MR JOHN PORTER. ( Licensed Victuallers' Gazette.)
Thero are few prottier spots in the South of England — at least in that quiet style of undulating pasture and arable land, luxuriant in vegetation, and flowors, and noble tree"!, and sleepy farm houses, and browsing cattle, and hawthorn hedges, whioh we oall home Hcen6ry — than the pleasant Hampshire valley in whioh Kingßclere is situated. It lies almost at tho foot of Cottiogton Hill, from the summit of which qui*"9 anothfr kind of lond^capo is obtained, a splendid panorama, imveu-j throughout the country, embracing nine countisH. Tradition say* that Kiug John had a huiiting seat here, and »a avenuo of fine brsciies is pointed out ns tha Bite whence tho most pitiful of tyrant kings used to isFuo forth with Morse and hound to hunt tho ptag ovar uioorli.nd and through forest. On tho adjoining Gannon heath it is said Eelipßfl w«q trained ; at all events, it is a fin 9 grouud for horpes to exercise upon, Below ia the splendid mansion of the Earl of Garuaivon, Highclero, and Sydtnontou, a pretty village— op. the downs of whiich all the winter work of Mr Portor'a horses is done, aafo
from the prying eyes of touts — Burgholere and Kingsolere, with its picturesque Norman church, and, just under the hill, Park House, the residence of the worthy trainer Mr John Porter, who, during the last 27 years has contrived to rival the old glories of Whitewall, and emulate the past and present fame of Danebury. Nothing can be more unlike the popular idea of the appropriate surroundings of a great racing centre than this bucolio region, and Park House itself, handsome and refined, buried in oharming grounds and beautiful gardens, glowing in summer time with the choicest flowers, might be the residence of a poet or an artist, as far as outward appearance goes— another proof of the folly of attempting generalisations on a man's pursuits in life. Step inside the house, and all is equally refined. Here, however, the owner's tastes and profession are in evidence : the hall is hung with the portraits of stable celebrities by the famous Harry Hall ; here we have the counterfeit presentments of moat of those splendid horses that carried the crimson jacket and black cap of Sir Joseph Hawley — Musjid, Blue Gown, Asteroid, Pero Gom9z ; here also we have the Oaks and Derby winners of 1882 and 1883— Shotover, Geheimniss, and St. Blaise. Entering the dining room another feast of equine portraits is provided for the gazer, calling up hosts of recollections of some of the most stirring events of more recent turf history. Here is a pioture of
The Celebrated Lottery, by the no less celebrated artist John Herring, greatest of equine painters of the past. Lot tery, Mr Porter says, was one of the founders of the greatness of the stable through Beadsman, Sheet Anchor, and Weatherbit, and this pioture is especially prized. Here are two more portraits, on a more elaborate scale, of Shotover and Geheimniss, by Sextie, but the somewhat heavy-looking mare impressed upon the canvas gives bat an erroneous idea of the light-formed winner of the Oaks ; the portrait of. her jockey, Tom Cannon, is much more faithful. Upon the sideboard is an interesting memento—one of the feet of Blue Gown, mounted as a silver inkstand. The career of thia, the first of John Porter's Derby winners, was a chequered one ; when he had done bis work here he was sold for 5000gs to go to Germany. He did not stay there long, however, being bought back for the Oobham Stud. Still, he was not to be left at rest ; at the break up of that stud he was bought for America, and died before he reached his destination ; the surgeon of the ship, having sporting sympathies, cut off the feet of the famous horse and sent one to Kingsolere. Poor Blue Gown's lot from the first was scarce a happy one ; his owner, Sir Joseph Hawley, took a violent and absurd dislike to him, why or wherefore, perhaps, the baronet himself could not have explained ; and so far did this illogical feeling extend, that though Wells, the jockey, a good judge, rode him by preference for the Derby, he would not back him for a penny, laying his money on Rosiorucian and Greansleeves, a very inferior pair, with what result everyone knows. But even his Derby victory could not change Sir Joseph's sentiments towards the horse ; indeed, they mpst probably aggravated them, through his having put his owner so entirely in the wrong. But Mr Porter's favourite horse was Isonomy, in whose honour a splendid tablet has been ereoted over the mantelpieoe ; in the centre is a photograph of the horse, and beneath bis exploits are recorded in letters of gold. Until Ormonde came under his care Mr Porter regarded Isonomy not only as the best horse he ever trained, but as second to none that ever galloped over a racecourse ; and in support of this he will quote Isonomy's Ascot victory, thiee weeks after winning the Manchester Cup, over ground so bard that it shook the horse to pieces, more especially as he galloped under an impost of 9.12. Yet without any intervening training, or, it is said, even a gallop, he could carry off the Cup at Ascot. It was only through another oaprice of ownership that Isonomy was not enrolled in the immortal Epaom scroll, Mr' Gretton preferring the Cambridgeshire to the Blue Riband, though Isonomy could have given Ssfton, the winner, 211b. Isonomy was purchased by the late Mr Orawfurd for 10,O00gs, and what a splendid bargain he made is proved by the fact that Isonomy's fees amount to about £9000 per annum, and he is now engaged three years in advance. In the drawing reom are other mementos of John Porter's Successful Career. Here are portraits of the Prince and Princess of Walea, the Duke of Westminster, Lord Stamford, and Lord Alington — all gifts of the originals, marks of their respeot and friendship. With a house so perfect one may easily imagine that the stables, which afford accommodation for 68 horses, are a sight worth seeing; that they are lofty, well ventilated, and built and fitted up with the latest improvements for the comfort and health of the horses, goes for the Baying ; and the temperature ia so admirably regulated that the animals experience no shock when taken into the open. What a change from the old, Etuffy, close, lowceiled boxes in which the horses of yore were kept ! The same care which ia bestowed upon all the other arrangements of the establishment is extended to the employes, and bhe boy who has the good fortune to get into these stables may think himself lucky. John Porter began his career under old John Day — " Honest John," as Lord George Bentinck, we think it was, christened him, and the phrase has ever sinca been quoted; it was at the time that Goater was head lad at Danebury. It was a school of the good old sort ; no namby-pamby with a lot of lads that were as hard as nails and as wild as colts ; no snuffling humbug about tho wickedness of oorporal punishmgnt, as though rough, healthy boys wore amenable to anything else ! All Jdhn's lads were kept in the highest state of discipline. Every Smday afternoon he assembled them all in the dining room and read thorn one of BHir's sermons. We have no doubt it gave them a violent distaste for sermons for the rest of their lives ; but the discipline was wholesome, and woe to the lad who yielded to the somniferous influence of the once famous Sootch divine's heavy discourses on the top of a hearty dinner. John had a whip hung up at his back, and at the first snort, the first cod, down came the lash upon the offender with a force that left its mark behind, and it would have bean no use for the lad to have rushed to the magistrate for a Bummons— indeed, he would have scorned such an action if he had boon half killed. English boys had more grit in them in those daya ; they had not been so coddled, and they grew up into man — like the mastor of Park Heuee. One of the first famous hors3s ! John Porter rode was Virago ; ha could than scale at 63t ! In John Day's emnloy at this time was " Tiny " Wells, one of the cleverest and worthies'- jocks that ever donned silk : a great friendship sprang up between tbe two youugßterß, a friendship that only death put a** end to. It was at tho age of 25, in the year 3863, thai- 'that, koonopt-eyed of sportsmen, whether fr r a lr.an or a hors a ., the late Sir Joseph Hawley, engaged young Porter a3 his private trainer and 03tabH8hei him a f , King^clere, which from that day to this has been hia home. But it was
a rery different Kingsolere to the one we know, for the atablea could only receive 14 horses, and it was only with some ingenuity that this much could be aoooraplisaed 1 There were nQ beautiful conservatories, no elegant house — the old school would have despised such artistic luxuries. By this time he had pretty well given up riding— Oarmel was his last Darby mount — and concentrated himself entirely upon training operations. In the old days Blue Gown, Greensleeves, Rosioruoian, Pero Gomez, Tne Palmer, Morna, Sidereolite, and many others were prepared here. After Sir Joseph Hawley — Sir Joseph Scratch Hawley, Dr Shorthouse called him in the Sporting Times; and "dangerous" Sir Joseph, aa someone else nioknamed him, made the dootor pay very stiffly for his little playful allusion to the baronet's proclivities — came Mr Fred Gretton, and with him Isonomy. To write a history of Mr Porter's successes would be to write a history of the turf for the last five-and-twenty years. At the time that Mr Gretton went over to Alec Taylor, the Duke of Westminster had lost the services of Robert Peok, and arranged with Mr Porter ; and Boon afterwards Lord Stamford, having returned to the turf, entrusted his horses to the same trusty hands. Park House started well for its new patrons, Shotover winning the Two Thousand and the Derby, and Geheimnisa the Oaks. It was the beginning of that phenomenal success of the Kingsolere stable which, as we have said before, was raised into a glorious rivalry with the traditions of Danebury and Whitewall. The year after Shotover's Derby came another Epsom winner, St. Blaise ; and then the crowning glory, Ormonde, who has almost, if not quite, superseded Isonomy in John Porter's estimation as being the greatest horse of the century. We have all our disappointments, however fortunate we may be on the whole ; and Mr Porter's great disappointment haß been Friar's Balaam, of whom auch great things were anticipated. But if he lost with what he considered a big thing, He Won vritlt Inferior Animals ; as an instance, when Orbit carried off the Grand £10,000 Prize at Sandown. Ben Strome was another disappointment. But then how much there has been to counterbalance these slight oheoks ! Mr Porter's olients at the present time are the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Westminster, the Earl of Portsmouth, Lord Alington, Sir Frederick Johnstons, Mr Maokenzie, Mr J. Gretton (of Bass and Co.), Captain O. Bowling, Mr W. Low, the Amerioan millionaire, and— his noble self. There is a list of patrons that any man might be proud of. But there is nothing of the swelled head — to use one of the last new slang expressions to denote uppißhness— about John Porter ; you could not meet a quieter little man or one with a more subdued air. A stranger might guess at his profession many times before he arrived at the truth ; he might be an old-fashioned country doctor, so imperturbably serene and refleotiva is the expression of Mb features ; or a solicitor who loved to follow the hounds, for there is naturally a sufficiently horsey flavour about him to denote that he is on intimate terms with "the noble animal," though it might be only for pleasure ; or a gentleman farmer, or a country; squire — to any or each of these characters his personality would appropriately fit, rather than with that of trainer ; that is to Bay, with the popular idea of a trainer, popular ideas upon such subjects being invariably false. Men take their tone involuntarily from their associates and associations, and from constant communion withprinoeß, and dukes, and lords, Mr Porter has acquired that great sign of high breeding in the animal man, perfect coolness j for whether he is leading baok some mighty victor amidst the enthusiastic oheerß of the multitude, or standing by when some horse upon whom he had built great hopes, and who haß carried his patron's, the public's, and his own money, has failed to gain a place, pot the slightest outward sign of emotion is visible.
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MR JOHN PORTER. (Licensed Victuallers' Gazette.), Otago Witness, Issue 1897, 12 June 1890
MR JOHN PORTER. (Licensed Victuallers' Gazette.) Otago Witness, Issue 1897, 12 June 1890
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