Mick Channon is looking forward to increasing his working relationship with Henrietta Knight once he takes delivery of the bulk of her National Hunt string.
Channon is more renowned for having winners at Royal Ascot, but following three-times Gold Cup-winning trainer Knight’s decision to relinquish her licence, the West Ilsley handler is set to expand his jumping interests.
Knight, 65, has decided to call it a day due to the ill health of her husband, former jockey Terry Biddlecombe, who suffered a stroke last October, and Channon is only too happy to come to the couple’s aid.
“Through no fault of her own, Hen has been put in a very difficult spot. We hoped Terry would recover all the time,” he said.
“Me and Hen have worked together for years, I can remember her schooling Halicarnassus for us a few years ago and smashing her hurdles to pieces.
“She had a beautiful schooling ground and I would take a Flat horse over there and flatten her hurdles, but she persevered and helped that horse win a lot of money for us – he won 800 grand.
“We have been doing it for a few years. We have a few jumpers and we have worked together even back to the days of Best Mate.
“It’s exciting. Whatever Hen wants to do, I’m up for really.
“We have got five yards at West Ilsley so it’s not like we don’t have enough room to do it, and Hen’s keen to keep some interest. I’m up to help all I can.”
Knight will forever be remembered for her expert handling of Best Mate, who won three consecutive Gold Cups at the Cheltenham Festival between 2002-04.
Knight said on her website, www.henandterry.com: “After much deliberation, and largely due to my husband Terry Biddlecombe’s continued ill health, I have decided to hand in my trainer’s licence.
“I have been incredibly lucky to have experienced some wonderful moments since I first began training in 1989.”
Based in Wantage, Oxfordshire, Knight saddled over 700 winners, beginning training in July 1989 and securing her first winner, The Grey Gunner, at Bangor a month later.
Despite her defining association with Best Mate, Knight was also responsible for Edredon Bleu, who won the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in 2000 and the King George VI Chase at Kempton in 2003.
The tough chaser also claimed four renewals of the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon between 1998-2001 during a brilliant career.
Other significant horses in Knight’s care include Impek, Racing Demon and, most recently, Somersby, who provided the trainer with her last Grade One winner in the Victor Chandler Chase in January.
She said: “I hope that this change will mark the beginning of a new era and I am looking forward to continuing to handle the horses until they move to West Ilsley for their races.
“My gallop, schooling fences and loose jumping school will have plenty of use and other new projects are already in the pipeline.
“There are exciting days ahead.”
Best Mate’s breathless rise took Knight to a new level and put her upon a pedestal with the racing public.
In addition to his three Gold Cup wins, the Jim Lewis-owned chaser was also victorious in seven other Graded races, including the King George VI Chase at Kempton in 2002.
He died on the racecourse in November 2005 when suffering a heart attack during the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter.
Knight pinpointed Best Mate’s Gold Cup hat-trick as an obvious pinnacle of her career, but also underlined the achievements of Edredon Bleu.
She said: “The highlight has to be Best Mate’s third Gold Cup – that was a huge thrill.
“Edredon Bleu winning the Champion Chase in 2000 with AP (McCoy), that was great.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved