'My Best Day In Racing' – Sir Alex Ferguson Nets $1m Bahrain Riches

Spirit Dancer lands the Bahrain Trophy | Bahrain Turf Club


In the pantheon of the promotional stakes, the Sir Alex Ferguson-owned Spirit Dancer (GB) (Frankel {GB}) winning the $1 million G2 Bahrain International Trophy would have ranked pretty highly as a dream result for everyone associated with this relatively new race. 

To have one of the most recognisable sporting figures in the world in attendance all week was something, but for Spirit Dancer to play with his rivals in a similar fashion to some of the best teams Ferguson assembled at the helm of Manchester United exceeded all expectations. 

You don't last 26 years at Manchester United, manage the careers of some of the biggest names in football–think Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo–and amass 38 trophies without being a tough task master. 

But Ferguson has been nothing but warm to anyone in Bahrain this week who has politely asked for a photograph or to simply reminisce about previous glories. The reaction the 81-year-old met Spirit Dancer taking care of a Group 1 field in all but name was one of genuine delight with the Scottsman labelling the victory as his greatest ever in racing. 

“That's the best ever in racing, without question,” Ferguson said moments after Spirit Dancer crossed the line over two lengths clear of the John and Thady Gosden-trained Israr (GB) (Muhaarar {GB}) in second with Point Lonsdale (Ire) (Australia {GB}) a close-up third.”

He continued, “When you looked at the field I was worried. I'm seeing Godolphin with five, [Aidan] O'Brien's got a runner, [Andre] Fabre's got a horse there. And we're just a wee stable from Yorkshire.

“He won well, too, very well. It was Ged [Mason] who jumped on me–100 yards away he looked as though he was going to win but I'm not counting my chickens at that point, I'm just praying. He carried me over the line with him.”

Ferguson has enjoyed his fair share of success in racing. Few will forget his association with Coolmore in the late nineties and early noughties, highlighted by Rock Of Gibraltar (Ire), but more recently he has been concentrating on the jumps and enjoyed a host of success with trainer Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton, with Clan Des Obeaux (Fr), What A Friend (GB) and Protektorat (Fr), respectively. 

But Spirit Dancer represents the latest chapter in Ferguson's racing endeavors as the Richard Fahey-trained 6-year-old is one of the first horses to have graduated from the owner's stud farm in Hemel Hempstead.

Ferguson explained, “He was my first foal. It was a new adventure for me to get into breeding to be honest. I bought a mare from Germany. She's at Hemel Hempstead and is from a good family. 

“The first foal was a Frankel, and that's why we're down here today. We've had other horses that have done well but the Frankel has been fantastic. I told Oisin [Orr, jockey] going out there to remember he's [Spirit Dancer] a Frankel.”

He added, “And the hospitality has been amazing here. I know I was signing a lot of autographs and taking a lot of photos but it's only a photograph, it only takes a second and you shouldn't ignore people wanting your photo, especially kids. You have to have patience for that type of thing and I've always shown that anyway. It's fantastic, I can't believe it.”

It may have been lost in the occasion somewhat the brilliant job that Fahey has done with Spirit Dancer. He delivered the horse in peak condition for the day that mattered and took great satisfaction in the result, even if the trainer admitted to being slightly surprised at the ease in which it was achieved. 

Fahey said, “It was an easy race to watch because we always felt we were going to win. Once he hit the front he wouldn't be stopping and it would take a good one to beat us. The fancied ones were in front of us, we passed them and they don't often come back. I'm absolutely over the moon. It's a special moment for everyone. We did see the trophy the other night, it looked like the FA Cup, Sir Alex is used to picking up the FA Cup. It was a fantastic result.”

On future plans, he added of his G2 Neom Turf Cup qualifier, “We were mentioning going to Saudi in February, we'd see how he ran today. Have horse, will travel, so we'll see how he comes home. I genuinely thought it was a tough race and he needed to step up but it was a comfortable race to watch. It's a huge moment for me. We've had Royal Ascot winners and things like that but with Sir Alex there it's been a great week with the build up.  He put no pressure on me, the horse, or anybody. It was 'lets enjoy this'. He's an absolute gentleman. Some great stories and a great man.”

