Tag Archive for: John Dance

Listed assignment on the agenda for Newmarket victor Tuscan

Charlie Hills reports his recent Newmarket scorer Tuscan is in good order ahead of a possible return to the Rowley Mile on Qipco Guineas weekend, where the three-year-old could move into Listed company.

Sent off as an 11-2 shot for the bet365 British EBF Conditions Stakes, the mount of William Buick bounced back well from disappointing on soft ground on his final start at two, keeping on gamely on the stands side to get the better of the highly-regarded 8-13 favourite Audience.

The handicapper was most impressed with the performance, raising the colt 18lb, which is now forcing Hills to aim high with son of Churchill. The King Charles II Stakes has been highlighted as the obvious next destination, with a trip to Royal Ascot on the cards if coming through his HQ assignment unscathed.

“He’s come out of the race well, he’s nice and fresh. He tries very hard this horse and he’s very tough and genuine,” said Hills.

“He obviously had to step up (at Newmarket) and he’s gone up 18lb, which is certainly a bit of a hike, so we’ll have a look and try to find some Listed races now.

“I think the King Charles makes sense and all being well the Jersey, I think that will suit and he’ll definitely get a mile in time.”

Tuscan carries the colours of John and Jess Dance, who have enjoyed a fine start to the season, registering winners with both Hills and Karl Burke, as well as seeing their salaried trainer James Horton saddle a treble at Redcar.

The owner has enjoyed Group level success with Laurens in the past and is looking forward to seeing if Tuscan can take him to the Royal meeting in June

Dance said: “Charlie has half-mentioned the Jersey Stakes and I think that will really suit him, a stiff seven furlongs and the horse being able to come off the pace, I think that will really work well for him and it’s exciting times.

“It’s much easier working with the outside trainers when you’ve only got a couple of horses with each and we’re really enjoying things at the moment.”

Special day for James Horton who gets off the mark with a treble

James Horton will never forget his first winner as a trainer as he went on to record an impressive treble 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.”

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.

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.

“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!

“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.

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.”

Horton off the mark as Phantom takes Flight at Redcar

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.

QIPCO Guineas Festival – Day Two – Newmarket Racecourse
James Horton spent seven years as assistant to Sir Michael Stoute (Mike Egerton/PA)

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.

Sam Maximus camp hope home turf suits at Newbury

Owner John Dance is banking on a return to racing closer to home to spark Sam Maximus back to his best form in the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes.

The Tom Dascombe-trained juvenile won on his debut at Haydock and went on to be beaten only half a length by Lusail in the July Stakes at Newmarket, just behind Asymmetric and in front of Ebro River.

He has failed to reproduce that form in two runs since in France and Ireland, without being disgraced, but Dance feel less travelling could be in his favour on Saturday.

“Our intention is to run him,” he said.

“We flirted with dropping him back to five furlongs, because he hasn’t really seen out his last two races.

“In France, he just didn’t see it out because of the soft ground, while in Ireland he had no real excuse. The only thing we could think was that he didn’t take to travelling abroad, so we want to give him another shot at six furlongs in this country.

“Newbury should suit him – he ran well at Haydock, and they’re not dissimilar. This will possibly be his last run of the season, because we want to try and look after him and see if he can improve as a three-year-old. Our priority is to see a return to form.”

Owner John Dance back in business with new set-up and private trainer

Owner John Dance has bought Manor House Stud in Middleham and will install Sir Michael Stoute’s assistant James Horton as his private trainer.

Dance announced last year he would be taking a step back from ownership having become frustrated with aspects of the sport, selling the majority of his horses.

However, by his own admission his intention to have a quiet 2021 while he reevaluated his strategy has gone “slightly pear shaped” with the acquisition of a new yard.

Dance is to also launch new colours, gold and black, to signify that the horses now also run in the name of his wife Jess as well.

Sir Michael Stoute’s assistant James Horton will be installed as a private trainer by John Dance
Sir Michael Stoute’s assistant James Horton will be installed as a private trainer by John Dance (David Davies/PA)

Manor House Stud is an historic yard, formerly owned by Lenore ‘Lennie’ Peacock, who died in March 2019 at the age of 97. The last northern-trained Derby winner, Dante, was born and raised there.

In a statement on his Dance Thoroughbreds Twitter account, Dance – whose brilliant filly Laurens won six times at Group One level – said: “We announced a temporary wind down of our operations last summer so we could step back from racing for a period and reevaluate.

“It proved a brilliant decision for us both, especially me personally as the mental space it created suddenly allowed me the opportunity to come up with a revised strategy for our participation.

“It (the yard) is in the most beautiful location and has stunning views, beautiful paddocks and incredible grass. We intend to split the farm into two separate operations, one a top-class private training facility and the other as a development stud for our homebred yearlings.

