Proud Aintree outing for Arthur's famlyl

Last week's Grand National has reawakened memories of the day, 50 years ago when a local jockey won one of the greatest and most anticipated races of the British horse-racing calendar.

Last week's Grand National has reawakened memories of the day, 50 years ago when a local jockey won one of the greatest and most anticipated races of the British horse-racing calendar.

And there was a proud day out at Aintree for the family of Arthur Freeman. In 1958 Arthur won the Grand National on Mr What to make a dream come true, after spending years preparing and training for the momentous occasion.

The son of Will Freeman, famous huntsman of the Grafton and Erridge Hunts, and brother of Frank Freeman, huntsman of the Pytchley, Arthur went against the hunting dynasty by pursuing racing.

But his perseverance paid off and during the 1950s he was the Queen Mother's jump jockey and in 1958, the same year he won the Grand National, he also went on to win Boxing Day King George VI Chase.


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On Saturday for the first time, his proud family and friends travelled from across the country to be at Aintree in honour of their loved one's greatest accomplishment on the anniversary of his win.

George Freeman, from Feltwell, one of Arthur's three sons, who is prospective Conservative Parliamentary candidate for new Mid Norfolk constituency, said: “We're all so incredibly proud of him. We didn't get to see a lot of dad growing up but we knew he raced and won this.

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“The first time I saw him was at my elder brother's first race, it was such a happy day. Horses are in our blood, and I think that's down to dad. This is our chance to be close to him and celebrate what he did.

“My seven-year-old and five-year-old have just started riding and when I see the way my son rides I do see something there.

“I was thinking about it all when I realised this would be the 50th anniversary so I thought it would be nice to do something. I rang the racecourse and they offered to host us all.

“I didn't get to see a lot of dad, and his grandchildren never had the opportunity to meet him, so this is our chance to show them what he did and what he was like.”

George and his brother David took their wives and children to meet up with their dad's jockey friends and colleagues from the 1950s and 1960s.

Joining in the celebrations was racing family the Scudamore's, Michael Scudamore is George's godfather, who won the Grand National the following year in 1959 on OXO.

In a twist of fate Mr Scudamore's grandson is raced and competed against several horses trained by Tom Taaffe, whose granddad and namesake is the former grand national jockey who trained Mr What.

But the 1958 race nearly took a very different turn.

Mr Freeman said: “My dad wasn't due to ride Mr What, it had been arranged someone else would. Then out of the blue he got this phone call.

“He must have been so excited to be given this opportunity. My dad and my mum had just got married, they had the best year of their life. They had so much fun.

“I've listened back to the old commentary of the race and on the last fence the horse and dad almost fell. He was some way ahead then as the horse was coming over the last jump its knees buckled.

“It's really easy to fall off when that happens and it could have been the end of it. But he knew just what to do and stood up.

“Even the commentator took this sharp intake of breath. Of course they both recovered and went on to win.

“Because of the history we have little or no memorabilia of Dad's career and we're really hoping this Grand National reunion will unearth some. It would be amazing to find out more about him.”

If anyone has memories or memorabilia of Arthur Freeman please contact George Freeman on 01223 842544 or email george@georgefreeman.co.uk.

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