Henrietta Knight – Cheltenham Festival Trainer
Henrietta Knight was born in England, and besides owning a pony at as a child showed no signs of making her career in horse racing. When she had finished school Henrietta Knight attended Oxford University earning a degree in biology before taking up a job as a biology and history teacher.
Henrietta Knight began training horses relatively late in her life, only acquiring her training license in 1989 when she was in her early forties. Despite her late entry into the world of training, she had been involved with horse racing for far longer, running a livery yard and breaking in horses for trainers in the area where she lived.
Knight’s move from teaching to training did not result in immediate success. It took her seven years to pick up her first major race victory when her horse Stompin’ won the Glenlivet Hurdle at John Smith’s Grand National. Her first success at the Cheltenham Festival came one year after the success at Aintree, when Karshi won the prestigious World Hurdle at the 1997 Cheltenham Festival.
Once Henrietta Knight, Cheltenham Festival trainer, had her first two winners under her belt, the floodgates opened. A succession of big race wins marked the end of the millennium, with Knight winning the 1998 Cheltenham Grand Annual Chase followed by the first two of her four Peterborough Chase titles at Huntingdon in 1998 and 1999.
During this period she met up with owner Jim Lewis who had read about her in a magazine – he would go on to provide her stable with its greatest champion. The turn of the millennium saw Henrietta Knight achieve her greatest successes yet. At the 2000 Cheltenham Festival her horses won both the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Novices’ Chase.
The wins at the 2000 Cheltenham Festival were only a taste of what was to come. In the 2002 Cheltenham Festival Henrietta Knight entered Jim Lewis’ Best Mate into the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Best Mate went on to win the race by almost two lengths, handing his trainer one of the most coveted prizes in horse racing.
Best Mate proved to be a genuine champion. The horse won the next two Cheltenham Gold Cups for Henrietta Knight, making her the most successful female trainer in the history of the event. During this period Henrietta Knight, Cheltenham Festival trainer, also won two consecutive King George VI titles, confirming her status as one of the greatest trainers in the history of the event.