Stable Talk Winning races at Newbury is always special for Jonathan Portman. He tells Liam Headd why. Pictures by Phil Cannings.

Lambourn trainer Jonathan Portman has described Newbury Racecourse as ‘special’ and enjoys having winners at his local track.

Portman has been training horses in the Valley of the Racecourse since 2012, having moved from Compton, where he spent 14 years renting the yard of Peter Cundell.

He said: “I love Newbury – it is good for horses, it’s good for owners and I think the staff like going there too. It’s lovely having it down the road as a local track.

“It was my local track when I was a child, so for many reasons it’s a special track for me and having any winner there is extra special. It’s a nice place to take two-year-olds because it ticks all the boxes."

Portman, who became a trainer for both flat and jump racehorses in 1998, believes his current horses feel the benefits of the facilities at Whitcoombe House.

He said: “The great thing is that there is a lot of variety in the facilities and no matter the weather, you can get onto the gallops and train your horses most days.

“The horses are very relaxed here – it’s very airy and we have paddocks out the back.

“It’s a lovely place to train horses and I am pretty sure they enjoy being here.

“The idea of coming here was to maximise our facilities and our exposure to many high-profile owners.

“We have more horses and better horses. It’s worked well and I am happy enough with the upward curve that the move to Lambourn has given to us.

“It’s a very convenient yard to train from and we’re very privileged to have a lot of space where it’s a stone’s throw from the gallops.”

Annecdote handed Portman wins at Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood in the early stages of his time at Whitcoombe House.

But it was a horse called Mrs Danvers who provided him with a big winner at Newbury in 2016.

Portman said: “Mrs Danvers was fantastic for us a couple of years ago as she was unbeaten as a two-year-old.

“She cost £1,000 and earned over £200,000 in prize money.

“She won the one race I set out to win when I acquired her and that was the Weatherbys Super Sprint.

“She was great, the Group winners we have had were fantastic and the jump horses we had in our early days were good too.”

Portman was brought up on a farm, but it was always in his mind to become a racehorse trainer.

“I was a farmer’s son, so I was only going to be a farmer or a trainer,” he said. “The excitement of driving up and down a 40-acre field was overtaken by the quest for winning at Ascot.”

Prior to settling down in England, the trainer spent time in Australia and the US – something he was very grateful for.

He said: “I wasn’t a traveller by nature so the wonderful thing with horseracing is that it gives you an excuse to travel anywhere in the world.

“You can go anywhered and get a job working with horses and if it wasn’t for horses I probably wouldn’t have known where Australia was.

“It was an amazing experience going to all of those places and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

This season Portman has had 11 winners, nine short of where he was at this time last year, but he’s remaining patient.

He said: “I have been frustrated that we’re nowhere near last year and we’re a bit behind where I want to be, but I feel the season is going fairly well.”

Among the many horses at Whitcoombe House, there are a number of two-year-olds and although they may not race this year, work continues to make them ready for the future.

Portman said: “We have about 26 two-year-olds and the vast majority of them are not suited to race this year, but they’ll be better next year.

“It’s the first year I can remember where I’ve not had a two-year-old winner by the end of July.

“We have to be patient and hope they do right.”


Pictures by Phil Cannings

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