H&H’s 135th birthday: Henrietta Knight — ‘a feeling that stays with you for a lifetime’

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  • Through the highs and lows of equestrian sport, Horse & Hound has been there – documenting the many achievements of Britain’s top riders and sharing their experiences on the world stage. We all have our treasured memories from the last few decades of competition, but what would some of our best-loved celebrities single out as their proudest moments? Next up, as we celebrate H&H’s 135th birthday with a bumper issue (dated 20 June), is former National Hunt trainer, Henrietta Knight

    Former event rider Henrietta Knight joined the racing greats after training triple Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Best Mate. Now retired from the sport, Henrietta has more recently concentrated on breeding Connemara ponies at her Lockinge Stud.

    “My proudest moment was Best Mate’s third Gold Cup win in 2004,” she recalls [pictured afterwards with her late husband, Terry Biddlecombe]. “I remember a feeling of complete and utter relief. There had been so much pressure before the race, from everyone who was behind the horse – the owner, the media, the public… Could he do it a third time? When he passed the post first, I was just so relieved. He had delivered.

    “It was unreal, but the emotions don’t end there,” she says. “You look back, watch the replays, read the press, talk to people about it. It was the most amazing day – a feeling that stays with you for a lifetime.”

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    Henrietta continues: “That particular win proved that you don’t have to run Gold Cup horses too many times before a championship race. People said that we wrapped Best Mate in cotton wool, because we never ran him between January and the Gold Cup in March. We were widely criticised at the time, but that’s what trainers do now; they hardly ever run their top horses. I feel that we set a precedent, and I’m proud of that.

    “I often think how fortunate I was to have Best Mate in my yard. Nobody had really heard of me before that, but he put me on the map. The idea of female trainers was in still in its infancy in those days, even though Jenny Pitman had won the Grand National and the Gold Cup. Then along came Best Mate, who helped show that lady trainers were equal to men – if not better.”

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