Stormont settling into his new life

By  Rob Courtney

Respected northern horseman James Stormont, by his own admission, is a ‘no fuss’ kinda guy and tries to avoid the limelight.

With 1284 driving wins,from 1988, and 227 successes as a trainer (from 1995) behind him, Stormont has now been living in Canterbury for the last two months.

Based at Pukekohe for most of his adult working life and having just finished a stint with Stonewall Stud, by word of mouth, he recently responded to a job vacancy within the Fred Fletcher stable at Weedons.

"I’ve never lived in Christchurch previously and when Sam (Thornley) handed in his notice, Fred had trouble finding a replacement and word just filtered through to the ‘other’ island", he explained.

"I’m currently living at the Springston Pub and I can’t say enough about the hospitality and friendliness I have been accorded by the Canterbury locals. The pub people have been fantastic and its been so easy to meet folk."

Fletcher has 18 in work and all are trotters with the exception of rising 10yo Mach 3 gelding Mikey Maguire, the winner of 12.

That shouldn’t be a problem for the modest Stormont who has demonstrated a real talent behind the squaregaiters over a long period of time, none more so that with his handling of the brilliant Merinai who won 19 of her 27 starts and was named horse of the year over the pacers back in 1998.

Stormont has no hesitation in naming the Tuff Choice mare as the best horse he has been associated with but gives a lot of credit to brother Mike (of Delightful Lady fame) for his handling of the trotters and his ability to get them away safely.

He has driven for most of the big stables and went within a couple of heads of winning the 1990 NZ Cup with Bold Sharvid for the Blanchards. That cup was memorable for the massive recovery of winner Inky Lord to get up in a blanket finish.

Stormont has come south with three horses. Special Effects (Father Patrick 4YO) which he owns himself, ran a meritorious fourth at Addington on August 11 after an early mistake and goes to Rangiora this Sunday.

The trainer believes he is capable of winning a couple at least.

The well bred Hey Bartender (Sweet Lou – Lady Antebellum) is a good horse with a good record, winning five from just 10 starts plus a couple of placings. At his last start back in December of 2022 he finished second to Copy That in a Group 3 and ahead of very handy types in Kango and Hot And Treacherous. He is also a half brother to the well performed Need You Now ($275k) and Billy Badger ($153k).

He is about a month away from going to the trials.

Hayley Mhor is a three-year-old filly by Majestic Son and heads midweek to the Ashburton trials where the trainer will know more about where she is at after that run.

In the meantime, Stormont has found plenty to do in his ‘new stable’

"I’m not making any phone calls for outside drives and there are a few Royal Aspirations to break in at Freds so I’m not doing any outside horses either.

"I’ve been told if I can make it through winter here in Canterbury, then I might start to enjoy things a bit more but that cold wind here sure has a bite to it".

Who knows? This quiet achiever might even become a Crusaders supporter if he gets to stay long enough.


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