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Racing pays tribute to Richards; Adrian Milledge looks back at the career of one of racing's great trainers.

"Gordon Richards gave my family five of the most memorable years of our lives," is how Midland racehorse owner John Hales paid tribute to the trainer who died on Tuesday, aged 68.

It was Richards who not only bought One Man for the Shropshire-based businessman but went on to train the brilliant grey to a succession of National Hunt triumphs.

Those included the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup and the King George VI Chase twice. The highlight, though, came at the Cheltenham Festival last March when One Man romped to victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Sadly, Richards' long battle against illness prevented him from being present to witness One Man become the first horse to complete the three-mile King George and two-mile Queen Mother double.

"Although he wasn't there to see it that win gave Gordon an awful lot of pleasure," says Hales. "It meant the horse had become a champion over a wide range of distances."

Tragically, the pleasure lasted less than three weeks. And, in a terrible irony, Richards was making one of his rare visits to a meeting last season when he saw One Man killed at Aintree.

The dashing grey, though, was not the only triumphant pupil of training methods that, according to Hales, were a formidable cocktail.

"He was a disciplinarian, showed tremendous attention to detail, didn't suffer fools gladly, which is the sign of a true professional," says Hales, who became a close friend as well as a client of Richards.

"He also told you the truth and not what you wanted to hear. He was a wonderful man and his death is a tragic loss."

Richards also had a very gentle way with his horses, his soft West Country brogue seemingly coaxing them to perfection.

And it was a mix that worked: the Somerset-born son of a timber merchant sent out more than 2,000 winners from his stables at Greystoke in Cumbria.

The first of those, Playlord at Bogside April 10, 1965, came months after he took out his first licence, five years after a fall ended his career as a jockey, first on the flat and then over jumps.

Playlord went on to win the Scottish Grand National in 1969, the same year that Titus Oates won the King George VI Chase.

It was in 1978, however, that Richards achieved fame beyond the racing fraternity and its aficiandos. Then he saddled the first of his two Grand National winners, Lucius.

Six years later Richards was in the Aintree winners' enclosure again with Hallo Dandy.

Among the other stars to emerge from his yard were Carrick Hill Lad, whose victory in the 1991 Timeform Chase helped him to his best ever seasonal tally of 118 winners, Unguided Missile and Twin Oaks.

Unguided Missile is still at the yard and for the time being he will remain in the charge of Richards' son Nicky and daughter Joey who were yesterday faxed a temporary licence by the Jockey Club.
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Author:Richards, Gordon
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 1, 1998
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