Shropshire History

Gordon Richards


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Gordon Richards was born at Donnington Wood in 1904.  He was the son of a coal miner and his father reared several pit ponies at their home. He rode the ponies bareback from an early age then, from the age of 7, drove the pony and trap passenger service his family ran between Wrockwardine Wood and Oakengates station. It was then that he developed his unique riding style, using a long rein and an upright stance. After leaving school at 15, he became a stable boy at Fox Hollies Stable in Wiltshire, owned by Jimmy White. It wasn't long before his riding skills were noticed by his new employer, who gave him his first ride in a race at Lincoln. Not long after that, he won his first race at Leicester in 1921.  He achieved his dream of becoming a full-fledged jockey in 1925 and went on to become Champion Jockey in his first year, notching up 118 wins. In 1932, he became stable jockey to Fred Darling and that season had 259 winners, breaking the record for the greatest number of wins in a year. This record was to stand for nearly 50 years until he broke it himself in 1947 with 269 winners. The following year he set a world record, winning 12 consecutive races including riding all 6 winners at Chepstow.


Despite these huge successes, a win in the Epsom Derby had always eluded him. In 1953, he was not only knighted but also won that year’s Derby. A fall in 1954 injured his pelvis and that spelled the end of his riding career. He then became a trainer in partnership with Sir Michael Sobell and Lord Weinstock and had his first win as a trainer in 1957. He died in 1986 and was buried in Marlborough. The Champion Jockey pub in Donnington was named in his honour and the Pinza Suite in Oakengates Theatre was named after his winning horse in the Derby. Richards' total of 4,870 winners is still a British record and he was British flat racing Champion Jockey a record 26 times.