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ONLY THING SIR GORDON DIDN'T KNOW
IN RACING GAME
WAS HOW TO CHEAT
(From Jack Pollard)
i Excited English racegoers crushed forward around the saddling enclosure, of the sprawling Sandown racetrack eager to get a peep at the Queen casting an expert eye over her handsome but touchy colt,
j Laughing gaily, the Queen wished her' jockey luck, stepped aside j while he was legged-up, then as the Queen and spectators scattered
I Abergeldie pigrooted. i
í His jockey tried hard with unequalled horse- manship to curb Abergel- die'* tantrums.
i But the colt reared and threw the Jockey heavily,
following him on to thei
¡lush green turf and rolling sickeningly over his silk-, 'clad chest.
i With that crushing roll]
!of the horse over the
Jockey, a great Britishj
sporting reign came to a .sad end.
! For the jockey was Sir
Gordon Richards, 26 times champion jockey of the English Turf, top of the riders' table fol- the last 13 years in a row.
The tumble Richards took from Abergeldie brought him a broken Ibone in the pelvis, inter i nal injuries, multiple bruises, three weeks in hospital, and a long rest period to recuperate.
[ It also forced Richards
ito retire earlier than hei ! wished from race-riding.
[ Richards, who ls 50, says! ¡he will take up training when he is fit again. I
Richards had already I taken a 22-day lay-off to ¡recover from a fall at Sal-
isbury when Abergeldie ¡hurt him on July 10.
Doug Smith, a cheery
faced jockey with à repu-; I talion for winning tight j finishes, is experted to j succeed Richards this year ¡as champion jockey. I j Smith has had 77 win-'
mers his season, 12 more than his nearest rival,, ¡Australian Edgar Britt,
,with Richards' heir appar-1 ent. Manny Mercer, traill ing Britt.
None of them has Rich-! aids' acumen in the sad ,dle, his powerful retainers with top stables, his hat Ired of losing.
None ls ever likely to gel near his astounding total of 4870 winners - from 21.834 race rides.
Richards-a dark-haired dapper little man of shy disposition, with a pecul- iar strut-has made an estimated £450.000 sterling ,for himself from racing.
and about £2,000,000 sterl- ing for owners in stake money.
He is likely now to add substantially to his per- sonal fortune. For 20 years he has refused newspaper interviews, saying: "I'm saving it for my book."
A diffident, naturally re- tiring character who¡ squirms when people com-i
plimented his skill, Rich-]
ards, by retiring, has start- ed a big nish among lead- ing publishers for that
So for once Richards* dislike of publicity is like- ly to be overruled by his equally strong: attachment to wealth, and he ls ex- pected to agree to tell his story.
No other jockey has dominated racing as Rich- ards has for 34 years, and no Turf figure- whether trainer. Jockey, owner, or steward-has such an un- rivalled reputation for honesty.
The only thing Richards did not know about riding was how to cheat.
He is an established Bri- tish institution, and his retirement means the end of an era.
There ls scarcely a per-'
son in Britain who doesn't refer to him as Gordon, for he has become as fam- iliar to Britons as one of their own family.
Yet he carried his fame awkwardly. After all these years he remains a coun- try boy who feels uncom- fortable among neon lights, swirling traffic, and cheap patter over cocktail
In the time he reigned is England's No. 1 Jockey. Richards ll times rode more than 200 winners in
Not a single big race eluded him - though be kept his admirers waiting 133 years before he won his first Derby last year on
No Englishman was sur- prised when he was knighted in last year's Coronation honors list just before riding Pinza, though it zs an accolade
which is a hopeless dream j for any other rider.
Richards looks like an affluent squire, and that probably ia what he will become now, venturing away from the training establishment he will -run at Beckhampton, in Wilt- shire, only for important races and an occasional trip to London for a jockeys" dinner.
These he sometimes en- livens with, a hilarious song and dance act to the tune. "Can I Canoe You Up River?" and with wit- ty, sparkling speeches.
Richards' home is a tidy house and garden equip- ped with a racing pigeon loft on the outskirts ol Marlborough.
He lives there quietly with his wife and three children and a few steady friends - who call him "Moppy" because of Iiis unruly tuft of hair.
His clothes are the countryman's, and more often than not he has mild on his boots.
Pomp and cant upset him.
A drowsy afternoon by the fireside with his dogs delights him.
Now that Richards has quit riding, let me try to assess his worth as a joc- key and to evaluate his merit alongside that of other famous horsemen.
Australians who have never seen him, or had a chance to study English racing, are inclined to un- derrate him and place a less talented Australian above him.
* * +
CIR GORDON RICH
^ ARDS in Iiis prime was a unique combination of qualities which go to¡ make up a great jockey. ¡
Others, have had more, of individual essential > traits, but none has ever ! surpassed the sum of his '< powers. ¡
That is my verdict after' seven years' close view of: his skill. j
Darby Munro might j have excelled him in a close finish on horses of! the same merit. Scobie | Breasley might be a slight-
ly superior judge of pace,:
and Togo Johnston or j
Charlie . Simrke might
show greater liking for the hurly-burly of English classics.
But they all fall short of Richards' all-round capabilities as a rider.
, To be a champion Joc- key a man must be an ac- curate judge of pace on varying tracks in all wea- thers.
¡ He must be quick-witted
and able to act suddenly and decisively. He must have a firm seat In the saddle and strong hands to keep his mount bal- anced.
The ideal jockey should be patient and cautious, yet daring, determined, but not so overforcefuJ that he harms a horse's future. '
He must be of tough physique - doubly neces- sary in England where jockeys travel an' astound- ing mileaee-and of sound
His natural weight shouldn't be far on* 8st. 71b.. and his capacity for hard, grinding work should be unlimited.
In dealings with owners and trainers he should be intelligent, and a sound businessman.
And, as any punter will tell you, he should be a man of integrity.
Among contempo r a r y jockeys in England, Prance. America and Aus- tralia, the man who has sone closer than any other to satisfying these de- mands is Slr Gordon Richards.
Richards was born on
May 6. 1904, at Donning- ton Wood, in Shropshire.
He ls the son of a coal miner of Welsh origin who became undermanager ' of
j his pit.
As a schoolboy Richards rode pit ponies in a field
¡behind his father's house.
He worked in the pit of- fice when he left school
and from there applied
for an advertised jot) in Martin Hartigan's stables as an apprentice.
His father at first ob- jected to his son becoming a jockey, but was persuad- ed to give his consent.
, * * *
I "O ICH ARDS as a youth ! " modelled his style on
¡Steve Donnghue, turf hero j 'of his youth. i j He has always used the
same long rein, an almost i upright posture of the l*orso. and the same coax-|
!'«<r method with his mounts.
i Into these bare essen- tials he injected a person- ality which produced a ¡riding demeanor all hi«
¡own-though he has often
boen mistakingly described as typical of all Engusn jockeys.
Edgar Britt told me:
PETER LOADER, who wilt tour Australia with the English team this
year, in action in the final Test against Pakistan at the Oval.
"Richards has been a phe- nomenal rider and a most, likeable personality.
"I've never seen anyone like him in all my experi-
"His style ls all his own., but amazingly effective."
Twice rejected for Army service because of a touch of tuberculosis, he roue his first winner, Gay Lord, in
His last was Princely Gift, the day before Aber- geldie rolled on him.
English racing won't be the same without him.