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Last Updated: Friday, 12 March, 2004, 11:48 GMT
Best Mate: Story of a champion

Henrietta KnightTerry BiddlecombeJim LewisHorseJim Culloty

Best Mate has become the first horse since Arkle in the 1960s to win three consecutive Gold Cups at Cheltenham.

His third straight win marks a remarkable achievement not just by the horse, but the team behind his success.

Click on the names above to find out more about the Best Mate story.

Best Mate
THE HORSE
Best Mate

Born on 25 January 1995 in Ireland.

Described by his owner as being "a show-off" but he has good reason - he has never finished out of the first two in all of his races and is one of only four horses to have won three Cups - and the first for 38 years.

While always friendly with racegoing hoards, he has his moody moments at home and has been known to bite the backside of assistant trainer Terry Biddlecombe at feeding time.

And forget the carrots, Best Mate is a Polo-addict.

Jim Culloty
JOCKEY
Jim Culloty

After a stuttering start, the Irishman's riding career took off when he joined Knight's West Lockinge Stable.

The style and confidence of the ex-amateur champion jockey improved with the arrival of assistant trainer Terry Biddlecombe and big race successes, including the Gold Cup and the Grand National, followed.

It is a big year for Culloty - in May, he is getting married to girlfriend Susie, whose food magnate family own, among others, the Ginsters Cornish pasty company.

Henrietta Knight
TRAINER
Henrietta Knight

A former biology teacher whose background is in three-day eventing, Knight is very well connected - her brother-in-law is Lord Vestey, chairman of Cheltenham Racecourse, and her mum was a good friend of the Queen Mother.

She admits to having had a crush on Terry Biddlecombe long before they met, and the unlikely couple set up home together in 1994, marrying the following year.

Don't expect to find her in the usual trainers' haunts at the races - she will be either hiding in the car park (too nervous to watch), at the bookies backing all the other horses (one of her many superstitions) or at the book stall signing copies of her autobiography.

Terry Biddlecombe
ASSISTANT TRAINER
Terry Biddlecombe

Three times the champion jump jockey, he was idolised in his riding prime but struggled with alcoholism after retirement.

Renowned for his colourful language and lack of airs and graces, his relationship with the well-to-do Knight might seem unlikely, but the partnership has blossomed.

Despite his well-weathered exterior, Biddlecombe is a bit of a softie at heart and the tears often flow after a big win.

Jim Lewis
OWNER
Jim Lewis

The affable 69-year-old Brummie ran the SilentNight bed company, then set up his own furniture importing business.

His business success allowed him to indulge in his lifelong passion for jump racing - he recruited Henrietta Knight as trainer after reading an article about her in a magazine.

A passionate Aston Villa fan, Lewis' racing colours are modelled on the 1957 FA Cup-winning strip. He and his entourage always wear Villa scarves at the races.

His cheerful and sporting disposition guarantee a rapturous reception in the winner's enclosure.

The only down side is racegoers then have to endure the Best Mate anthem, which consists of him and friends singing the words "Best Mate" to the tune of Amazing Grace ad nauseum.





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