Officials at Wincanton are delighted to play host to Henrietta Knight’s return to the training ranks – but are keeping their fingers crossed the track passes an early Friday morning inspection.
The 77-year-old is best known for the Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning exploits of Best Mate in the early 2000s but has been missing from the training fraternity since handing in her licence in 2012.
However, she announced her plans to end that 12-year hiatus late last year and is set to saddle two runners on the Wincanton card as she begins the new chapter of her decorated career in racing alongside right-hand man Brendan Powell.
Knight is of course no stranger to Wincanton saddling 42 winners from 262 runners during her previous time as a trainer, with her Champion Chase and King George hero Edredon Bleu a winner on four of his five visits to the Somerset track.
“It’s a big day and it’s a testament to their trust in Wincanton to come over and we’re excited,” said clerk of the course Daniel Cooper.
“We heard rumours last week that it could be the case and when we raced on Saturday I asked Brendan Powell and he confirmed it was going to be here.
“It’s lovely and we will look forward to showing Henrietta we are just how she would remember us in the past and we’re a new team here now so it will be good to try to carry on that trust.
“It will be great to have Henrietta and Brendan’s presence here, they are two great figures in racing.”
But before Knight has the chance to enter the saddling boxes to prepare her runners for action, the course will have to pass an 8.30am inspection with Cooper concerned about the prospect of frost affecting areas of the course.
Cooper added: “At the moment (Thursday afternoon) I would be calling this 95 per cent raceable and there are three areas that are frozen in places, so I’m just hoping they improve, and if the forecast temperatures are to be believed, they will improve and we will be OK.
“My god it’s close but things are 95 per cent at Wincanton, but the concern is tonight it freezes again and we arrive to a problem again in the morning.
“I’m not able to do any more than that and it’s a completely precarious situation still, but things are much better now than when I walked the course this morning – I’m convinced it’s better.
“We are going to be having an 8.30am inspection and we want to see a bit of daylight and see what it looks like and if we have to push it back in the morning, we will carry on doing so if we think we will see improvement.
“Everyone wants to race and it is set to be a great day, but we will only do so if it is fit, so we keep our fingers crossed.”
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