A World War II veteran returned to Cheltenham racecourse to enjoy “a wonderful day” as a guest of honour to celebrate his 100th birthday – 82 years after he was stationed at Prestbury Park as a soldier.
Lionel Jordan joined Barry Geraghty to choose the best turned out in the 888Sport Handicap Chase on the eve of his 100th birthday, at day two of the Showcase meeting (23 October).
Lionel, who served with the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, recalled both “many happy” and “many tough” days based at the racecourse, including sleeping in the stables when the unit first arrived.
“I was a member of B, which was a cavalry regiment. We’ve got a long history of horses and fought many wars with horses, but of course now they’re rather mechanised! The interest is still very much there though and horses are very much in my blood,” he said.
“My father brought me here when I was quite a young lad and I’ve been keen on racing ever since. My regiment was stationed here during the war and 82 years ago on Sunday (24 October) I was actually training people here on this very spot on my 18th birthday! At that time the war was on and I was an instructor and it’s fitting that I should be here today on another birthday.”
He added that his hearing was damaged during the war and that apart from his knees, he is “relatively fit – certainly mentally!”.
“I’ve had many happy days at this place and many tough days as well. It was very tough during the war; when we were first stationed here, they had to move the horses out of the stables and we had to use them ourselves as sleeping accommodation,” he said. “They were essentially sheds and it was very draughty, to be honest.”
“The town and the racecourse have changed beyond recognition since then. I have so many memories of great horses and people, I can certainly remember Dorothy Paget and I can remember Arkle – he was such a lovely horse and I’ve seen so many nice horses and talented jockeys.”
The Ian Williams-trained 11-year-old gelding Solar Impulse was given the nod by Lionel as best turned out.
Barry, who rode 43 winners at the Cheltenham Festival before his retirement in March 2020, expressed his pleasure at meeting Lionel before the race.
“It’s amazing to have people like Lionel still following racing. I heard him earlier talking about the war and there’s not many who can say that in this time,” he said.
“The fact he still has the interest is brilliant and he’s still so fresh in body and in mind – it was a pleasure to choose the best turned out horse with him.”
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