John was educated in England at Rugby. He grew up in Ireland hunting and hanging around at the races. He retains fond memories of betting on fiendish finishes at Phoenix Park, where the angle changed depending on which straight they used. He also rode out for Jim Dreaper during the school holidays and his gap year, which provided a handful of precious rides in bumpers, prior to an abbreviated spell at Trinity College, Dublin.
After a rite of passage for three years in Newmarket, followed by a stint on the racetrack in California, he landed on his feet outside André Fabre’s door in Chantilly. Following two years with the maestro, he launched his training operation in 1988 with half a dozen horses, renting a few boxes behind the local café.
Three years later, in 1991, John trained multiple Group 1 winner Suave Dancer to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The stable has won a total of 24 Group 1 races and 96 Group races from an average of 70 horses per year since inception. Previous denizens of the stable include class sprinter Polar Falcon, winner of the Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup (which John has won three times, with Cherokee Rose and Nuclear Debate). Polar Falcon went on to sire the champion British stallion Pivotal amongst others.
These successes have come from across the globe, with Group 1 wins at Royal Ascot, York, in the Arlington Million, Hong Kong Vase (both Dear Doctor), Canadian International (Sarah Lynx) , Irish Champion Stakes (Suave Dancer) and the Irish Derby (Montjeu).
Montjeu is undoubtedly the most well known of these. A six time Group 1 winner, including the Irish Derby, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, it was his win in the King George that cemented his place as an equine hero (click here to watch the race video). His influence continues to be felt through his sons at stud, and as an exceptional broodmare sire.