Known for his forthright manner, rich West Country accent and formidable work-rate, Richards was supervising his stable's entries until he was admitted to the Cumberland Infirmary at the weekend.
His son, Nicky, has received a temporary trainer's licence from the Jockey Club and will take charge of his yard at Greystoke in Cumbria for the time being. "It's had to be business as usual today although it's been a shock to everybody," he said yesterday, "and as you can imagine it's been a very sombre yard. First lot was very quiet. But we've got a good staff here and we'll be soldiering on."
Gordon Richards saddled more than 2,000 winners, having taken out a licence to train in 1964 after a heavy fall brought a premature end to his career as a jump jockey. In recent years, he was most closely associated with the brilliant grey chaser One Man, who won the King George VI Chase twice and, less than seven months ago, the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Just weeks later, though, One Man was killed in a race at Aintree.
The loss was a severe blow to Richards, who rode the grey on the gallops every day. He lost other fine chasers in action too, including Noddy's Ryde and Playlord, but also savoured jump racing's greatest pleasure, a Grand National winner, on two occasions, with Hallo Dandy and Lucius.
Several leading jockeys, including Jonjo O'Neill, Tony Dobbin and Ron Barry, rose to prominence thanks to their association with Richards, and another of their number, Neale Doughty, was among the many to pay tribute to him yesterday.
"I used to feel 10ft tall when I went out to ride one of his," Doughty said. "His horses were always so well prepared often it was just a question of steering them home. He was a great bloke to work for, hard but fair, and his friends and family should be proud of him.
"He took the loss of his horses hard. I remember especially the deaths of Playlord, Full Strength, Noddy's Ryde and One Man. Trudging back at Devon after Noddy's Ryde was killed you could tell he was upset but he simply put his arm round me and said: 'Don't worry son, we'll try to find another one'."
David Nicholson said yesterday that Richards was "a great friend and a great trainer who you could always go to for advice," while Jenny Pitman recalled that "he had many setbacks over the years but he always came out fighting".
It was another former colleague, Nick Henderson, though, who perhaps best summed up the master of Greystoke. Richards was, said Henderson, "a real winter man".
Richards's funeral will take place at St Andrew's Church, Greystoke, on Monday at 2pm.
Obituary, Review, page 6
RICHARDS' ROLL OF HONOUR
Born: 7 September, 1930.
Riding career: 1943-1959.
Apprenticed to J C Waugh and Ivor Anthony. Rode for Mrs Louie Dingwell on the Flat before riding over jumps for Arthur Stephenson until suffering career-ending back injuries in a fall at Perth.
First licence: 1964.
First winner: Playlord, Bogside 10 April, 1965.
Best season: 118 winners in 1990/91.
Grand National winners: Lucius (1978), Hallo Dandy (1984).
Scottish National winners: Playlord (1969), Four Trix (1990).
King George VI Chase winners: Titus Oates (1969), One Man (1995 & 1996).
Other big-race winners: One Man (1994 Hennessy Gold Cup, 1998 Queen Mother Champion Chase), Sea Pigeon (1975 Cheltenham Trial Hurdle), Tartan Tailor (1987 Supreme Novices' Hurdle).