Middleham trainer James Horton gets off the mark with a fine 140-1 Easter Monday treble at Redcar

James Horton will never forget his first winner as a trainer as he went on to record an impressive treble at Redcar.
Up and running: Jockey PJ McDonald rode three winners for James Horton at Redcar today. Photo: LUCAS BARIOULET/AFP via Getty ImagesUp and running: Jockey PJ McDonald rode three winners for James Horton at Redcar today. Photo: LUCAS BARIOULET/AFP via Getty Images
Up and running: Jockey PJ McDonald rode three winners for James Horton at Redcar today. Photo: LUCAS BARIOULET/AFP via Getty Images

Horton, who spent seven years as assistant trainer to the legendary Sir Michael Stoute, was head-hunted by John and Jess Dance to be their private trainer, operating out of the historic Manor House Farm stables in Middleham.

The redevelopment of the birthplace and home to one the north’s greatest racing sons, Dante, is not scheduled to be finished until next year, but Horton has made a fine start to life in North Yorkshire and has the string he oversees for the Dance family up and running from Brecongill stables, which is owned by former trainer Sally Hall.

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“We’re renting a yard off Sally Hall at the minute while John and Jess put a huge amount into the redevelopment of Manor House Farm,” Horton told Racing TV.

“We’re trying to create a training facility which will be fantastic when it is done, but is very much in its infancy at the moment. We’re laying foundations at the moment and knocking things down and fingers crossed this time next year we’ll be in there.”

Phantom Flight (11-4) was the first runner saddled by Horton when the son of Siyouni made his debut at Newcastle late last month and it is somewhat fitting that the three-year-old built on that second-place finish to provide him with his first winner.

“He ran a lovely race at Newcastle and I was very pleased with how he ran,” said Horton.

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“I thought if the penny had dropped a little sooner he might even have got the win, but he’s built on that today and an outing today on turf will have done him some good and he’ll improve again for that.”

Horton and jockey PJ McDonald made it a double when Il Bandito (11-4 joint-favourite) prevailed by the tightest of margins in the Join Racing TV Now Handicap before Asjad (9-1) won the Market Cross Jewellers Handicap to complete a 140-1 treble.

The handler touched on the guidance he has received throughout his career, paying particular tribute to Stoute, for who he shadowed for almost seven years at Freemason Lodge.

He said: “I spent a long time with Sir Michael, which was a fantastic opportunity and experience for me to learn off one of the best trainers in the world and he was very good to me.

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“I was based with Sir Mark (Prescott) before that and also worked for Roger Charlton. David Redvers was also a big help to me very early on, so there’s a huge amount of people that have helped me on my way and its great to now do it in my own name.”

John Dance has enjoyed success on the Flat with multiple Group One winner Laurens, as well as being part-owner of the classy Bravemansgame over jumps, but he has put plenty of his trust in Horton.

Dance said: “What an unbelievable day, absolutely unbelievable. We’re very lucky the way the races fell for a couple of the horses and it is just unbelievable to have three find the scoresheet.

“We drove down here dreaming that James might have his first winner, so to come away with all three is amazing. He’s gone and had his first winner, his first double and first treble all in the space of three hours!

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“Obviously, when we came up with the idea we wanted to have great days, dreamt of success and hoped that we would get it.

“I think we’d seen enough since when we started to work with James from sort of August onwards, that he was going to be pretty special as a trainer, but certainly didn’t expect to be getting a treble including a couple of decent handicap pots so soon in the relationship. Hopefully it is a great sign of what could be some really big days ahead.”

Horton was only half a length away from saddling a four-timer on the day when Ghost Rider was denied in Wolverhampton’s opener, although Dance was far from thinking about what might have been.

“With a little slice of luck we could have had a four-timer, but we certainly aren’t going to complain at a treble and it’s the first time Jess and I have had one. We don’t want to get too greedy too soon,” continued the owner.

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Dance was also delighted with the speed in which his new venture with Horton has hit the ground running and is delighted that this immediate success will take the pressure off both trainer and owner.

He said: “We’ve been enjoying the game with everyone else as well, but the idea to do this has made it a more relaxing process and much easier to manage mentally which is great.

“We were not worried as such, but you always have these thoughts in the back of your mind that a new trainer might take a bit of time to find his feet, and find what works for him and that.

“But getting off to such a fine start so early takes all the pressure off and now we can just crack on and move forward.”

Champion jumps jockey-elect, North Yorkshire’s Brian Hughes, rode his 196th winner of the season when Rapaport won at Fakenham.

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