Sunday, 3 November 2019

1958 Grand National – Mr. What Stuns All with a 30-Length Victory



The 1958 Grand National was the 112th unveiling of the internationally famous Grand National equestrian sporting showdown that occurred at Aintree Racecourse, close to Liverpool in England, on 29th March 1958. The widely followed event attracted a total of 31 contenders who were competing for then-record prizemoney nearly £14,000.

The ultimate champion happened to be the 18-1 Mr. What, outdistancing number two by a whopping 30 lengths. This winning horse was steered by jockey Arthur Freeman and coached by Tom Taaffe senior...becoming the fifth contestant to clinch the grand title since the Second World War.

According to reports sports news reports doing rounds at the time, jockey Pat Taaffe should have steered Mr. What instead Arthur Freeman. He, however, missed the much-sought chance to ride his father-trained horse and make the unique history that comes with such striking firsts in the competitive racing world.

Aged only eight years at that time, and proudly owned by David Coughlan, the promising gelding happened to be winning a major derby title for the very first time. Those in the know will nevertheless bear in mind the fact that the same equine champion had participated in sundry other sporting showdowns before, most without any exemplary results.

It is also important to note that Arthur Freeman served as the Queen Mother's professional rider...and that not many racing fans really expected him to achieve such an awesome feat that very sporting season. Putting up 6 lb(equivalent to 2.7 kg) overweight, the trophy-winning pair appeared hugely favored by the prevailing precarious ground conditions of the time. It was all seemingly credible to the unmistakable preparedness of the triumphant pair and the other stakeholders(including the trainer and owner) that possibility such a colorful victory that day.

Although the champion horse appears to have been largely favored by the tricky conditions that ruined chances for closest rivals, the year witnessed the longest winning distance. Mr. Freeman won by a staggering 30 lengths - a rather huge winning gap unwitnessed in many other similar races before, or even long after.

Keen followers of the annual racing event will remember that 1958 The national champion would continue to participate in the succeeding years...somehow inking nearly equally spectacular records - maintaining a third position in the 1959 and 1962 unveilings. 

Nonetheless, Mr. What did not win any other Grand National title or excel thus exceptionally in any other similarly high-profile equine competition.

The winning duo survived two pretty encumbering blunders - at the very last jumping point and at the Becher's brook. The impact of these potentially destabilizing obstacles got summarily swept away by the sheer wisdom of the old proverb that it's indeed well that which ends well.

The two midtrack mishaps, however, proved costly, as Arthur was later diagnosed with minor head injuries that greatly affected his sporting career. He resorted to training at Suffolk, at which later equine instruction station he churned out excellent products such as Tibidabo...that unforgettable sprinter who won the National Hunt Centenary in 1966. This minor victory was nevertheless nothing compared to his unforgettable big day back in 1958.
He was all the same able to make do with other averagely rewarding victories in several other fairly rewarding races like Juvenile Hurdle on Le Bel and King George VI Chase using Lochroe. These post-1958 successes served to portray the prizewinning jockey as a real history-changing equestrian icon of superlative skill.

Arthur was born on January 7th, 1926 - to a Zetland huntsman named Bill Freeman. He began by racing on the flat in 1939 for George Lambton, a Newmarket trainer of remarkable repute. And he actually came from an illustrious pedigree of great racers that included his elder brother Bill's riding a Cap-A-Pie to emerge first in the Ebor for Lord Derby.
Having had a colorful stint in the war as an infantryman, Arthur came out rather battle-hardened go-getter and ready for gritty action on crowded racecourses. And he in such contests excelled with tremendous success, his 1958 National being crystal-clear evidence of this fact.

A season later, he rode as second jockey (behind Dick Francis); a tough assignment that he capably undertook for Peter Cazaletat, a major in the local military ranks.

In 1955, he steered the French-trained M'As-Tu-Vu for the Queen Mother, thus taking a prominent part in the year's National. He again tried his luck in the same event the following year, without much success, finishing nineteenth.

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