Ferguson Riding High Into Del Mar After First Group 1 Win

There’s grey, cloud-stuffed sky hanging over Newmarket as the mild autumn is bustled along by an impatient winter. A week ago, it felt like spring was still in the air in Paris as a sun-dappled day saw second-season trainer James Ferguson revealed his presence in the international stage with a first Group 1 winner.

The diminutive El Bodegon (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) passed almost literally under the noses of observers on the paddock rails who mostly had eyes for his bigger, stronger rivals, but the little colt has the heart to match his talent and kept his upward climb to the top rank of European juveniles with a bold, front-running win in the G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud.

Fergsuon’s former boss Charlie Appleby, in line to be Britain’s champion trainer for the first time this year, had the favorite, Goldspur (Ire) ((Dubawi {Ire}), but he and his jockey William Buick were on this occasion happy to settle for third as they slapped their old colleague on the back in the winner’s enclosure, knowing just what such a victory means to a young trainer.

This Saturday morning, Ferguson is back in his regular groove of training the horses at his Exeter Road stable, overseeing some stalls practice for an inexperienced juvenile ridden by his younger brother Alex, and happily chatting to TDN in between bouts of activity. Come Friday, however, he will be back in the sun, this time at Del Mar, to saddle Qatar Racing’s Wise En Scene (GB) (Siyouni {Fr}), who will become his first runner at the Breeders’ Cup in the GI Juvenile Fillies Turf.

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“I was absolutely gobsmacked to be honest,” says the usually eloquent Ferguson as he reflects on El Bodegon’s breakthrough triumph. “I get a bit carried away and I’d cheer home a 0-55 at Catterick, but this time I couldn’t even speak. I thought Ioritz Mendizabal gave him a great ride. He was very confident even though it wasn’t the plan to go forward, but from that draw he just found himself there.”

Mendizabal has been the go-to jockey in France for Aidan O’Brien

Covid restrictions have prevented him from sending his own riders from Ireland, and he has been involved in some notable victories for the Ballydoyle team, not least two Classics on St Mark’s Basilica (Fr). But the Basque-born jockey was only too keen to renew his acquaintance with El Bodegon following their win in the G3 Prix de Conde at Chantilly at the end of September, and at Saint-Cloud, O’Brien had to settle for second with Peter Brant’s Stone Age (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), ridden by Christophe Soumillon.

The immediately obvious benefit is that John Ferguson bought El Bodegon for his owners the Nas Syndicate and Tony O’Callaghan (who stands his sire at Tally-Ho Stud) for 70,000gns. Five years earlier he had also bought the subsequent G1 Caulfield Cup winner Best Solution for Sheikh Mohammed for 90,000gns.

James Ferguson adds, “He’s a big part of it and it’s very handy when you have someone with his experience buying your yearlings because you’re minimising your risk in order to get a good one.”

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