“Having dreamt up this plan in late 2020, we did buy a few sneaky yearlings from the December sale, bought a few previously unsold two-year-olds earlier this year from trainers and to complete what Jess has calls ‘the worst year off ever’ were very active at the Craven Breeze-Up sale.

“James has a fantastic CV for moving into the training ranks, and the team has very similar aspirations and philosophies. We are all looking forward to the yearling sales where we will officially start this exciting journey.”

John Dance has enjoyed huge success with the likes of Laurens
John Dance has enjoyed huge success with the likes of Laurens (Clint Hughes/PA)

Laurens was trained by Karl Burke, while Dance also has horses with Richard Fahey and others.

He added: “We will naturally have a large number of horses at ‘home’ but we will continue to support our existing northern Flat trainers, this year and beyond, with new horses in Jess’ and my own name and also those of Titanium Racing.

“As a result we hope that the benefits of our planned investment will extend beyond our home farm and facility, but into the wider Middleham and northern training communities.”

Jumping venture could not have gone better for John Dance

There is no question John Dance has had some good fortune when it comes to racehorse ownership – but he is determined to enjoy the ride with Bravemansgame after going through the full experience with Laurens.

A stockbroker by trade, his company Vertem is known to racegoers through its sponsorship of major races both on the Flat and over jumps.

Dance was lucky enough to own Laurens relatively early in his foray into the sport, and he readily admits he will struggle to find another remotely as good as the six-times Group One winner.

However, just the second National Hunt horse he has owned is now among the favourites for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham – and has already won a Grade One at Newbury into the bargain.

John Dance gives Laurens a sweet in her box at Karl Burke’s yard in Leyburn
John Dance gives Laurens a sweet in her box at Karl Burke’s yard in Leyburn (Nick Robson/PA)

“To be fair I was always a Flat person, because a combination of the form analysis I did was more consistent on the Flat and I just found the Flat a bit more exhilarating from an athletic point of view,” said Dance.

“It was probably Laurens’ fault that we became involved in National Hunt. When you have a horse like her and she gets tucked away for the winter you end up wishing your life away waiting for the next season to start.

“We got into it a little bit just to keep us mentally occupied through the winter – and it’s worked out all right!

“Bravemansgame was on a list that Paul Nicholls, Tom Malone (bloodstock adviser) and Megan Nicholls were really interested in, along with Jeremy Pass who we bought. I had in my mind how much I’d be willing to spend, but he went flying by that with no signs of stopping.”

Nicholls and Malone went to £370,000 at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival Sale, but Dance wanted someone to share the experience with. Step forward Bryan Drew, who has tasted glory at Cheltenham before through his horses with David Pipe.

“Tom and Paul still bought the horse and came back to me and said ‘we know you’re interested, if you want half we might have somebody else who wants half as well’. I had a little think and it went ahead, so the partnership with Bryan was formed,” explained Dance.

“The reasons for getting involved with Paul were two-fold – we didn’t want it on our doorstop as we were with Laurens, as we thought we were too involved so we thought it was a good idea to have one at the other end of the country, out of sight out of mind from an interfering perspective.

“Also we wanted to make new contacts, like Bryan Drew. It’s paid off so far.”

When you spend that sort of money on a horse you expect to be competing in the upper echelons – but racing is littered with examples of big-money purchases who failed to make the grade.

“Everyone was pretty adamant that while it is a cliché, whatever he did before he went chasing would be a bonus, everything about him just suggests he will be better over fences,” said Dance.

“You shouldn’t think you are ever buying a Grade One chaser, however much they cost, but we certainly didn’t think he’d be a Grade One hurdler. Because of the long-term outlook we had for him this is all very much a bonus.

“He’s a big guy, he’s got a long stride and in some respects a bit like Laurens in that he’s a relentless galloper. I think what surprised Paul at Newbury is that he’s not built to show that turn of foot.

“To show it after the last, in that grade of race, was really quite explosive. He was winning anyway but that turn of foot – against what looked some good rivals on paper – was what caught us out a bit.

Bravemansgame (in Bryan Drew's silks) winning at Newbury in November
Bravemansgame (in Bryan Drew’s silks) winning at Newbury in November (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“The Irish challenge will be strong, so much so that we aren’t favourite any more, but we know how the ante-post markets work with recency bias. I’m delighted to be honest, it eases the pressure a bit.

“Being the favourite adds a degree of substance to a reputation, but when you aren’t favourite you aren’t expected by the majority to win. There’s no reason why, but I always find they run better when you aren’t favourite.”

Dance knows just how fortunate he was to have owned a superstar like Laurens and that the likelihood anything he is involved in down the years is highly unlikely to match her exploits. What he hopes to have gained, though, is a sense of perspective regarding how to treat everything racing can throw his way.

“Having had Laurens she sets a pretty high benchmark so while on one hand you want to repeat it and it could be a disappointment if you don’t repeat it, the other side of the coin is we have experienced those highs – she won six Group Ones,” he said.

