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Knight calls it a day; now it’s over to Channon

By Chris McGrath

If some of the circumstances of her retirement seem fairly poignant, then at least Henrietta Knight has contrived a sequel that confounds convention in satisfyingly consistent fashion.

For the trainer who won so many hearts in her oddball partnership with Terry Biddlecombe has arranged to transfer most of their horses to the care of another hobbling, plain-talking veteran of debilitating sporting triumph, in Mick Channon.

It is the wear and tear sustained by Biddlecombe as a champion jump jockey, rather than the stroke he suffered last October, that chiefly prompted the announcement made by Knight yesterday.

His lack of mobility nowadays is such that she has decided, at 65, to tend her husband without also having to supervise a string of horses round the clock.

“It's all those racing falls Terry had back in the '60s,” she said. “He broke 46 bones and now he's paying for it.”

Knight has also been baffled, and hurt, by the mysterious neglect that followed so soon after the loss of Best Mate.

One way or another, she has now turned to Channon, the former England footballer who has reached the top of his second vocation primarily as a trainer of Flat horses.

Based a few miles apart, at Lockinge and West Ilsley respectively, Knight and Channon have long borrowed each other's facilities and Best Mate himself was once a regular visitor to the latter's gallops.

It was that marvellous horse who secured Knight's legacy with three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cups between 2002 and 2004 — not least in the forbearance she showed in campaigning him so sparingly.

Since adopted as orthodoxy, at the time her approach exposed her to impatient criticism.

The consensus now is that Best Mate would never otherwise have achieved such longevity.

Knight, a former schoolteacher, has saddled over 700 other winners in the 23 years since taking out the licence she will surrender next month.

She also discovered unsuspected versatility in Edredon Bleu, who won both the 2000 Queen Mother Champion Chase and the 2003 King George VI Chase, not to mention four runnings of the Peterborough Chase.

The horses heading to Channon will continue to do their foundation work at Lockinge.

“Mick and I get on really well, and I think it could be an interesting new venture,” Knight said.

“He, too, enjoys the National Hunt scene and is already making his presence felt in that sphere with recent good winners.

“It's probably time to hand over to younger people. We've had some marvellous times in racing.

“I've thoroughly enjoyed every moment and I am hugely grateful for the backing that I have received over the years from my family, my loyal owners, my dedicated staff and from numerous top jockeys.”

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