The win also represented a special success for jockey Oisin Orr. The Classic-winning pilot made the decision to join the Fahey stable earlier this year due to a shortage of rides in his native Ireland and the Donegal man has not looked back. 

He said, “The horse was a big price but I think he really needed his last run because Richard had given him a break after the horse had won three in a short space of time. So, he did need it at Newmarket and Richard had him spot on for today. 

“I thought I was actually getting there a bit soon. All he does is gallop-he's tough and he was very good there today. It's right up there with my best days in racing. You never complain when you come over here and win something big like that. It's good when it works out.”

He added, “It was great to get the opportunity to come over to England to ride for Richard Fahey this year and I haven't looked back since. Then to go and win a million-pound race, it's great.”

Just one thing Orr didn't tell Ferguson in the razzmatazz of it all. He's a Liverpool fan. But something says even that couldn't take the gloss of the whole occasion.

Pedigree Notes

The G3 Strensall S.-winning gelding who was fourth in the G3 Darley S. last month, counts as part of Frankel's 133-strong battalion of stakes winners and is one of 91 group/graded winners. He is bred on the same cross as G1 Prix de la Foret winner Kelina (Ire), G2 Prix de Sandringham winner Obligate (GB), and fellow group winners Eternal Pearl (GB) and Delaware (GB), who are all out of daughters of his Juddmonte studmate Oasis Dream (GB).

The third foal and one of five winners for his unraced dam Queen's Dream (Ger) (Oasis Dream {GB}), Spirit Dancer is the best of the lot. His yearling half-brother is by Masar (Ire). Queen's Dream is a sister to a quartet of stakes winners led by her full-brother, Group 1 winner and sire Querari (Ger) (Oasis Dream {GB}), and her half-sister, multiple group winner Quidura (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), who was thrice placed at the highest level in the U.S. Spirit Dancer's third dam is the G2 German 1000 Guineas heroine Quebrada (Ire) (Devil's Bag).

Friday, Sakhir, Bahrain
BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL TROPHY-G2, $1,000,000, Sakhir, 11-17, 3yo/up, 2000mT, 2:06.82, gd.
1–SPIRIT DANCER (GB), 128, g, 6, by Frankel (GB)
1st Dam: Queen's Dream (Ger), by Oasis Dream (GB)
2nd Dam: Quetena (Ger), by Acatenango (Ger)
3rd Dam: Quebrada (Ire), by Devil's Bag
O-Done Ferguson Mason; B-Sir Alex Ferguson & Niall
McLoughlin; T-Richard Fahey; J-Oisin Orr; $600,000. Lifetime
Record: GSW-Eng, 23-7-6-2, $906,075. Werk Nick Rating:
   A+++. *Triple Plus*. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross
   pedigree. Click for the free Equineline.com catalogue-style
2–Israr (GB), 128, c, 4, Muhaarar (GB)–Taghrooda (GB), by Sea
The Stars (Ire). O/B-Shadwell Estate Company Limited; T-John
& Thady Gosden; J-Jim Crowley; $200,000.
3–Point Lonsdale (Ire), 128, c, 4, Australia (GB)–Sweepstake
(Ire), by Acclamation (GB). (575,000gns Ylg '20 TATOCT).
O-Derrick Smith, Mrs John Magnier, Michael Tabor &
Westerberg; B-Epona Bloodstock Ltd; T-Aidan O'Brien; J-Ryan
Moore; $100,000.
Margins: 2 1/4, SHD, NK.
Also Ran: Real World (Ire), Birr Castle (Fr), Astro King (Ire), Nations Pride (Ire), Above the Curve, Calif, Marhaba Ya Sanafi (Ire), Highland Avenue (Ire), . Qaader (Ire), Dubai Future (GB), Layfayette (Ire). Scratched: Goemon (GB), Tawaareq (Ire), Zagato (GB). Click for the Bahrain Turf Club chart.



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