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MOST mere mortals who aren’t shift workers are normally sound asleep at 2.30 in the morning.

But not Charlie Porter.

Humble and greatly respected by all who know him, and in his 89th year, he is one of Australia’s oldest trainers who can still show his younger rivals a trick or two.

Just as he did on his home track at Broadmeadow last Tuesday when he prepared Mr Polar for a first-up win in a Benchmark 64 Handicap (900m).

The seven-year-old gelding was the outsider of the eight-horse field at $26, but it mattered nought.

Despite having to do it tough from his near outside draw, Mr Polar, with Jean Van Overmeire aboard, was strongest to the line to land the ninth win – four of which have been on his home track - of his 68-start career and boost his earnings to nearly $278,000.

Not bad for a horse who Porter bred and has had his problems during his racing life.

“I had a share in an Eagle Eyed mare called Our Miss which I trained,” Porter said.

“We won a couple of races with her, but the other owners weren’t interested in breeding from her.

“I found a More Than Ready stallion called Polarmore, who cost $500,000 as an Easter yearling, and raced only five times for a win on the Kensington track.

“His dam was the Golden Slipper winner (2003) Polar Success.

“The service fee was only a few grand, and Mr Polar was the result.

“I wasn’t aware Polarmore was a cranky horse, and I think Mr Polar has been the best of his progeny.

“Our Miss turned out to be a good broodmare, producing horses such as Eiredom (by Eire) and Loading (by Bite The Bullet), with whom I won five and eight races respectively.”

Mr Polar has passed his half-brother Eiredom (who started 60 times and ran 27 placings) in terms of racetrack appearances, but has a fair way to go if he is to match another half-brother Loading, who faced the starter a remarkable 128 times, and also was placed on 26 occasions.

Our Miss died in March 2018 only five months after her last foal by Poet’s Voice, which Porter appropriately named Our Last.

But he raced only three times without success. “I couldn’t get him right and gave him away to be used at gymkhanas,” Porter said.

Mr Polar hasn’t been the easiest horse to train either, and on a few occasions had warnings placed on his record by RacingNSW stewards for being difficult to load and his racing manners.

“He had arthritis in his front joints, and used to bail up a bit,” Porter explained.

“But I kept working on him, and have been able to get him right.

“He is a sound horse, and though I didn’t trial him before he won first-up the other day, I expected him to run well.

“I had something on him, but not as much as I would have liked.”

Mr Polar’s versatility is such that he has won on good, soft and heavy ground, and though his nine victories have been between 900m and 1100m, his wily trainer believes he will manage 1200 to 1400m before his racing days are over.

Porter has never kept a record of his city, provincial and country wins - but there have been plenty, and he says he has been training for “around 55 years”.

Born at Cowra in the central-west of New South Wales in 1935, he relocated to Newcastle toward the end of 1969, and has remained here ever since.

At 88 years of age (he will turn 89 in March), Porter has continued to train in spite of battling some ill health in recent times.

“I picked up a virus, and when you’re older, you don’t get over those things as well as you do in your younger days,” he said.

“But I’m doing okay now, and still enjoy doing what I love, training my horses.”

As for rising at 2.30am six mornings a week, Porter had a plausible explanation.

“I have to get up at that time if I want to get my two horses (Flying Artie four-year-old My Artie, who won two races at Tuncurry earlier in the year, is the other) worked when the track opens,” he said.

“Andy Hamilton (who is attached to the Kris Lees stable) is a great help, riding work early for me before things get really busy.”

Keep going Charlie. You are a great credit to your beloved industry.

*Story John Curtis, November 28, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos*

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