By Jon Lees
GB: Award-winning stable lad Michael Curran, who looked after Derby winner Golden Horn and star miler Kingman, took his own life after struggling to come to terms with the death of his partner in a car crash and the aftermath of an assault, an inquest heard on Tuesday.
Curran, 54, had left his job with trainer John Gosden and was living in a flat at stables owned by jockey Darryll Holland in Exning, outside Newmarket.
But days after he had dropped Holland at Heathrow Airport to catch a flight to Canada in May last year he was found dead, hanging from a rope in a roof space on the jockey’s property.
Suffolk Coroner’s Court in Ipswich heard that Curran had left a written note for his mother and brother which said: “To Mum and Welsh. Love you. I know you will be sad and maybe angry, but don’t. Love Michael.”
From Galashiels in the Scottish Borders, Curran started his career in racing working for Harry Bell in Hawick before joining Barry Hills and latterly Gosden in Newmarket where he spent nine years.
At Clarehaven he looked after four-time G1 winner Kingman and then 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. He won Racing Welfare’s Pride of Racing Award for stable staff in 2014.
Holland told the inquest that he first met Curran when they both worked for Barry Hills over 30 years ago. They became friends and he employed him as his driver for a time. He described an incident in 2017 when he believed Curran had tried to take his life.
“I came back from Mauritius and went to visit him and he had lacerations, red marks all round his neck,” said Holland. “He said he’d tried to hang himself the night before but the rope snapped. Then he just burst out laughing.
“That didn’t bode well at all with me,” Holland added. “He had just left John Gosden. I know he was having problems with alcohol and he was turning in late. I was that concerned I wanted to give him a role to look after the house and the stables to take his mind off things.”
Holland built a flat for Curran and he would regularly invite him to join his family for meals. The jockey said he noticed nothing untoward on the day he drove him to the airport but had spoken to him about getting his life back on track.
“He was drinking a hell of a lot, he had an opportunity to ride out in the morning but he hadn’t been turning up for work,” he said. “I was trying to encourage him to get a job but he just seemed to have lost a bit of spark and had no enthusiasm to go and do that.”
He became worried when he couldn’t reach Curran after he had arrived in Canada. “I knew something wasn’t right,” he said.
The inquest heard that Curran, who had been diagnosed with depression, had told his GP he had made previous attempts at suicide after his partner’s sudden death.
In a statement provided to the inquest, Welsh Curran said his brother “didn’t like being gay because he had been beaten up and hospitalised twice”.
In 2018 he had been injured trying to stop an assault on Holland by an ex-partner, which led to counter-claims being made against Curran. These were not upheld in court.
“Michael was truly hurt that people could lie about him and believe the lies that were spread,” said Welsh Curran. “If he went out walking he was worried he might bump into the individuals concerned and it was consuming him and making him depressed.”
He added that the death of his partner had also affected him very badly.
Nigel Parsley, the senior coroner for Suffolk, said: “Michael was clearly a very well liked and respected horseman who was particularly good at his job.
“Prior to his death Michael had a number of stresses which he identified in his life. These included his bereavement following the death of his partner in 2017 and an assault which he suffered in 2018, and from the rumours and allegations being made against him as a result of that incident. A note left by Michael does indicate that he intended to harm himself.
“Taking those into consideration it is clear Michael intended the act that led to his death and intended that his death would result from that act. There is only one lawful conclusion I can record and that is Michael Curran died as a result of suicide.”
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