HENRIETTA KNIGHT led the tributes to her husband Terry Biddlecombe, who died yesterday aged 72, describing the former champion jockey as “a wonderful friend”.

Biddlecombe married Wantage trainer Knight in 1995, and the pair enjoyed many memorable achievements including three Cheltenham Gold Cups with Best Mate.

“Terry was a wonderful friend to me,” Knight said.

“I adored him and we had been together for 20 years. He was special. He taught me a tremendous amount about horses and racing and life.

“We have had so many people ringing up and sending messages. Terry did an awful lot for racing, he has set the sport alight over the years. It will seem very strange without him.”

Biddlecombe, nicknamed The Blonde Bomber because of his exhuberant life both in and out the saddle, had been battling illness for a number of years.

He won more than 900 races, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Woodland Venture in 1967 and was champion jockey in 1964-65, 1965-66 and 1968-69.

But in the latter years of his life he became known to a new generation of racing fans as the husband of Knight as they together plotted the career of Best Mate.

Tony McCoy also struck up a good relationship with Knight and Biddlecombe, partnering Best Mate to win the 2002 King George VI Chase and Edredon Bleu to a thrilling triumph in the Queen Mother Champion Chase two years earlier.

The 18-times champion jockey added: “I spoke to Hen on Wednesday and I was going to go and see him on Thursday or Friday, but she said he had a bit of a chest infection and I should leave it for a few days.

“She rang me and said he had passed away peacefully.

“He came to my party for my 4,000th winner and Henrietta said that was the last time he was out.”

Biddlecombe suffered a stroke in October 2011 and has battled illness for long periods since, prompting Knight to quit the training ranks in May 2012 to help look after her husband.

Her horses moved to Mick Channon’s yard, where she still plays an active part in the training of the jumpers.

Channon said: “I have known Terry for a while now and he became a great friend.

“Since the stroke it has been very difficult for everybody, but Hen has been such a devoted carer and wife. “They were totally dedicated to each other.”

Biddlecombe is survived by Knight and five children – Laura and Elizabeth from his first marriage to Bridget and James, Robert and Lucy from his second marriage to Ann.