With 44 wins from only 149 runners, the stats point to John Ferguson’s continued ascent among the National Hunt training fraternity.
Of course his privileged starting point when taking out a training licence in 2009 has been covered on numerous occasions. As a key part of one of the largest Flat racing and bloodstock operations for over a quarter of a century, Ferguson has received huge support in his venture from Sheikh Mohammed.
With around 40 horses in training, many arriving via the Darley thoroughbred operation in which he is still heavily involved, Ferguson’s major task is educating his horses to jump and to settle in their races, allowing them to be competitive in a form of racing that they are neither accustomed too nor bred for.
Ferguson clearly loves his role as a trainer and exudes enthusiasm for the challenge. Like many of us, he has heaped praise on his parents for giving him the attributes which are aiding his rapid rise in the Jump racing ranks. In a past interview he explained: “My father commanded the Scots Guards, in which I also did three years’ service. My military background demands structure and as for energy, my mother is a walking dynamo and I think it’s probably genetic.”
The ownership is registered as Bloomfields, named after the house he bought from fellow bloodstock agent David Minton almost 20 years ago, and just a short drive from Newmarket. “There were too many Fergusons on the page,” he explains. “It felt like me, me, me. This has a better ring to it, a team feel.”
The idea of training came around his 50th birthday. Ferguson has spoken of that time, saying: “I’d always thought I would run a stud farm here if Sheikh Mohammed sacked me, then I realised that training would be much more fun. It was going to be only a few of our own pointers at first. Then the boss said I should try with a couple of his Flat horses – one of which was Cotton Mill.”
He became the early star of Bloomfields before Ruacana gained the team’s first Grade 1 when winning the Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow in 2013. Back in the winner’s enclosure just a few days ago at Musselburgh, Ruacana had not won since that memorable day in Wales.
Parlour Games matched the Grade 1-winning feat when successful in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury just over a week ago. The classy son of Monsun, rated as high as 99 on the flat, travelled like a dream through the mud before being pushed on from the last by in-form Noel Fehily. He was made to work by Nicky Henderson’s Vyta Du Roc, but always appeared to have enough in the locker.
Ferguson praised his team at Cowlinge near Newmarket, talking of the months of work undertaken with the Shergar Cup Classic winner, teaching him to settle in his races. He said: "We all love him at home and the key to him settling has been Butch Smith-Eccles who rides him every day. He was a real handful and we spent months and months getting him to settle. He has a huge amount of potential and this is a dream result. It's massive for us as it needs to be fun but in order to be fun it has to be successful."
Like all Jumps trainers, Ferguson dreams of success at the Cheltenham Festival: “We hit the crossbar in our first year,” he recalls. “New Year’s Eve finishing second to Champagne Fever was a huge moment. In a very different way, so too was Cotton Mill, who ran-out through the wing at the second last in the Neptune. I don’t sit and watch that back, it’s just too painful.”
When Ferguson started out as a stable lad with Nick Gaselee, before moving to work as an assistant to Sir Michael Stoute, he could not have envisaged the path his racing career would take: "I've always said that working for Sheikh Mohammed is the day job, and the two jobs are very different. On the Flat I'm part of a very large team trying to get the job done, whether it’s on the breeding side, or the racing side. Whereas training these horses, I have a very small special team of people looking after a small, special team of horses.”
The name of his winner on Saturday at Sandown probably best describes his impact on the jump racing scene. Arabian Revolution romped home under AP McCoy. Bloomfields now look more equipped than ever to take that ‘revolution’ up a level.