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MP George Freeman launches initiative in memory of champion jockey father

PUBLISHED: 17:35 13 April 2018 | UPDATED: 18:42 13 April 2018

Thirty lengths in front, the Irish horse Mr What, with Arthur Freeman racing in the saddle, passes the post to win the 1958 Grand National 
Photo: PA

Thirty lengths in front, the Irish horse Mr What, with Arthur Freeman racing in the saddle, passes the post to win the 1958 Grand National Photo: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

This year’s Grand National is special for Norfolk MP George Freeman.

George Freeman and Priti Patel with Mr What's winning trophy
Photo: ContributedGeorge Freeman and Priti Patel with Mr What's winning trophy Photo: Contributed

Sixty years ago, in heavy conditions, eight-year-old gelding Mr What romped home to a 30-length victory at the Grand National – and the jockey was Mr Freeman’s father Arthur.

It was a good year for Arthur who also won the King George on Lochroe. And it was the year he proposed to future wife Joanna.

But the incredible highs of 1958 were quickly followed by disaster when he fell during a race in Plumpton and spent three days in a coma.

Arthur spent the next 10 years training horses in Newmarket but he suffered with depression and became a heavy drinker. Sadly his marriage fell apart.

Mr Freeman was just 11 months old when his parents separated but he did get to know Arthur when he was a teenager working on a farm near his father’s home in Newmarket. And horse racing clearly runs in the family as Mr Freeman’s brother Edward was also a jockey and is now a trainer based in California.

In memory of his father Mr Freeman yesterday launched Bridge of Hope, an initiative that will link government projects to ensure people who need help – whether with mental health or addiction – get it.

The initial plan is to roll out the project in the racing industry.

“This is about trying to do some good and acknowledge his life experience,” he said. “Wherever you go in life you find people who have experienced hard things, but what is really inspiring is the human instinct to turn it to good.”

Five years ago the owner’s trophy from Mr What’s triumph went up for auction and Mr Freeman was determined to get his hands on it. He paid double the reserve and when the auctioneer knocked it down he said: “Sold to the Freemans – it’s going home.”

Mr Freeman spoke about Bridge of Hope at Aintree before the big race and even took the trophy with him. Fellow MP Priti Patel said on Twitter: “With my dear friend George Freeman and his Dad’s historic 1958 Grand National trophy launching The Bridge Of Hope giving those with mental illness the freedom to succeed and a second chance.”

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