Sir Alex Ferguson Eyes Another Big Prize for Spirit Dancer

Sir Alex Ferguson in Riyadh | Saudi Cup

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has long been a racehorse owner but he has also become immersed in the breeding world since his retirement from football.

On Saturday, his homebred Spirit Dancer (GB) (Frankel {GB}), who Ferguson races in partnership with Ged Mason and Peter Done, lines up in the $2-million G2 Howden Neom Turf Cup on the Saudi Cup undercard. The seven-year-old, trained by Richard Fahey, has been wintering in the Middle East, where he won the G2 Bahrain International Trophy in November before finishing fourth in the G1 Jebel Hatta in Dubai last month. 

“One of the great advantages of having a really good horse is international racing. We never dreamed, when I bred Spirit Dancer, that he would end up getting as far as this,” Ferguson told Saudi Cup presenter Martin Kelly when trackside in Riyadh on Thursday morning.

“We're so excited about it and after Bahrain we are quite optimistic.

“He had a little problem when he was three years of age, he got over that and he's just got better and better. He's not had a lot of racing. That's what Richard keeps saying, that he can race a lot more than he's been doing. So we're getting the benefit.

“The international element is something we didn't expect. I'd been to Dubai some years back and I was saying to myself I wonder what it's like to have a horse involved in it – now we've got one, I'm enjoying it.”

He added of his involvement in racing, “It was round about 1995 that I remember my wife saying I was going to kill myself because my whole day was absorbed with the [football] club.

“One day, I said to my wife 'shall we go to the races?'. She asked where that had come from and I told her it was her who said I needed to start doing something else. We were at the races one day when I met John Mulhern and Dessie Scahill and I got hooked.”

Ferguson bought Spirit Dancer's dam Queen's Dream (Ger) (Oasis Dream {GB}) from trainer and breeder Andreas Wohler, who had suggested that he should get involved with breeding. He keeps his mares at stud in Hertfordshire and divulged to Kelly that he has recently welcomed a foal from the first crop of Stradivarius (Ire). 

Fahey, who has trained Spirit Dancer to seven victories from his 24 starts, including last year's G3 Strensall S. at York, said of the horse's preparation ahead of Saturday, “He needed the run in Dubai last month and he has been training well since then. He did a very nice piece of work there last week. We'll have no excuses for him in terms of his preparation.”

Among Spirit Dancer's 12 rivals in the Neom Turf Cup is the treble Group 1 winner Luxembourg (Ire) (Camelot (GB)}), representing the Coolmore team.

“Everyone's very excited to see him. He's a big, powerful, long-striding horse. A good, scopey horse, with a good mind and very sound,” said his trainer Aidan O'Brien. 

“We think we haven't seen the best of him yet, all through this year and next year he's going to be a horse to really look forward to.

“He's big with a long stride and often those types of horses take until four or five to really become strong enough to use their stride.”

O'Brien will also saddle Tower Of London (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), a brother to the Irish Derby and St Leger winner Capri (Ire), for the Red Sea Turf Handicap. The four-year-old was twice a winner last term and narrowly missed out on victory in the G3 Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket when beaten a head in second before running fourth in the St Leger.

“He's been off a good while and he's carrying a little bit of weight, but he's been working very well,” said the trainer.

“We always thought the trip would suit him well and this type of race would suit him well. He has plenty of weight but he's a classy horse, we think that ridden a little bit patiently and gently we will see a very big run from him.”

 

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