A life-size bronze sculpture of Best Mate, who died tragically at Exeter racecourse in November, will be unveiled at Cheltenham Racecourse tomorrow.

The sculpture, which has been commissioned by the racecourse, is the work Philip Blacker and commemorates the life of the three times Gold Cup winner. Best Mate’s owner, Jim Knight, and his trainer Henrietta Knight will jointly unveil the statue at 1:10pm tomorrow, marking the beginning of the 2006 National Hunt Festival.

The statue will stand near the parade ring at Cheltenham and is identical to the statue at Village Green, Lockinge, near to the stables of Henrietta Knight. Cheltenham’s Managing Director, Edward Gillespie said: “This statue will remind those who saw him win three totesport Cheltenham Gold Cups and those of generations to come that here was a Champion whose achievements compare with the greats of our sport.”

The sculpture will add to Cheltenham’s collection of likenesses: Golden Miller (5 Gold Cup wins 1932 – 1936), Arkle (3 Gold Cup wins 1964-1966) and Dawn Run – the only horse yet to have won both the Smurfit Champion Hurdle (1984) and totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup (1986) – have all been cast as half life-size sculptures already. Each of these was raised by public subscription.

Best Mate’s fans and admirers are invited to contribute towards the statue, and those who give £100 or more will have their names inscribed around the bronze. Cheques should be payable to “Cheltenham Racecourse (Best Mate Statue)” and addressed to Best Mate Statue, Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 4SH

This year’s Cheltenham is set to be thrilling, with the cream of Britain, Ireland and France’s jumping talent competing for a record £2.87 million in prize money. The Festival is the tote’s highest turnover meeting (including Royal Ascot), with totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup Day the highest turnover race day in the entire racing calendar.

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