“This horse has won a Grade One already so we should be able to handle the pressure, we’re not in the position of wondering whether we will ever win one.

“Laurens will make the whole experience with Bravemansgame more enjoyable. She won Group Ones at two, three and four, but we felt pressure when she ran. This time around we’re determined to enjoy it.

“If we’re lucky enough to win another Group One on the Flat, it is very very unlikely the same horse will win six. Our aim is just to win a Listed race!”

Dance cannot be accused of helping the sport either, as his high-profile sponsorships at Doncaster and Newcastle attest.

“We sponsor the Group One at Doncaster (Vertem Futurity Trophy) and the Eider Chase at Newcastle. I’m a believer in you make your own luck, but we’ve been lucky, very lucky. It’s better to be lucky than smart, though!” he said.

During Cheltenham week, that is not a bad mantra to cling to.

Dance hoping Mill Reef rivals feel the Rhythm

John Dance has more reason than most to be excited ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

The owner of the top-class racemare Laurens will not only see his colours carried by the hugely-promising Rhythm Master in the Group Two contest, but he also bred another leading contender in the unbeaten Bahrain Pride.

The Richard Fahey-trained Rhythm Master was a 16-1 winner on his debut at Haydock, but proved that performance was no fluke by finishing an excellent third behind a couple of Royal Ascot winners in Campanelle and Nando Parrado in the Group One Prix Morny at Deauville last month.

Dance said: “We’ve been delighted with Rhythm Master and I’m very much looking forward to the race on Saturday.

“I can’t say Richard was surprised to see him win at Haydock, but it wasn’t until after the race that I fully cottoned on. Looking back now he’d made some comments beforehand that suggested he thought he was pretty good, but it didn’t really register with me.

“He won really nicely and the form worked out quite well, which is why Richard decided to pitch him in the Group One at Deauville.

“He was very green, particularly in the preliminaries. I don’t think he could believe he could see thousands of people, as there was obviously no crowd at Haydock – it was very much like the first day at school for him.

“I think the soft ground was a bit of a a shock as well, so for him to run as well as he did was very encouraging and also left the impression that there’s hopefully more to come.”

A son of Kodiac out of Life Of Pi, Bahrain Pride was bred by Dance’s Salcey Forest Stud before being sold at the Tattersalls December Foal Sale for 125,000 guineas. He was subsequently bought at the breeze-ups in June of this year by owners KHK Racing Ltd for 300,000 guineas.

A winner on his racecourse debut at Windsor in mid-August, he successfully graduated to Listed class with victory in the Ripon Champion Two Yrs Old Trophy a fortnight later.

Dance added: “I really hope he finishes second, for obvious reasons.

“If he finishes in front of us, he better win!”

Bahrain Pride is two from two for the Crisford team
Bahrain Pride is two from two for the Crisford team (Tim Goode/PA)

Ed Crisford expects Bahrain Pride to put up a staunch defence of his unbeaten record.

Crisford, who trains the juvenile in partnership with his father Simon, said: “This has been the plan for him since Ripon. He’s in great form and deserves a crack at a Group Two.

“It does look a very strong race – a Group Two is always going to be tough. But our fellow has done nothing wrong, I think he’s improving with racing and he deserves a crack at a higher grade now.

“This looks a very good option for him.”

Andrew Balding’s Fivethousandtoone was runner-up to Bahrain Pride at Windsor and renews rivalry off the back of a dominant display at Newcastle a little over a fortnight ago.

“Fivethousandtoone won well at Newcastle and took the step forward we hoped he would after finishing second at Windsor,” said Balding.

“He is a horse that I think a lot of, but this is a competitive race in a much tougher grade.

“He has looked very good at home and his work has been impressive. Hopefully he can step forward again.”

The highest-rated runner is the Archie Watson-trained Devilwala. The Haydock novice winner was last seen filling the runner-up spot behind Minzaal in the Gimcrack Stakes at York.

His jockey Rossa Ryan is confident he can make his presence felt, saying: “It was a very good performance in the Gimcrack considering he was the only horse in the race going into it on the back of one run.

Devilwala (purple)chases home Minzaal at York
Devilwala (purple)chases home Minzaal at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He has come on again. I sat on him last week and he felt very good.

“The drying ground should be a big help to him as he wasn’t a massive fan of the soft ground at York.

“It won’t be a pushover as it is a Mill Reef, but I do think he is overpriced on what he has done in what I think was a very good Gimcrack.

“I would like to think there is still much more to come from this horse.”

Line Of Departure completed a hat-trick for Roger Varian in a valuable sales race at Doncaster last week and is swiftly stepped up to Pattern class, while Mick Channon will be hoping his Group Three winner Cairn Gorm can bounce back from a below-par effort in the Morny.

Alkumait (Marcus Tregoning) and First Edition (Clive Cox) complete the field.