Jim Lewis, owner of triple Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Best Mate, dies aged 88

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Lewis' claret and blue colours based on his beloved Aston Villa were synonymous with Prestbury Park success in the early 2000s, as both Best Mate - who became the first horse since Arkle to complete a hat-trick of Gold Cups when successful in 2004 - and Champion Chase hero Edredon Bleu became household names and regulars in the season's biggest contests. His first Festival winner was Nakir who picked up the 1994 Arkle, but it was not until he joined forces with Henrietta Knight and her partner Terry Biddlecombe that big-race victories became a regularity. Edredon Bleu would go on to add a King George VI Chase in 2003 to his previous Champion Chase success, while Best Mate also won Kempton's Christmas feature a year earlier in 2002. Knight highlighted Lewis' love of racing and the unwavering support of her former owner. She said: "I was incredibly lucky to have an owner like Jim Lewis who had huge enthusiasm for the game and was very patient with his horses. He left the training of them to Terry and myself but hugely enjoyed discussing where they were going and how they were getting on. "He was a colourful person and he was very much a part of the Best Mate era - he loved being in the pictures. We used to call him 'Lucky Jim' because he was lucky and he had some very nice horses that won some very big races. "In those days it was extraordinary because there were no mobile phones or social media as there is today and all our correspondence was done on the fax machine. Every weekend I would send him a handwritten fax on how the horses were, he would reply to it and we would plan what we were doing. "Everything was at a slower pace and it suited my way of training and the way we were with the horses - it was brilliant. "He was old school and it suited me. He believed in Terry and myself and the way we did things and it just worked well. "I was incredibly lucky and his horses put me on the map really. I was just incredibly lucky to have met Jim and for him to believe in how we did things." Lewis and Knight joined forces for victory five times at the Cheltenham Festival in total, but superstition meant they famously never watched the races together and a hallmark of their time as owner and trainer would be the joyous scenes when the full Lewis-Knight-Biddlecombe axis finally reunited in the winner's enclosure. "We never watched a race together. He was very superstitious, like myself, and we always watched on our own," continued Knight, reflecting fondly on the many special days she shared on a racecourse with Lewis. "Those Gold Cups were magic and it was a pretty amazing day in 2000 when Edredon Bleu won the Queen Mother Champion Chase - that was a great day. We just had some great days and a lot of fun. Racing was fun then and I feel the pace that racing goes now, an element of the fun is removed. "I think Jim's passing is a big reminder of how things were 20 years ago when everything was done much slower. We were amateur and it is much more professional now."

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