Cheltenham honour Biddlecombe
Cheltenham Racecourse have announced that this year's National Hunt Chase will be run in honour of the late Terry Biddlecombe. The four-mile contest takes place on Champion Day at The Festival, Tuesday, March 11.
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Terry Biddlecombe died on January 5 this year at the age of 72. Gloucester-born Biddlecombe had a huge impact on Jump racing both as a leading jockey in the 1960s and 1970s and latterly working in partnership with his wife, the trainer Henrietta Knight. His memorial takes place today at Cheltenham Racecourse.
As a jockey Biddlecombe enjoyed nine winners at The Festival, headed by the Fred Rimell-trained Woodland Venture in the 1967 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He was also champion Jump jockey on three occasions - 1964/65, 1965/66 and 1968/69 (jointly with Bob Davies).
He recorded his first winner at Wincanton on Burnella in March, 1958 and enjoyed his final victory at the same course on Finmoss in March, 1974. In total, he rode 908 winners over 17 seasons between 1958 and 1974, with the bulk of his big-race successes coming on horses trained by Fred Rimell. His final day in the saddle came at Cheltenham in 1974.
Following his retirement as a jockey, Biddlecombe worked as a broadcaster and spent time in Australia before returning to Britain. He met Henrietta Knight at Malvern Sales in 1992 and the couple subsequently married in 1995. Together, they formed a formidable partnership and went on to make West Lockinge Farm in Oxfordshire one of the leading Jump yards in the country.
The pair enjoyed phenomenal success at The Festival, with their seven winners headed by Best Mate, who became the first horse since Arkle to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times when successful in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Another highlight was the thrilling victory of Edredon Bleu in the 2000 Queen Mother Champion Chase, when a new course record time was set.
Henrietta Knight commented: "It is a great honour that Cheltenham is naming the National Hunt Chase after Terry this year.
"He would have been very touched. Cheltenham always was his favourite racecourse. I would just like to thank everyone involved for making this possible."
Ian Renton, Regional Director of the South West region of The Jockey Club, added: "Terry always loved Cheltenham and I'm sure had many happy memories from the course, both during his riding career and the years when he and Henrietta were training.
"We all remember the mighty Best Mate but some of the older racing fraternity will also remember his Gold Cup win on Woodland Venture in the 60s. It is only fitting therefore, that he is remembered at this year's Festival."
The four-mile National Hunt Chase is the longest race run at The Festival. The distance was reduced in distance by a furlong in 2008 and reverted back to the Old Course. The 2008 renewal was run as the Peter O'Sullevan National Hunt Chase to celebrate the legendary commentator's 90th birthday and in 2012 honoured the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Last year's race remembered the late Lord John Oaksey, the leading amateur rider, journalist, broadcaster and founder of the Injured Jockeys' Fund. Terry Biddlecombe's name will also be carried for one year.
First staged in 1860, the National Hunt Chase has been run more times - 143 - than any other race at The Festival. Until the 1930s, only the Grand National was more important than the National Hunt Chase in the Jump calendar. The race had been run at a number of venues until it became a part of the new two-day National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham in 1911. It had also been run at Cheltenham in 1904 and 1905.