The little market town of Chepstow in Monmouthshire, Wales (pop. 4,078) sleeps at the mouth of the River Wye, where it flows into the Severn. South and east stand the great port of Bristol and the rolling Cotswolds, while north and west lies Wales, with her misty mountains and green valleys. Once Chepstow's sole claim to fame was the ruins of an 11th century castle, but Gordon Richards, more recently Sir Gordon, paid a short visit there in the autumn of 1933, and that put the town into the world's news.
Swarming to Chepstow's little race course the morning of October 4 was a large number of miners and industrial workers from South Wales, for within a radius of 50 miles lie the cities of Swansea and Cardiff, and the Rhondda Valley with Ebbw Vale and Merthyr Tydfil, and numberless mining villages with names that few can spell and only natives can pronounce.
Almost everybody in the vicinity with the price of admission and a few extra bob with which to bet was on the move to Chepstow.
Richards had made the trip to Chepstow's meeting after riding a winner in the fifth race at Nottingham on October 3. He had not raced in the sixth and last race on that day.
December 23, 1957
As the Chepstow meeting got under way, Richards rode the first three winners, Manner, Brush Past and Miss B. Tension began to mount as Richards, backed solidly by the betting, won the fourth and fifth races. The sixth was the last race of the day and nobody in the excited throng could remember if any jockey had ever ridden the winners of a full card.
Richards' sixth ride, somewhat propitiously named Delicia, was quickly installed favorite at 5 to 4. At the start of the sixth race Richards took the lead, showed the whip and booted his mount home by a length.
Before the race was even over wild cheering broke out and lasted until horse and rider got back to the winner's enclosure, where Richards received a tremendous ovation. The crowd then went happily on its way. It was a day to be relived and celebrated in many a pub and besides the record book had to be examined.
Richards had created an English native record, for although George Fordham had ridden six winners in 1864 and 1867, and the legendary Fred Archer had done the same in 1877 and 1882, in each instance there were more than six races on the card. It was no world record. In 1907 at Churchill Downs, Ky. James Lee, the colored jockey, had won a full card of six races, as did H. Phillips in 1916 at Reno. Numerous riders had won six out of but six mounts, or six out of seven mounts, on the same day, and one J. Sylvester at Ravenna Park in 1930 had won seven out of eight. Gordon Richards who had ridden a winner on his last mount on October 3 had now ridden seven consecutive mounts to victory.
In the first race on the following day Richards struggled home with an even-money favorite by a head and won the second race on the 4-to-6 favorite by a length. (The eighth consecutive favorite to win.) In the third race Richards' mount was allowed to start second favorite at 9 to 4. Having duly won this race, he proceeded to win, in an atmosphere of mounting hysteria, the fourth and fifth races on two more favorites at 4 to 7 and 1 to 1 respectively. The last being his twelfth win on consecutive mounts, and eleventh consecutive win at the meeting on 10 favorites and one second favorite.
Since the third race, the talk had been only about his chance to ride all six winners for the second day running. As the time came for saddling the runners in the sixth, the paddock was jammed. The stocky little figure with the jaunty gait came out of the weighing room and with difficulty, because of the crowd, made his way across the paddock. Pats on the back, and shouts of "Come on, Gordon" greeted him as he went. There was little betting, because the record was the main interest, and in any case his mount Eagleray was quoted by the bookmakers at the prohibitive odds of 1 to 3, the shortest of the meeting.
As the horses galloped down to the starting post for the six furlong handicap, the tension was so great that the roar of the crowd had died to a murmur and, by the time the horses came under the starter's orders, there was almost complete silence. After the cry of "They're off!" the silence returned. As the field came up the straight three horses drew to the front: Lament, Cuttyren and Richards' mount, Eagleray. The jockeys went to their whips and raced neck and neck, with Eagleray, who was giving away a lot of weight, under tremendous pressure. The crowd suddenly cried out in a frenzied effort to spur on the horse and rider, and in the last few yards it seemed as though Richards was carrying his mount. The horses flashed past the post, and as the numbers went into the winners' frame, the crowd knew that Lament had won, with Eagleray third. The verdict: a head and a neck. The spell was broken, but Chepstow was now part of racing history and Gordon Richards had set two world records which still stand: he had ridden 11 consecutive winners at a meeting and had completed an amazing string of 12 winners on 12 consecutive mounts.