Trainer John Servis and owner Rick Porter, who have been together for more than 15 years, have gone their separate ways, Porter said Wednesday.
Among their top horses together were major stakes winners Jostle, Round Pond, and Rockport Harbor. Porter said Round Pond, winner of four stakes, including the Acorn (gr. I) and Fantasy (gr. II), will be sent to trainer Michael Matz.
"John and I have been together a long time, other than a short breakup in the mid '90s when I sent the bulk of the horses to Nick Zito," Porter said. "This was a perfectly amicable break. John doesn't have a mean bone in his body, and we hugged afterward and wished each other well.
"I had been discussing with John for a while about making some organizational changes I thought needed to be made, feeling he was understaffed. John feels he's a professional and has his way of doing things, and that I shouldn't interfere. He feels he's good at what he does using his system. I feel anyone can get better. We met Sunday morning and talked a little about it, and he said, 'Rick, sometimes people who have been together a long time need a break from each other. I think you need a break from me and I need a break from you.'
"John has a client in Arkansas named Frank Fletcher, and John won't buy horses for two people who buy in the same price range. He just asked me if he could keep two horses that Frank and I owned in partnership."
Porter said, in addition to Matz, with whom he had been talking for a while, he will give horses to Graham Motion, Tom Albertrani (with whom he had talked prior to the Preakness), Kiaran McLaughlin, and Larry Jones.
"Between talking to Matz and Albertrani, I should start charging trainers just to talk to them about training my horses," Porter kidded.
Porter had about 28 horses with Servis, the majority of them stabled at Delaware Park. The two met in the early '90s and spent a good deal of money at the sales. After several years, Porter decided to make a change and gave most of the horses to Zito, but returned to Servis after a short while.
They won seven stakes with Jostle, including the grade I Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama and grade II Black-Eyed Susan, Demoiselle, and Cotillion.
They also won the Remsen (gr. II), Nashua (gr. III), and Essex Handicap (gr. III) with the injury-plagued Rockport Harbor.
"This is hard for both of us," Porter said. "We both respect and like each other a lot. It's like a marriage. There are times you need a break. Sometimes, you get back together and sometimes you don't."
Servis, who couldn't be reached by phone, posted the following comment on the Rockport Harbor Web site: "I would like to thank the Porter family for a wonderful relationship for the past 14 years. Last week, Mr. Porter told me I had a great eye for a horse and that I was a very good horse trainer. Next to being a good husband and a good father, that is all I ever wanted to be. I thank you."