James couldn’t be better qualified for the job. He comes from a family steeped in horse racing. His uncle, Michael Dickinson was a successful professional jockey before becoming Champion National Hunt trainer three years in a row prior to moving to the USA where he trained multiple Grade One winners including dual Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Da Hoss.
In addition, his feat of training the first five home in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup will never be forgotten and was recently voted as the greatest training performance of all time by the readers of the Racing Post.
James’s father Tom was also a successful jockey before taking out a trainer’s licence to guide the likes of Ask Tom to Grade One success over obstacles and Welsh Emperor to Group Two success on the flat.
In 2004, James married Lucinda, daughter of retired trainer Len Lungo, who was also a successful professional jockey before sending out nearly 650 winners from his Scottish base near Dumfries including Cheltenham Festival winners Celtic Giant and Freetown, Northumberland Plate winner Mirjan and Ayr Silver Cup winner Against The Grain.
James immersed himself in horseracing from the earliest possible age. He rode his first point-to-point winner at the minimum age of sixteen and followed this with several more winners in point-to-points and under National Hunt rules as an amateur jockey. He also trained numerous point-to-point winners whilst studying for his veterinary degree.
In 2004, James graduated from Glasgow University as a fully qualified veterinary surgeon. After two years honing his veterinary skills in mixed practice in Cumbria, James then spent the next six seasons assisting the hugely successful flat trainer Mark Johnston as senior veterinary surgeon looking after the winners of over 1,000 races including Group One winners Lady Jane Digby, Jukebox Jury, Awzaan, Nahoodh and Kirklees.
With his invaluable experience, knowledge and expertise, James couldn’t be better qualified for training. James says: “Whilst being a vet is not an essential requirement for becoming a successful racehorse trainer, it is a significant advantage. To be able to understand the anatomy and physiology of the horse and to diagnose injuries quickly and accurately enables me to treat them safely and effectively, thereby ensuring a full but rapid return to the racecourse”.
James and Lucinda moved down to Newmarket and took out a training licence in October 2011. However, things changed when James was approached to train privately for Rabbah Bloodstock and they haven’t looked back since. James sent out his first runner in December and his first winner was Saeed Manana’s Dark Falcon who was guided home by Kieren Fallon in a maiden at Southwell on 22nd December 2011.
Since then, James has already saddled nearly 400 winners to win more than £4 million of prize money in just over eight seasons. 2019 was his best season yet with the highlight being Invincible Army’s win in the Group 2 Duke Of York Stakes at York.