gosden

By Nicholas Godfrey

GB: The Newmarket racing community is in mourning after the death of Michael ‘Mick’ Curran, who looked after both Derby winner Golden Horn and superstar miler Kingman during a long spell working for John Gosden.

Curran, who was 54, was found dead at his longtime friend Darryll Holland’s stables on Church Lane in Exning, just outside Newmarket, which he was looking after while the jockey is away in Canada to prepare for the forthcoming meeting at Woodbine.

A spokesman for Suffolk police said that there are not thought to be any suspicious circumstances. The Suffolk coroner has been informed.

Holland said Curran had driven him to the airport to fly to Canada on Sunday. “I spoke to him on Monday and then texted him on Tuesday and Wednesday but I was only getting one tick on WhatsApp, so I had a gut feeling something wasn’t right,” said Holland. “I’m totally gutted.”

Horse Racing Golden Horn and Michael Curran
Michael Curran leads Golden Horn at Epsom before his Derby success in 2015. Photo: Liesl King

Holland said he and Curran had been very close friends for more than three decades. “I’ve known him for 33 years back to when I started at Barry Hills’s when I was 15,” said the jockey, speaking from Canada, where he is self-isolating before racing starts next month.

“He drove me in my younger days and then he went to John Gosden and I know John and Rachel thought the world of him.

“He suffered with depression but he really was the life and soul when he was on top form. He had a good heart and adored my twins and newborn. I’ll miss him.”

From Galashiels in the Scottish Borders, Curran won Racing Welfare’s Pride of Racing Award for stable staff in 2014, after which he was described as “fabulous rider” and “about the most popular chap in the stables”.

Holland added: “It was no fluke he looked after horses Handsome Sailor, Distance Relative, Kingman and Golden Horn. Horses bonded with him.”

After Kingman’s brilliant season winning four G1s in 2014, Curran became a well-known part of the Golden Horn team as Anthony Oppenheimer’s colt swept through a triumphant 2015 winning the Derby, Coral-Eclipse, Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe under Frankie Dettori.

Curran rode the horse every day at Clarehaven, where he worked for nine years, apart from when Dettori or senior work rider Robert Havlin were on hand for more serious work purposes. He also cut an animated figure on the racecourse as he roared Golden Horn home at Epsom.

Havlin was among those to pay tribute to his former colleague. “It’s terrible news,” he said. “I knew him very well having worked with him for a number of years at John Gosden’s – he looked after Kingman and Golden Horn on a daily basis so this is sad.” 

With no family background in racing, Curran slid into racing as a career option after getting involved in Borders common ridings and festivals, initially working for Harry Bell at Hawick.

After that came a spell with Barry Hills, latterly at Manton. Just slightly too heavy, Curran’s apprentice career lasted precisely two rides; after his spell as Holland’s driver, he joined Gosden at Stanley House in the days of Benny The Dip.

“Michael was a great horseman who always did his horses well,” Havlin explained. “He loved his horses to bits, he was one of those type of guys.

Horse Racing Golden Horn Arc
Golden Horn wins the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 2015. Photo: Darley Europe.

“I suppose you get lucky to get to get two such good horses coming along one year after another because some lads can only dream of that but of course you have to have the right attributes. 

“If you get one good horse come through your hands that has success and does great things, there is a good chance you will be entrusted another one.

“He could be the life and soul of the party, but a deep and quiet man as well. He left us a couple of years ago. Whenever I met him in the street he was always asking how things were going; he was a lovely man.”

Racing Welfare’s director of welfare Simone Sear said: “We were deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Michael Curran. I would encourage anyone who has been affected and would like to speak with someone to get in touch with our Support Line team; they are available 24hrs a day, seven days a week.

“We can also be contacted via our live chat facility, which is accessed through Racing Welfare’s website, for anyone who prefers not to talk on the phone.

“Our thoughts are very much with Michael’s friends and family at this incredibly sad time and I would like to send our most sincere condolences to them on behalf of the team at Racing Welfare.”

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Newmarket trainer John Berry pays tribute to Mick Curran in his Stable Life blog