AS A RACING columnist, race club employee, race caller and thoroughbred owner, Ben Sporle is used to early rises, long days and late finishes - it comes with the territory.
But it's his unbridled enthusiasm and infectious dedication to the industry, particularly in Bendigo, and his willingness to go the extra mile that has won the 25-year-old the Donna Philpot Memorial Award for 2018-19.
The award, which is presented at the Bendigo Trainers' Association's annual awards night, honours the memory of former jockey Donna Philpot, who died in a track fall at the Bendigo Jockey Club in June, 2017.
It honours special achievement in Bendigo racing, and according to BTA president Danny Curran, is awarded to someone epitomising 'the outstanding attributes Donna was known for.
QUALITY of performance and attention to detail;
CHEERFULNESS and community spirit; and
SELFLESS commitment to other people and to the Bendigo racing and training community.
Qualities all, Curran said, described award winner Sporle.
"Ben is someone who puts in tireless effort throughout the year, quietly and without fanfare, so that these awards and this night can truly celebrate Bendigo as a training community," he said.
"Someone who promotes our performances to the wider racing public and epitomises the qualities Donna demonstrated."
"Ben has had a passion for racing all his life; he has made it his mission to be a racecaller and to make his mark in life somewhere in racing.
"He started off doing whatever he could, for nothing or next to nothing, to get a foot in the door and get experience. So he came under the wing of the legendary Jack Styring as a caller and he is making great inroads there."
His immense contribution to the Bendigo industry is readily countable in the more than 500 Goldfields columns he has penned for Winning Post over the last decade.
Throughout it all, the now Moonee Valley Racing Club media and content executive has done it all with a cheerfulness and a respect that has endeared him to all in the racing game.
Sporle says he was 'humbled and overwhelmed' by the honour.
"I was a bit taken aback. Donna meant a lot to a lot of people. It was nice to be recognised for working to promote what those guys and girls (trainers) in the room do," he said.
"It's been about nine years now since I started promoting the Bendigo industry.
Very humbled and overwhelmed last night to be recogised with the Donna Philpot Memorial Award in honour of a very special person 🙏— Ben Sporle (@bensporle) August 18, 2019
Thanks fo Montana and Jessie for presenting, it’s never been a chore to promote the success of so many great friends in Bendigo! pic.twitter.com/u3uLJjG2g9
"If I had known I was going to win it, I would have thanked a lot more people, but I didn't get the opportunity - it kind of catches you a bit off guard.
"Dad's a greyhound trainer and racehorse owner and punter, so he always had horses growing up and he'd go to the stables on the weekend and I'd go with him. So that's where it started for me."
Sporle described race calling as his 'first bug' in racing and speaks with unbridled enthusiasm about some of his earliest racing experiences.
"When it came to work experience in year 10, I went and did it at the Bendigo Jockey Club," he said.
"I did a week there and remember being pretty filthy, the week I did it there was meant to be races on the Friday and they got called off .
"My whole work experience was leading towards that race meeting and it never actually happened."
The disappointment was momentary - his passion undented.
Ben has had a passion for racing all his life; he has made it his mission to be a racecaller and to make his mark in life somewhere in racing.Danny Curran
His energy and diligence led just a few weeks later to an invite from the BJC's Jenny Rawiller to assist with clerical duties with the trainers association.
Nine years on and now living in Melbourne, Sporle retains his involvement with the association and is one of the chief contributors to the ongoing success of the award night.
Testament to his commitment, Sporle's column is prepared in the hours outside of his full-time gig at the Valley.
Few people in racing are as passionate or excited to see a Bendigo winner pop up - be it in the city, elsewhere in Victoria, or on home turf at the BJC, than the latest recipient of the prestigious Donna Philpot Memorial Award.
"I am still passionate about it - if any of the trainers come to Moonee Valley and get a winner, I'm the first to wish them well," he said.
"I grew up with some of them as a kid and I've raced a few horses with a couple of blokes in Bendigo. It's a great community.
"I feel humbled and overwhelmed that they (the trainers) found it apt to recognise me."
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