Failing health led to couple’s sale of horse destined for greatness

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THE Grand National result was a particularly poignant one for Warren and Alicia Skene who owned Auroras Encore for most of his career.

Long-standing supporters of Sue and Harvey Smith, failing health prompted them to sell the horse just before Christmas because they could no longer travel to the races.

“I rang them on the way home because I was sad that it couldn’t be for them,” said the winning trainer. They were overjoyed. They hadn’t had a bet, but they 
had opened a bottle of champagne.”

The decision by the Skene’s to sell prompted a chain of events that were to enable Scottish businessman Douglas Pryde, Jim Beaumont and David van der Hoeven to win the National.

Aintree regulars, Beaumont was born in Liverpool and had grown up as a bellboy at the city’s Adelphi Hotel that remains synonymous with the National.

He had been initially interested in buying Mr Moonshine, another Smith horse that ran in the National, but was put off by the “telephone number” asking price when he visited the West Yorkshire stables.

Yet, within days, Auroras Encore was up for sale – and a chance encounter between Pryde and Sue Smith at Kelso racecourse enabled them to make a purchase that would yield nearly £550,000.

The irony is that van der Hoeven missed his first win as a racehorse owner because he was on a long-standing family holiday in 
Greece. Both Pryde and Beaumount were at the Smith stables yesterday to see Auroras Encore and Mr Moonshine who they also purchased with April Strang-Steel.

“Our plan was to have a runner – and to be competitive,” said Pryde, a leading financial advisor.

“We’ve had horses before, but then it was suggested that Sue and Harvey specialise in long-distance chases and might just have something suitable for Aintree, 
never daring to think we would win.

“I backed him ante-post, not for a lot of money, but at slightly bigger odds than his starting price.

“We bought him at Christmas – his first run was in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day.

“We have just been waiting for the better ground.”