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Legendary Victorian trainer's legacy of Newbury Racecourse

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“I FELT it was my duty to write this book”, says author Jeremy Barber, “and I hope it becomes an important contribution to equestrian history.”

John Porter, Legendary Trainer and his Legacy, Newbury Racecourse, is one of the most complete, comprehensive and insightful commentaries not only of the life of legendary horse trainer and founder of Newbury Racecourse – John Porter – but of British social history from 1860 to 1920.

The book was written after Barber spent months pouring over 400+ original letters in his possession, covering correspondence to and from Porter, his owners, friends and family. It is absolutely fascinating.

There are many good reasons why John Porter is widely regarded as the most successful trainer of the Victorian era. His legacy also continued with his founding of Newbury Racecourse. The English Thoroughbred flat racing horses he trained won the English Triple Crown three times – a testament to Porter’s diligence, skill and integrity.

Sherbourne author Barber says he is privileged to be in possession of more than 400 letters and documents once belonging to Porter, after his wife purchased them as a gift from a second-hand book dealer. After hundreds of hours of organising, deciphering and filling in the blanks, Barber has now used those letters to compile the most complete biography of Porter ever released.

The book is based on the hitherto unrecorded, but important archive of letters and documents to and from John Porter, his owners, friends and family. The archive spans more than 50 years of the life of the foremost trainer of the day.

Porter, having retired from training in 1903, proceeded to set up the Newbury Racecourse Company, purchasing the land, designing and building what we know today as Newbury Racecourse. It remains one of the principal dual grass tracks in the country for both Flat and National Hunt racing.

Many of the letters are reproduced in the book. Correspondents include peers and prominent sportsmen, including the Dukes of Richmond, Portland, Wellington and Westminster; Baron von Hirsch, Lord Derby, Lord Rosebery, Lord Russell, Lord Roberts, Sir Henry Keppel, The Duke of Teck and others. Many are from royal residences Buckingham Palace, Marlborough House, Sandringham and Frogmore Cottage.

“I was of course thrilled to receive such a unique piece of history as a gift from my wife,” explains the author. “When I examined the letters and documents closely, I began to realise they formed a comprehensive picture of Porter’s life; perhaps more than most knew to date. That is why I felt it was my duty to write this book – and I hope it becomes an important contribution to equestrian history.

“The original archive of letters is being donated to the National Horse Racing Museum at Palace House, Newmarket.

“I believe it is vital that they are left in the right hands, with a meaningful organisation who will ensure they are properly cared for. I have also decided to donate net proceeds from the book to The Injured Jockeys Fund – so they can carry on their brilliant work.”

John Porter, Legendary Trainer and his Legacy, Newbury Racecourse, from Thumbnail Media, is available directly from the author. Please send £30 for the book, plus £8.50 P&P to:

Jeremy Barber, Abbots Litten, Long Street, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 3BU

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