THE Edinburgh part-owner of shock Grand National winner Auroras Encore today said his syndicate had bought the champion racehorse as a bargain-basement Christmas present only four months ago.
Jim Beaumont told the Evening News today he had gone to the Yorkshire estate where he snapped up the 11-year-old rank outsider as he set up a deal to buy fellow runner Mr Moonshine.
Auroras Encore was only suggested as a deal-making add-on after an agreement for his preferred, and more expensive, horse could not be reached.
That slice of luck turned into a masterstroke on Saturday at Aintree when the 66-1 chance ridden by Scottish jockey Ryan Mania stormed home to win the world’s most famous steeplechase by nine lengths.
Auroras Encore could now bid to become the only horse outside of legendary Red Rum to complete a rare National double in two weeks’ time by racing in Ayr on April 20.
Red Rum achieved the feat by also winning the Scottish Grand National in 1974.
Mr Beaumont, a former course liaison officer at Musselburgh Racecourse and ex- manager of the George Hotel, described Saturday’s victory as the best day of his life.
The 78-year-old, who lives in the Dean Village, dismissed paying a speculated £10,000 for the unlikely winner, but admitted that he had still bought it for a bargain in December.
He said: “Nobody knows what we paid for it. It was a private deal with a private person who was retiring from racing because of age. They just wanted to see it go to a good home.
“It was a new venture for us as well. One of the conditions was that it stayed in the stables, so we were quite happy with that.
“We’ve bought more expensive horses, but never had much luck or fun with them. It was just one of those things.
“We went to buy Mr Moonshine. That’s what we went to the stables for and that was an expensive horse. We came away disappointed because we couldn’t agree to a price.
“About two weeks later I met the trainer at another race course and I re-introduced myself. She said ‘I’m glad you spoke to me because since you were enquiring about Mr Moonshine, this couple have decided they’re packing in and so there’s a horse for sale’.
“All these horses have a rating. To get into the Grand National you need a rating of a minimum of 136 and this horse had 136. We decided for the price, we couldn’t pass it up.
“We didn’t actually study and choose it. It was chosen for us, virtually. Obviously we’ve made a good purchase.”
Auroras Encore had originally been sold as a yearling for 7000 euros [£5928] at Tattersalls Ireland.
The only indication of the gelding’s true worth came a year ago when he narrowly finished runner-up at the Scottish National at Ayr.
The horse had since dropped 6lbs in weight after a succession of disappointing results, including three failures to finish and poor performances at Warwick, Kelso and Doncaster, resulting in long odds at Aintree.
Speaking from Craiglands Farm in West Yorkshire where he bought Auroras Encore, Mr Beaumont said the winning horse-and-jockey combination would be back to defend the title in Liverpool next year.
Auroras Encore is owned by Mr Beaumont, Douglas Pryde and David van der Hoeven.
Mr Beaumont started out his hospitality career as a 14-year-old bell boy in Liverpool’s Adelphi Hotel.
He later worked as manager at the George Hotel and Cafe Royal in Edinburgh, and at Gleneagles, until his retirement seven years ago.
His first visit to the Grand National came at the age of five with his grandmother.
The retiree recalled watching the steeplechase winners coming up the steps at the Adelphi Hotel, but said he never thought he would own a horse, let alone win the coveted fixture. The nearest he had come until Saturday was in 2011 with Santa’s Son, which led the Grand National for the first 27 fences before pulling up.
Mr Beaumont spent Saturday night quietly celebrating the win at Dick Hudsons pub, near the West Yorkshire stables. In understated fashion, he said: “We all had a very, very good day. It was a lovely surprise.”
The racing minds behind Auroras Encore had decided pre-race they would not even start the horse if the conditions weren’t good.
Mr Beaumont said: “If the going had have been wrong, we wouldn’t have run him. That’s the be all and end all. He hates the mud, he hates the wet. If it’s really miserable, you can see it in his face. When he comes out of the stable and it’s raining, he doesn’t like it at all. He wants to go in again.”
It was a dream result for Mr Mania, from Galashiels, who was riding in his first Grand National. However, the 23-year-old’s moment in the sun was somewhat soured yesterday when he was airlifted to hospital after a nasty fall in a separate race at Hexham.
Mr Beaumont said: “I’ve known Ryan since he was about 14. I bred a couple of horses myself and I kept them in a little farm near Dunbar. Ryan used to come down and clean out the stables and do everything he could if he could have a ride on one of the horses.
“He’s always been a nice lad, a nice boy local to Edinburgh and very, very keen. I said to [trainer] Harvey Smith ‘what do you like about him?’ He said ‘he listens to me’.”
Mr Beaumont said the outcome had been a “brilliant” endorsement for the racing event, adding: “I think animal welfare groups went away satisfied. It helped the race so much.
“The previous two days there were two deaths, but I’ve had horses that have run around the Grand National a few times and then got injured on the gallops, broken a leg on the gallops. They can do it anywhere really. The Grand National is the Grand National because of what it is. We don’t want to make it an ordinary race. It’s got to be different.”
Double bid to emulate red rum
Auroras Encore could bid to emulate the legendary Red Rum by attempting to complete a rare National double in the same season.
The shock winner of the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree may now head to Ayr for the Coral Scottish Grand National in two weeks’ time.
Red Rum won both in 1974 while Earth Summit and Little Polveir have since taken both races but in different years.
Auroras Encore was just touched off by Merigo at Ayr last spring and connections of the Sue Smith-trained gelding are keen to have another go.
Part-owner Jim Beaumont said: “We would like to go for the Scottish National, if Sue says we can.”
The trainer’s husband Harvey Smith said: “If he comes out of the race and says ‘come on now’, we’ll have a run around Scotland as well.”