It all started at Bangor on August 18, 1989 when The Grey Gunner gave Henrietta Knight her first winner after she had taken out a licence to train a month earlier.

The nine-year-old gelding’s success under Bruce Dowling in a novices’ chase at the small Welsh track may not have seemed like the start of big things.

But it was to prove the start of something very special.

For after 23 years as a trainer, before announcing her retirement yesterday, Knight scaled the very pinnacles of the sport from her stables at West Lockinge, near Wantage.

The Grey Gunner’s victory was the first of 715 winners she has saddled under both codes.

But it wasn’t until the former biology and history teacher at St Mary’s School, Wantage, met Terry Biddlecombe that her career really took off.

“He played a huge part,” she says. “He watched them on the gallops and was very good in the yard and with the owners.”

Her 707 National Hunt wins in Britain were supplemented by six on the Flat in this country and two over jumps in Ireland in 2003 – Best Mate in Leopardstown’s Ericsson Chase and Edredon Bleu in the Clonmel Oil Chase.

And it was Best Mate who took her to the summit by emulating Arkle with three consecutive Gold Cup wins – earning both himself and Knight legendary status.

The trainer points out his statue, which stands on the village green in neighbouring Lockinge as we drive out to see some of her string in a nearby field.

And she has little hesitation in recalling her career highlight.

“It has to be Best Mate’s third Gold Cup – that was a huge thrill,” she says. “Edredon Bleu winning the Champion Chase in 2000 with AP (McCoy), that was great.

“There was also Karshi winning the Stayers’ Hurdle for my brother-in-law (Lord Vestey) as they bred it.

“And we had quite a weekend when Edredon won the King George and Best Mate won in Ireland. That was amazing.”

Knight will have her final runner in the next ten days – and it could be The Queen’s Harvest Song.

“I would love to win with him for The Queen,” she adds.

Now that would be the most perfect send-off.