Tag Archive for: Spirit Dancer

Spirit Dancer set for well-deserved holiday after Dubai run

Spirit Dancer is set for a well-earned break after finishing lame in his bid for further international honours in Saturday’s Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan.

Richard Fahey’s charge has enjoyed a hugely productive winter on foreign soil, carrying the red and white silks of part-owner and breeder Sir Alex Ferguson to victory in the Bahrain International Trophy before claiming an even more lucrative success in the Neom Turf Cup in Riyadh.

The seven-year-old was unable to land a blow when stepped up in class on Dubai World Cup night, finishing 11th of 12 runners, but was subsequently found to have sustained an injury.

“He has a chip in his joint I’m afraid, so he did pull up lame,” Fahey said on Tuesday.

“It (injury) won’t have helped. It was a messy sort of race as he sort of dropped in and never got back into it, but that can’t have helped.

“He was due for a holiday anyway and he’ll get it now. He’s fit enough to travel and we’ll sort him out when we get him home.

“It’s been a fantastic winter with him and he’s got the money in the bank to prove it!”

Sir Alex Ferguson (centre) at the Cheltenham Festival
Sir Alex Ferguson (centre) at the Cheltenham Festival (Joe Giddens/PA)

While Fahey is keen to get his charge back to his North Yorkshire base before committing to future targets, there is every chance Spirit Dancer will be stamping his passport again later in the year.

The trainer added: “I’d be keen to go back there (Dubai) again next year, so all roads and plans will lead to go there.

“I’ve got Hong Kong in my mind as well, so we’ll see. He could have a couple of runs over here and then head back over there.”

Fergie enjoying time in the sun with Spirit Dancer

Sir Alex Ferguson has said it is “an honour” to have bred a horse good enough to run in a race such as the Dubai Sheema Classic with Spirit Dancer, who is chasing an overseas treble.

Trained by Richard Fahey, the seven-year-old has been a real late bloomer and a plan hatched after a victory in a Group Three at York has well and truly come to fruition.

Victories in the Bahrain Trophy and the Neom Turf Cup in Saudi Arabia have propelled the Frankel gelding into the highest company and he is now taking on the likes of dual Derby and Breeders’ Cup winner Auguste Rodin and Japanese filly Liberty Island.

“He’s looking great, I think he’s enjoying it out here actually, who wouldn’t, the climate is fantastic,” Ferguson told the Dubai Racing Club.

“It’s been success all the way, there’s been improvement every race. We’re honoured to be here, the type of race he’s going to be in, it’s outstanding opposition.”

It will be Spirit Dancer’s first run over a mile and a half but it is something Fahey has been keen to try for some time.

Ferguson added: “We’re quietly confident. In fairness, Richard has said all along that he thinks he’s a mile and a half horse. His Frankel pedigree suggests he should be able to cope with it, so we’re hopeful in that respect, but we don’t know.

“It’s an honour to have a horse in a race of this magnitude that you’ve bred yourself.

“When he won at York, Richard told us we were going to Bahrain and I said ‘Bahrain! What do we want to go there for?’ – and he said there was a great race there for him, so he’s the architect and we’re not going to argue with what he’s doing.

“We’ve enjoyed it, we’ve had a few days in Bahrain, a few days in Saudi and now a week here. It’s fantastic.”

It has been one success after another for Ferguson, who as well as enjoying victories abroad with Spirit Dancer, celebrated a Cheltenham Festival double earlier this month.

Fergie eyeing lucrative treble with Spirit Dancer

Having broken his Cheltenham Festival duck with a dream double when Monmiral and Protektorat scored, Sir Alex Ferguson is chasing more glory with Spirit Dancer in the Dubai Sheema Classic on Saturday.

Bred by Ferguson himself, the Richard Fahey-trained seven-year-old has enjoyed a memorable 12 months.

He started last season in handicaps off a mark of 97, his winning spree began at York in July, was followed by a Racing League success at Windsor and he returned to the Knavesmire to claim the Group Three Strensall Stakes.

Spirit Dancer appears to love racing abroad even more, though, as in November he bagged the Bahrain Trophy and last month he won the Neom Turf Cup in Saudi Arabia, taking his career earnings to over £1.7million.

“Everything’s going great. Looking at the videos and speaking to the lad out there, I believe he’s come on in his coat and his demeanour, he’s in very good form,” said Fahey.

“He did have five weeks to acclimatise from his first run this season to the Neom Turf Cup and it’s nearly another five weeks again.

“We’re very lucky to be able to have him there because it’s more or less the same climate in the Middle East and he’s had time to settle into a good routine – he’s loving his time there. It’s an easier preparation to do it there than from here.

