Racing mourns Biddlecombe

  • Last Updated: January 5 2014, 21:13 GMT

Three-times champion National Hunt jockey Terry Biddlecombe has died after a lengthy illness.

  • Terry Biddlecombe: Died after long illness
  • Biddlecombe and Knight pose with triple Gold Cup winner Best Mate 
  • Celebrating one of those victories at Cheltenham 
  • Terry Biddlecombe wins the Gold Cup aboard Woodland Venture (far side) 

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 were to enjoy 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.

Jim Culloty, who partnered Best Mate to all three triumphs in the Gold Cup, was champion amateur in his first season with Knight and Biddlecombe and spent 10 years as their stable jockey.

Now a successful trainer in Ireland, he said: "I would rather celebrate his life than mourn his death. The pace at which Terry lived his life, unfortunately he was never going to go on forever.

"I met him about a month ago and we had dinner together. Physically he obviously wasn't great, but mentally he was in great form, as usual.

"I knew him for 20-odd years and I could write a book about all the things that happened - he was apparently relatively quiet when I knew him. He was a great fellow and a great character. He was larger than life and lived it to the full."

Jim Culloty "I'd rather celebrate his life than mourn his death. I could write a book about all the things that happened - he was apparently relatively quiet when I knew him. He was a great fellow and a great character. He was larger than life and lived it to the full."
Jim Culloty

Tony McCoy also struck up a good relationship with Knight and Biddlecombe, partnering Best Mate to victory in the 2002 King George VI Chase at Kempton and Edredon Bleu to a thrilling triumph in the Queen Mother Champion Chase two years earlier.

The 18-times champion jockey told At The Races: "I spoke to Hen on Wednesday and I was going to go and see him on Thursday or Friday, but she said he had a bit of a chest infection and I should leave it for a few days.

"She rang me this morning and said he had sadly passed away very peacefully, which I suppose is a good thing, if there is a good thing.

"He was a great man and had a great life. If he was still here he'd have told you that himself. He came to my party for my 4,000th winner and Henrietta said that was the last time he was out.

"I was lucky I had a lot of success with himself and Hen - a Champion Chase on Edredon Bleu and a King George on Best Mate. I've been very friendly with him since and it's sad, but he lived a great life, that's for sure."

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

Knight quit the training ranks in May, 2012 to help look after her husband and the horses in her care moved on to Mick Channon, where she still plays an active part in the training of the jumpers.

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

Channon had been with Knight throughout the morning and admitted the news was 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."

"Henrietta Knight and Terry Biddlecombe were to enjoy 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."

Davies, now clerk of the course at Ludlow, looked back 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 were unsurprisingly widespread, with eight-times champion jockey Peter Scudamore saying: "Sorry to hear of the death of Terry a real hero who walked with kings and filled the unforgiving minute."

Dominic Elsworth now rides the majority of the jumping string Channon inherited from Knight.

He said: "Forever indebted to Terry Biddlecombe! Always gave me time for advice, and was a great man to listen to. A true legend!! R.I.P."

Mick Fitzgerald was a leading jockey in Britain for a well over a decade before his retirement in 2008.

He told At The Races: "It's a very sad day and I owe Terry Biddlecombe a debt of gratitude that words can't even express.

"When I got the job as stable jockey for Nicky Henderson, I made a lot of mistakes and Nicky got me to sit down with Terry on numerous occasions.

"He went through videos of races with me and helped me become the jockey that I turned out to be.

"He inspired me to become a jockey's coach, which I am now. I try and pass on a bit of the information and a bit of help that Terry Biddlecombe gave to me.

"I want to pass on my sincere sympathy to his family and Henrietta Knight. They were inseparable and my thoughts are very much with her and Terry's family."