Remembering a Best Mate
It’s been ten years …
Since we lost a – Truly great, if not one of the best National Hunt mates to lay a hoof on the racing turf.
He was a champion; a composer of heroic memories.
Three-times he presented the Cheltenham Gold Cup to his owner Jim Lewis.
I am, of course, writing about Best Mate.
The Perfect Horse?
A Star that sparkled at the beginning of humanity’s new millennium.
As one cream of the crop, Istabraq, trotted out of the racing spectrum, another illustrious gelding would ignite and canter upon the turf of greats.
A decade today since the abrupt and startling fatality of Best Mate.
The moment occurred on the first day of winter, however, it may have seemed that the 1st of November 2005 was going to be a spring-like start to the serious action of the National Hunt season of 2005/2006.
In the air was the aura of expectation of a glorious day.
The Winner of six Grade One Chases had his own heroic style, not one of an on the bridle champion – but an attitude of Never Give UP!
Best Mate was a gallant warrior.
And On That Day
A Large crowd turned out in east England track of Exeter – some no doubt wanting in the future to tell how they had ‘’seen a great’’ that day.
Or maybe to celebrate an eminent hero of horse racing return.
Best Mate prior Exeter had ran 21 races, in which he had been victorious in 14 and second in 7.
Hence, Henrietta Knights Gelding was nearly always favourite and had never been unplaced.
That was till that day in Exeter.
The brilliant partnership of Jim Culloty and Best Mate had come to an honourable end with them winning their third gold cup in 2003; the race was Best Mate’s first appearance under the leadership of the creditable Jockey Paul Carberry.
A Final Race
Initially, all seemed well and the anticipation of victorious return grew among the audience.
However, a couple of mistakes and the ideology shifted and what entered was the thought that the day might not be a wonderful comeback crept in.
Indeed, Best Mate was soon eased down and pulled up as he approached the last fence.
Trotting slowly he was pulled up tentatively.
It wasn’t to be Best Mate’s day, but the day was to be his last.
As he stopped his four legs staggered.
Then the high and mighty National Hunt horse collapsed to the ground.
A sudden cease of his heroic career, but more gravely a cease was Best Mate’s Life.
All happened near instantly, a slowing trot to the final steps of prodigious hoofs.
As faith would have it, he had collapsed near his trainer, Henrietta Knights, who had hidden near the final fence where she had taken cover as she peculiarly never was able to watch her champion’s races.
“He was a great horse and we’ll all miss him terribly,” a stoical Knight said. A lifetime spent with horses hardens racing’s professionals for these moments.
Later that day in the parade ring, after another horse in her stables had won impressively she spoke more of the events of the day.
“I was thinking in the parade ring,” Knight recalled later, “what a wonderful horse, what perfection. The next moment he was staggering in front of me. I’ve seen it before in eventing, their legs go, they wobble and go down. He died doing what he enjoyed best. I knew the moment I saw him I was looking at a dead horse. It’s tragic for everyone.”
An emotional Jim Lewis, the horse’s owner, reflected: “I just feel so proud to have owned Best Mate, a great racehorse. He was so good to have won three Cheltenham Gold Cups and he raised thousands of pounds for charity.”
To Be Remembered
A decade later one could state confidently that no National Hunt horse in recent times has surpassed, although there’s been many fine specimens, the class and legend that was Best Mate.
Therefore, when one thinks of Arkle, remember Best Mate.
Finally, that day, 1st of November 2005, saw a star fall; a star that I feel will be endlessly remembered.
Like a Best Mate should.