Eighty-two years after he was stationed at Prestbury Park as a soldier, a World War II veteran returned to Cheltenham racecourse as a guest of honour to celebrate his 100th birthday.
Lionel Jordan joined Barry Geraghty to choose the best turned out in the 888Sport Handicap Chase on the eve of his 100th birthday, on day two of the Showcase meeting (October23).
Lionel was born when King George V was on the throne and David Lloyd George was Prime Minister.
Lionel, who received a birthday card from the Queen on his big day has two children Lainie and Terry; 8 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.
After the war, he did an apprenticeship as a mechanic for the GPO up to his retirement.
And he felt it was fitting to be spending his special day on the racecourse – having been stationed here exactly 82 years ago.
He told The Jockey Club: “I was a member of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, 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.
“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 (October 24th) 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.
“My ears were damaged during the war, as you can imagine we were using very heavy tanks and when the guns are firing it damaged a lot of people’s ears. Apart from my knees though I’m 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! They 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.
“I’m having a wonderful day and it’s unbelievable really. It’s a wonderful experience to come back under these circumstances and I’ve been made very welcome.”
It was the Ian Williams-trained Solar Impulse who was given the nod as best turned out on the day by Lionel, who is expecting his birthday card from Her Majesty The Queen any day now.
And 888Sport representative Barry Geraghty, who rode 43 winners at the Cheltenham Festival as a jockey and was having his first raceday visit to Cheltenham since retiring from the sport in March 2020, expressed his pleasure at meeting Lionel before the feature race.
He said: “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.
“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.”