Trainer James Horton off the mark with Redcar double

One of the newest names to the training ranks, James Horton, broke his duck on Monday when Phantom Flight took division one of the Watch Racing TV In Stunning HD Novice Stakes at Redcar.

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.

“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.

“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.”

Plenty has been made of the impact the current cost of living crisis has had on the training ranks and how it is a precarious situation for many at present. Horton agrees that it is far from the ideal time to be going solo, but is both grateful and fortunate for the chance afforded to him by the Dances, which allows him to somewhat just focus on training the horses.

“I’ve been in the industry for a long time and to get an opportunity from John and Jess has been fantastic. I’m delighted to be able to reward them with a winner early on,” said Horton.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and it was just finding the right time to do it, I was at Sir Michael’s for a long time and always thinking about it, but in this financial climate its never a nice time to be stepping into something like that and I’m now in a very lucky position where I’m the private trainer to John and Jess and it kind of takes a bit of the worry about the financial side of things out of it.”

The handler also 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 concluded: “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.

“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.”

Horton and jockey P J McDonald later doubled up when Il Bandito (11-4 joint-favourite) prevailed by the tightest of margins in the Join Racing TV Now Handicap.