Return to Cheltenham winner’s enclosure is ultimate dream for Henrietta Knight

Returning to the Cheltenham Festival winner’s enclosure is the aim for Henrietta Knight as she prepares to rejoin the training ranks in the new year.

The 76-year-old is best known for the magnificent Cheltenham Gold Cup hat-trick of Best Mate between 2002-2004 and also the exploits of Champion Chase hero Edredon Bleu.

But she retired from training in 2012 and has since been involved in the pre-training of horses as well as being an active figure at the sales.

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Trainer Henrietta Knight will be assisted by Brendan Powell when she returns to the training ranks
Trainer Henrietta Knight will be assisted by Brendan Powell when she returns to the training ranks (Joe Giddens/PA)

However, Knight announced in November she had reapplied for her trainer’s licence after joining forces with Brendan Powell for a shock comeback.

That process is well under way and she is eager to get the show on the road in her new venture, hoping to saddle her first runners early in 2024.

“It’s coming along well and I’ve applied for the licence so I’m just waiting for that coming through,” said Knight.

“They say it will take two months, but I’m hoping it will come through sooner. We’re hoping to have runners the first week of January.

“I’m very excited and Brendan is my assistant. Between us we have had over 1,500 (winners) as trainers so we’re quite excited.”

Henrietta Knight with the brilliant Best Mate
Henrietta Knight with the brilliant Best Mate (David Davies/PA)

Knight is anticipating a maximum of 35 horses in training and dreams of unearthing a rare gem among her small but select string of young stock which will take her back into the spotlight at the racecourse she holds most dear.

“I’d like to get some older horses in, but it just depends what owners we attract,” continued Knight.

“We’ve got some lovely young ones waiting in the wings, but it might take a year or so to have them at their best as some are only three-year-olds. They would all be unheard of to you, but hopefully they become household names.

“We’ve got to get some Grade Ones and my ambition is to be back in the unsaddling enclosure with a winner at the Cheltenham Festival. I don’t mind which race, I’m not fussy, as long as it’s a winner.

“It might be a bit optimistic this year, but hopefully it will be in 2025. I like to have a goal in life, you have got to have an aim.”

Henrietta Knight with Terry Biddlecombe
Henrietta Knight with Terry Biddlecombe (Barry Batchelor/PA)

Knight was assisted by her late husband and former champion jump jockey Terry Biddlecombe during the halcyon days of Best Mate and Edredon Bleu, with the duo’s joyous celebrations after various Cheltenham Festival victories a popular sight with the racing public.

Knight remembers fondly the adoration she received during those great days and hopes that support will be rekindled on the resumption of her training career as she seeks to attract new owners to her bespoke West Lockinge operation.

She added: “Hopefully the appeal to people is we’re only going to be a small yard with a maximum of 35 horses and a lot of owners like the idea of sending their horses to a small yard as they get more involved and a bit more of a personal touch.

“I think some of the horses benefit by being in a smaller yard as they don’t get so stressed.

“Terry was always a great man with the public, he loved his public and they were fantastic when we trained those great horses.

“We hope they will come back to support us because we have some fantastic people out there, and Brendan has too – we’re really looking forward to getting into the spirit of it.”

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