'Brilliant' Porters will be a big loss to Oaksey House
Reigning champion trainer Nicky Henderson and 20-time champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy have led the tributes to John and Jackie Porter, the welcoming faces at Oaksey House who will leave the jockeys' rehabilitation centre in Lambourn this month.
The Porters, who saw an advert for the role in the Racing Post and were encouraged to apply for it by former trainer Noel Chance, have assisted and supported countless riders in their nine-year term at Oaksey House, which officially opened in 2009 and has been the inspiration for Jack Berry House in North Yorkshire and Sir Peter O'Sullevan House in Newmarket.
With major redevelopment in progress, which includes a hydro pool and new state-of-the-art gym, they feel the time is right to bow out.
"There are huge changes and it seemed to be the ideal opportunity to come out of it, because we would probably have only done ten years anyway," said Jackie Porter.
"It seemed more logical to put new people in for the new start. It'll be an emotional farewell because it's been a big part of our life."
The Porters, who plan to play a bit more "bad golf", will continue to live in Lambourn and John, a former point-to-point rider and trainer, added: "It's time for us to hand over to the younger generation, but we've had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed it; it's been a second home to us. Early on we had a couple of high-profile jockeys – Choc Thornton and Noel Fehily – who were injured and it was great watching them get better quicker, which wouldn't have happened before.
"It's not rocket science, but if you have physio every day you're going to get better quicker than if you have it once a fortnight. It proved we could get them back weeks in front of their original targets.
"And it's been very rewarding to meet people from all walks of life; you could never pre-judge people and never knew who'd come through the door. Quite often people would come in and you'd wonder who they were and they'd give you a cheque for £500."
McCoy, president of the Injured Jockeys Fund, which oversees Oaksey House, thanked the pair for their efforts.
"John and Jackie have been there from day one and run the whole show; it's been their baby and it's been in really good hands," he said.
"There's been a lot of traffic going in there and most of it's not good. They're very accommodating, always happy to help and always nice to be around because when you're going in there, you're not in the best of form.
"Especially someone like me, during my riding career I'd have been in there when I was injured and I wasn't pleasant at the best of times, but the one thing they were was pleasant and friendly.
"From the IJF's point of view, we were very lucky to have them from the beginning because it was a new role and not many people knew how it would work. Their hard work is very much appreciated and it'll be sad to see them go."
IJF vice-chairman Jonathan Powell described the Porters, who will be replaced by new general manager Helen Sanderson, as "brilliant", while leading jumps trainer Henderson, who has known John Porter since childhood, echoed that view.
"The whole concept of Oaksey House has been brilliant and John and Jackie, and [almoner] Chicky Oaksey, have been central to it," he said.
"They have made it into the most welcome of places and are so helpful – there's going to be a big hole there. They would help anybody and could never do enough for you. They've been wonderful and accommodated countless people with such charm. They've made it such a special place and I think the character of the place owes a lot to them."
The Porters' last day will be next Tuesday and farewell drinks are planned in the Queen's Arms in East Garston.
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