Russell Smith talks to a writer who has told the story of life with her beloved husband

Henrietta Knight looks across the table at her West Lockinge Farm home in her blue-framed spectacles. With her new book, Not Enough Time, about to hit the shops, there is plenty to reflect upon.

It is now 21 months since her husband and the love of her life, Terry Biddlecombe, died aged 72. Together they scaled National Hunt racing’s heights by training Best Mate to win three Cheltenham Gold Cups from 2002-4.

Knight, 68, admits in her book, which was published earlier this month, that she wondered at the time of Biddlecombe’s death what she had left to live for.

Then, while at her lowest ebb, the day after his funeral she slipped into the duck pond while driving the farmyard geese into a shed and broke her ankle and two bones in her right leg.

With the passing of time, she has recovered, and is now quite literally back on her feet in more than one sense of the phrase.

“I still miss him every day, but I have got my life more settled now,” she tells me.

“We have a lot of horses in for pre-training and plenty to do, and the book kept me very busy for 10 months of writing.”

Her sister, Ce, who survived a life-threatening stroke in 1995, has also been a pillar of strength along with her many friends as she prepared for the book launch.

“I am very close to my sister,” she adds. “She has been a tremendous back-up to me.

“My friends have also been absolutely unbelievable. Practically all of them are coming to support me and they don’t have to.

“They could say ‘it’s a boring old book launch at Hen’s’.”

Those who have followed Knight’s career, though, will know her life has been anything but boring.

The daughter of Hester and Guy Knight, who was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in the Second World War, she has lived her whole life in West Lockinge, near Wantage. Brought up with horses, she went to Didcot Girls’ Grammar School before her parents sent her to debutantes’ parties in London attended by the likes of Camilla Shand, now the Duchess of Cornwall.

But this life was not for Knight.

“I hated it,” she says. “I didn’t like it at all. It was not my scene. I wanted to be riding my ponies.”

She then took a four-year course at Westminster College, Oxford, where she gained a bachelor of education degree. A job followed at St Mary’s School, Wantage, teaching biology and history for five years.

But horses remained Knight’s great passion and she trained and rode three-day eventers, coming 12th at Badminton in 1973.

Continuing this interest, she was asked to join Great Britain’s Olympic selection committee in 1980, going on to become the chairman four years later and choosing the riders for Seoul in 1988 when the team won silver.

At the same time, she ran a livery yard at West Lockinge and saddled more than 100 point-to-point winners before taking out a licence to train racehorses in 1989.

The turning point in her life, though, came in September 1993 when she met Biddlecombe at the Malvern Horse Show.

Knight, for whom the three-times champion jump jockey had been a childhood hearththrob, was there to judge young thoroughbred horses in the pre-sale show.

The twice-divorced hell-raiser Biddlecombe, meanwhile, was working as an agent for auctioneers Russell, Baldwin & Bright, as he rebuilt his life following a spell in a rehabilitation centre after his alcoholism had spiralled out of control in Australia.

Romance blossomed and in April 1994 they started their successful training partnership.

They arranged to get married in July the following year. However, being unable to find Biddlecombe’s divorce certificate they had to cancel the register office, but still went ahead with the reception party.

“Nobody knew, not even his brother,” says Knight. “We never told anyone. Everyone thought we had got married. We just didn’t get the thing signed.”

Indeed, it wasn’t until July 2011 that the couple were finally legally joined at Didcot Register Office.

In the intervening years, Knight and Biddlecombe enjoyed phenomenal success, highlighted by Best Mate’s Gold Cup treble.

In addition, their champion landed a King George VI Chase at Kempton, a race they also captured with Edredon Bleu, who numbered the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham among his many other wins.

“We had some wonderful memories together,” says Knight. “Those Gold Cups were incredible. He was a fantastic horse.”

But Best Mate’s fairy-tale story was to end in tragedy when he collapsed and died after being pulled up in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter in November 2005.

Knight recalls that shocking moment vividly: “It was in front of everybody,” she says. “It was so public. It was right near a stand they built for people to see him.

“People couldn’t believe it and it was on the front pages of all the papers. I didn’t like the pictures of him keeling over and dying, but that is people – they like to be morbid.”

Biddlecombe suffered a stroke in October 2011, and as his health deteriorated, Knight decided to retire from training in June 2012, having saddled more than 700 winners, to look after Biddlecombe.

It was the end of an era.

With Not Enough Time out this month, Knight has appeared at the Cheltenham Literary Festival as well as at the Wantage (not just) Betjeman Literary Festival.

Reflecting on her book, she says: “I think someone like Terry deserved to have a record of his life, and I have so many memories and I wanted them recorded as well.

“It was hard at times writing it because I miss Terry so much. They are exceptionally sad, some of the memories, and very poignant to me.”

And what does she think Biddlecombe would make of it? “I think he would love it,” she adds. “He would probably disagree over some of it, but he would be very touched by some of the things people said.”

* Not Enough Time, Head of Zeus, £20.