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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 15:24 GMT
Best Mate: Story of a champion

Henrietta KnightTerry BiddlecombeJim LewisHorseJim Culloty

Triple Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Best Mate tragically died after suffering a suspected heart attack at Exeter racecourse in November 2005.

He was returning to racing after a burst blood vessel seven months earlier had ruled him out of bidding for a fourth Gold Cup victory.

Best Mate's third win of the blue riband event in 2004 stands as 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
Best Mate

Born on 25 January 1995 in Ireland.

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

He was always friendly with the racegoing hordes and a crowd of over 6,000 would come to see him at his Oxfordshire stable's open day.

The horse even received 'Good Luck' cards in the post as he prepared for his return to the track.

But he had his moody moments at home and had been known to bite the backside of assistant trainer Terry Biddlecombe at feeding time.

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

Jim Culloty
Jim Culloty

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

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.

Culloty retired in July 2005 after suffering a number of falls from other horses.

Henrietta Knight
Henrietta Knight

Knight was devastated by the death of her stable star.

"No-one will really ever replace Best Mate. He was a great horse who had a tremendous following," she said.

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
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 flowed after a big win.

Jim Lewis
Jim Lewis

The affable 70-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.

The eccentricty does not stop there - he and his friends were known for their rendition of the Best Mate anthem, which consisted of singing the words "Best Mate" to the tune of Amazing Grace ad nauseum.

Gold Cup legend Best Mate dies
01 Nov 05 |  Horse Racing
Best Mate's Gold Cup run
01 Nov 05 |  Photo Galleries
Tributes flood in for Best Mate
01 Nov 05 |  Horse Racing
Racing favourite
02 Nov 05 |  Horse Racing

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