Jim Lewis, the owner of the three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Best Mate died on 26 February, aged 88.
Born in Birmingham in 1934, Mr Lewis formerly ran bed manufacturing company Silentnight and later a pine furniture import business, which he sold in 2000.
He had a lifelong passion for racing and was a big supporter of Aston Villa football club, which led to his horses running in his recognisable claret and blue colours. Mr Lewis would usually be seen at the races wearing an Aston Villa scarf.
Mr Lewis’s first Cheltenham Festival winner was Nakir, who won the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 1994, sent out by trainer Simon Christian. His best-known horse was Best Mate who, trained by Henrietta Knight and her husband Terry Biddlecombe and ridden by Jim Culloty, became famous for winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in three consecutive years; 2002, 2003, and 2004. He was the first horse to achieve this since Arkle. Best Mate’s other big wins included the 2002 King George VI Chase at Kempton and the Ericsson Chase at Leopardstown in 2003. The much-loved horse and fans’ favourite died suddenly at Exeter in 2005, and his ashes were buried beside the winning post at Cheltenham.
“Best Mate became the people’s champion,” said Mr Lewis at the time. “They loved him and he loved them – he will be at rest at the scene of his greatest triumphs.”
Another of Mr Lewis’s notable horses included Edredon Bleu, who won the Cheltenham Grand Annual Chase in 1998, the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2000 and the King George VI Chase in 2003.
Henrietta told Racing TV she was “incredibly lucky” to have an owner like Jim Lewis and described him as a “colourful person” who had “huge enthusiasm for the game”.
He is survived by his wife Jennifer, three children and four grandchildren.
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