Horse racing: Channon leads the tributes to former jockey Biddlecombe

Third time totesport Gold Cup winner, Best Mate, with trainer Henrietta Knight and husband, assistant trainer Terry Biddlecombe. PIC: PA
Third time totesport Gold Cup winner, Best Mate, with trainer Henrietta Knight and husband, assistant trainer Terry Biddlecombe. PIC: PA
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Trainer Mick Channon has paid tribute to a “great character and a great friend” after three-time champion jockey Terry Biddlecombe passed away at the age of 72.

Biddlecombe, who won the title in 1965, 1966 and shared the honours with Bob Davies in 1969, married former trainer Henrietta Knight in 1995.

Biddlecombe also won the Gold Cup in the saddle when he rode Woodland Venture to victory in 1967 and went close to winning the Grand National when Gay Trip was second in 1972.

Knight and Biddlecombe enjoyed fantastic success with the likes of Edredon Bleu, Lord Noelie and Impek but will forever be remembered for their association with Best Mate, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times.

Best Mate’s exploits brought Knight and Biddlecombe very much into the public eye and they were seen as racing’s odd couple.

Former school teacher Knight and the ex-alcoholic Biddlecombe may not have appeared a match made in heaven but their enduring partnership was an unqualified success both on and off the track.

Biddlecombe suffered a stroke in October 2011 and having been battling with illness since, Knight quit the training ranks in May, 2012 to help look after her husband.

The horses in her care moved on to Mick Channon’s yard, where she still plays an active part in the training of the jumpers.

The news was confirmed on Knight’s Facebook page yesterday with a notification reading: “Sadly, Terry died peacefully after breakfast this morning with Henrietta by his side.”

Channon was with Knight throughout the morning and admits the news is difficult to take.

He said: “I have known Terry for a while now, not as long as some of the older jockeys, obviously, but he was a great man and in the time I’ve known him he became a great friend.

“Since the stroke it has been very difficult for everybody, but Hen has been absolutely amazing through it all.

“They were such a fantastic couple and Hen has been such a devoted carer and wife. They were totally dedicated to each other.

“Terry was a great character and a great friend and it’s just very sad.

“He will be sadly missed by everyone. I’m a bit choked up about it. I don’t know what else to say.”

Davies, now clerk of the course at Ludlow, looked backed fondly on his time spent with his former weighing room colleague and said: “We shared the title in 1968-69 and I think Terry was second to me the following season.

“When we shared the title, in the second half of the season I stayed with Terry most of the time, so we usually went racing together.

“The season went on into June that year because of Foot And Mouth disease and I remember it finished on a night at Uttoxeter.

“After the season finished we went on holiday together and had a great time.

“We had some great times together.”

As the owner of Best Mate, Champion Chase and King George hero Edredon Bleu and the talented Impek, Jim Lewis enjoyed a long-term friendship with Biddlecombe and Knight. Lewis said: “It is awful news and I want to pass on my love and sympathies to Henrietta, both from myself and Jennifer (wife).

“Terry was a major part of the success I had as an owner with Best Mate, Edredon Bleu and Impek. His input was vital to the victories we secured.

“People called them the odd couple, but in actual fact, there was nothing odd about them at all. They were simply madly in love with each other.

“It was an honour and a privilege to be with Terry for some of his greatest triumphs out of the saddle.”

The tributes on Twitter are unsurprisingly widespread, with 18-times champion jockey Tony McCoy saying on his feed: “Very sad news that former champion jockey and the legend that was Terry Biddlecombe has passed away. Thoughts with Hen and his family. RIP.”

One Minute, ridden by Pat Cosgrave to victory in the Irish EBF/ROA Racing Post Owners Jackpot Novice Stakes at the John Smith's Cup meeting at York last month. PIC: Richard Sellers/PA Wire

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