WITH THE death of Victor McCalmont, Irish racing has lost not only one of its most successful owner- breeders but also one of its most notable administrators. He was a rarity in that he was a member of both the Jockey Club and its Irish equivalent, the Turf Club.
Having been elected to the Turf Club in 1951, he became a steward in 1960 and two years later began his first spell as senior steward, a position which he also held from 1973 to 1978. His lengthy involvement with the Turf Club saw him embroiled in two of Irish racing's most controversial disciplinary incidents in the last 40 years.
He was one of the three stewards who banned the trainer Vincent O'Brien for a year when traces of a prohibited substance were found in the colt Chamour - who subsequently won the Irish Derby - after winning the Ballysax Plate at The Curragh.
Then 21 years later he resigned, temporarily, as a Turf Club steward, over the disqualification of the O'Brien-trained Kings Lake from the Irish 2,000 Guineas. The race was awarded to the English-trained To- Agori-Mou, but that decision was reversed at an appeal. McCalmont had been chairman of the stewards at The Curragh on Guineas day, prompting his resignation because he felt that with the reversal under appeal his 'authority had been completely undermined and that the racing public would not have any confidence in my judgement any longer'.
It was inevitable that McCalmont, who also chaired the Irish branch of the European Breeders' Fund and advocated a European Breeders Cup based on the successful American meeting, should play such an active role in Irish racing politics. His father, Dermot, whose cousin Harry McCalmont owned the Epsom Derby Winner Isinglass, was also a senior steward of the Turf Club, although he was best known as the owner of the brilliant two-year-old The Tetrarch.
It was for The Tetrarch's stud career that Dermot McCalmont bought the Mount Juliet Estate and accompanying Ballylinch Stud in 1914. The property became synonymous with the McCalmont family, who were closely involved with the County Kilkenny racing and hunting fraternity.
One of McCalmont's first important successes as an owner came with the home-bred Agar's Plough, who won the Irish Oaks and produced Mesopotamia, the leading British and Irish juvenile filly of 1963. Other big winners included Fortissimo (John Porter Stakes) and the Royal Ascot winners Vervain (King Edward VII Stakes) and Orchestration (Coronation Stakes).
In 1987, high maintenance costs forced McCalmont to sell Mount Juliet, much against his will.