Having wanted to train racehorses his entire life, James Ferguson is looking forward to taking the next step in his nascent career when he moves into St Gatien Cottage Stables in Newmarket next month.
Ferguson, whose father John played an instrumental role in Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation before training jumps horses, has been concentrating fully on sales season and making sure everything is in order ahead of taking on the lease at the former base of trainer Charlie Fellowes.
“I’ve got a few people who are very kindly supporting me and I’m really looking forward to getting going,” said Ferguson, a former amateur rider over jumps.
“I’ve been wanting to do this my whole life. I’m hoping to be in the yard on November 1. Horses will come straight from the horses in training sale and then the yearlings will come in later in the month.”
Ferguson has amassed a wealth of experience in the industry, taking in roles with Sir Mark Prescott, Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby, Brian Meehan and Jessica Harrington in Ireland. He also had stints working in Australia, America and France.
“Brian took me under his wing and taught me how to run a business”
“I went straight to Sir Mark Prescott’s after university and was his pupil assistant for two years,” Ferguson explained. “Everything was done very professionally and I learnt about yard management and the way things should be done from him.
“Then I went to Charlie’s at Godolphin, which was great. It’s a very different style of training because we were blessed with horses rated 100-plus. It gave me international experience and a thousand contacts, and it was an immensely important role in terms of my outlook on the whole industry.
“I was then Brian Meehan’s assistant for a year. That was invaluable as Brian took me under his wing and taught me how to run a business, which in many ways is more important than training the horses.”
Having ridden many of his father’s jumpers during his time in the amateur ranks, Ferguson wanted more hands-on experience of seeing how National Hunt horses are trained. That led to him spending time with Harrington, who is renowned as a top trainer under both codes.
“I went to Jessie’s because I wanted one last stint to see something different before I started,” said Ferguson. “I know dad had the jumpers, but I never actually worked for him in the yard.
“To work for a Grade 1-winning jumps trainer throughout the season was unbelievable. The organisation is brilliant, the riders are fantastic, and Jessie is a remarkable horsewoman. I learnt so much.
“I did everything from driving the lorry up to Down Royal to working in the office. It really put the finishing touches on and gave me the confidence to go on in this journey. I’d like to think that whatever situation I find myself in further down the line, I can deal with it.”
Ferguson’s father will be a key part of his team, along with his brother Alex, and revealed that John is very excited about the prospect of his son embarking on a career as a trainer.
“He’s absolutely thrilled it’s me rather than him training,” said Ferguson. “Having him there will be a huge help and the mistakes that I will make, I’m sure dad has made before. His international experience is second to none and having him as a sounding board is really important.”
With a target of around 15 horses to start with, Ferguson was in attendance at Book 1 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale but explained the importance of starting off with horses sourced from horses in training sales.
“I know that I’ll be very happy training racehorses, whether I’ve got five or 50”
Ferguson said: “They’re proven and I need to have runners – I can’t be waiting until the end of next year to have runners. In this game you need something to keep your name going.
“I’d like to turn up at next year’s yearling sales with a few winners to my name.
“I’m very fortunate that I have a few orders for yearlings from people who are looking for a slightly more staying type. I’ve been given a nice Kodiac filly by a client and I bought a nice Charm Spirit at Doncaster.”
Of his ambitions as a trainer, Ferguson said: “This is a life choice rather than a work choice and I know that I’ll be very happy training racehorses, whether I’ve got five or 50.
“I’d like to have a great team around me, have a lot of fun and have clients that enjoy having horses with me, as well as having a few winners along the way.”