Chris Gordon: Trainer enjoying impressive run of success

Chris Gordon and Victoria Pendleton
Chris Gordon with former Olympic cycling champion turned jockey Victoria Pendleton
Newbury
Date: Friday, 24 March Time: 14:00 GMT
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and podcast

It is not just Irish challengers at the Cheltenham Festival who have been enjoying a springtime purple patch.

While Ireland continues to revel in its success of scooping an unprecedented 19 trophies during the biggest week of the year, in-form trainer Chris Gordon is in almost equally celebratory mood.

But while the 'green-wash' can be put down to the sport's biggest-money investors being based in and/or attracted to Ireland, Gordon finds it harder to put a finger on the reason for his marked upturn in fortunes.

The facts: since 1 March, he and his team at Morestead Farm, near Winchester, Hampshire have been blooming like the local daffodils, operating at a strike rate of approaching 75%.

Before March, however, the string had experienced a relatively quiet spell.

"We never change anything," the 48-year-old said in an interview for BBC Radio 5 live sports extra's coverage of Friday afternoon racing at Newbury (24 March).

"I've had the same feed-man for years and years and years, the same bedding forever, nothing changes. You find this with yards.

"There have been periods during the winter where the horses haven't been looking quite right, but I must say for the last three or four weeks, they've been looking smashing - gleaming - which is great.

"I can't tell you why, but there's no doubt about it that when that sunshine comes out, as it has done a bit lately, they're a lot more relaxed and a lot happier with themselves."

It is true that since the beginning of time, one of the great mysteries of sport is how athletes can go through weeks of, as they say, not being able to 'buy' success, but then things alter dramatically for no apparent reason - just ask supporters of Leicester City football club.

In no area is this more prevalent or harder to fathom than horse racing, where for obvious reasons a majority of the principal players can't turn around to give you chapter and verse about any ailment they may have been experiencing.

The highlight of the prevailing good run was when the 40-horse Gordon string recorded an impressive five wins from five runners spread between two fixtures.

The only one problem was that the quintet galloped into winners' circles at Plumpton and Stratford just as the elite of British and Irish jump racing was gathering at Cheltenham, so this notable feat was barely noticed in many quarters.

Tony McCoy and Chris Gordon
Chris Gordon with retired 20-time champion jockey Sir Tony McCoy

"I think the main thing was that my clients [the horses' owners] knew about it - they're the main ones to keep happy," Gordon said.

"But I had a few pats on the back, thank God, and a lot of nice tweets.

"We did sort of fancy the horses to run well, but in this game we've had huge expectations going off to the races before, and have come back with egg on our faces, so you don't try to build up expectations too high.

"But in that same time period, we've lost two horses at the track - one with a heart attack and one who broke a leg - so that's kept everyone grounded."

Gordon was an accomplished amateur jockey with 150 successes to his name - he and wife Jenny ride out on the gallops daily - before embarking on life as a professional trainer a decade ago.

He has become renowned as one of jumping's more colourful characters, often using Twitter as a vehicle for his humour.

In February 2015, a photograph with AP McCoy posted on the day that the 20-time champion jump jockey announced his retirement from the saddle was accompanied with the caption: "Done deal, got my new travelling head lad sorted for next year".

And the booking of reigning champion Richard Johnson for Bol D'Air in a race this month was jokingly heralded on Twitter with a message telling the jockey his was a style that was "agricultural but competent & I thought I'd give you a chance". The pair duly won.

That sense of mischief is a recurring theme of conversation with Gordon, and he believes passionately that he has got a responsibility to ensure the owners of horses under his care - most of which are ridden by jockey Tom Cannon - have a fun-filled time.

"I do say to anyone who's thinking about having a racehorse, don't get carried away by the winning side, you want your horses to be competitive and run in nice races, of course, but the main thing is to go the races and have an enjoyable day," he said.

At the moment, for his stable, it's about rather more than 'the taking part', but the trainer does counsel that winning patches can downgrade to grey nearly as quickly as they originally went purple.

"With luck, hopefully not for few months in our chase", he added.

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