“It was always in the back of my mind to go to a mile and a half. You’d have every confidence that he should stay. He relaxes and in all his races he’s always finished well.

“We are in at Group One level, so it will be a huge ask, but we’ve had a nice prep and it’s always nice coming there off the back of a win. I’m really looking forward to seeing him run.”

Spirit Dancer to chase Dubai riches for Sir Alex Ferguson

Spirit Dancer is firmly on course for a Dubai World Cup night outing after providing Sir Alex Ferguson with further international success in Saudi Arabia.

The Richard Fahey-trained seven-year-old gave the former Manchester United manager – along with co-owners Ged Mason and Peter Done – a day to remember when scoring in the Bahrain International Trophy in November and hit the target once again in the Middle East in the Neom Turf Cup.

Having scooped a first-prize of just shy of £1million when downing the likes of Aidan O’Brien’s Luxembourg in Riyadh, the son of Frankel will now return to Dubai, where he has spent the majority of the winter and will be prepared for Meydan action on March 30.

“It has been a great winter with him and he’s progressing well,” said Fahey.

“He’s taken to us to another level of enjoyment there and the whole thing has been great. It’s very exciting.

“We flew him into Dubai for his last run (in the Jebel Hatta) and left him there and now he has flown back to Dubai. We will see how he is, but he looks well and is summering well in Dubai. He’s in great form and enjoying life at the moment competing at the very highest level.

“Definitely, all being well, you will see him on World Cup night.”

Spirit Dancer’s latest victory came over an extended 10 furlongs and Fahey now has to decide whether Spirit Dancer stretches out to a mile and a half for the first time to take part in the Dubai Sheema Classic or drops back to nine furlongs for the Dubai Turf.

Fahey added: “I haven’t decided which race yet and it will be either be the nine-furlong race or the mile and a half. I’ll see how he is training and I have to make a decision soon because he has an invite, but I haven’t 100 per cent made a decision yet.

“It’s always been in my mind to give him a go (at a mile and a half).

“I’ll have to have look and see what runs in each race there and I’m afraid there is no easy race, but when they are $5m and $6m races, that’s what you expect in Dubai.”

Spirit Dancer powers home to give Ferguson victory in Neom Turf Cup

Spirit Dancer landed another huge prize for part-owner Sir Alex Ferguson when flying home to take the Howden Neom Turf Cup at the Saudi Cup meeting.

Trained by Richard Fahey and co-owned by Ferguson, Ged Mason and Fred Done, the Frankel gelding is the usual ride of jockey Oisin Orr.

The pair travelled out to Bahrain last year to tackle the Group Two Bahrain International Trophy and after succeeding there, they set their sights on the Neom Turf Cup after first visiting Meydan in January.

Another Group Two event, the Neom Turf Cup had attracted a deep field that included Aidan O’Brien’s Luxembourg, Andrew Balding’s The Foxes and John and Thady Gosden’s Jack Darcy.

The latter cut out the running early on and was closely followed by Luxembourg, who was given a positive ride by Ryan Moore and looked the winner in the home straight.

With two furlongs left to travel it was Spirit Dancer who was going best of all, however, cruising down the centre of the track to sweep to an impressive and valuable victory.

Ferguson also bred the horse alongside Niall McLoughlin and said of the performance: “It was fantastic. After the triumph in Bahrain and coming to this level and looking at the field – the performance from Oisin and the horse was unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable.

“Richard has made the point a few times that the horse hasn’t had a lot of racing, he has been trying to step it up and I think you’ve seen the evidence today.

“Oisin said to me that the horse is improving all the time and the evidence is there. I’m delighted.”

Mason, who owns several other horses over both Flat and National Hunt codes, added: “It still feels like a dream, I have to pinch myself.

“He finished like a steam engine and Alex said ‘He’s a Frankel, remember that’. I’m delighted, it’s absolutely brilliant.

“That was a class act of entries there, that performance was extra special.

“If he doesn’t mind me saying, Alex had a dream this morning and he dreamed that we won!”

Fahey, who has trained the seven-year-old to win eight times now, added: “I’d say it’ll be very hard not to send him to Dubai, we’ll see how he is and make a decision but I’d be a little bit shocked if he doesn’t line up in something on World Cup night.

“I’ve always wanted to stretch him out to a mile and a half, but the horse hasn’t stopped blowing yet, so let him blow and we’ll work it out!

“Any horse that can win on the international scene like this, they become the people’s horse and he’s heading that way.

“He’s got a huge fan base, he’s a progressive horse that’s heading the right way.

“He gets his head down and gallops all the way to the line, people who are involved in horse racing love to see horses do that.”

Fahey making the most of Fergie time with Spirit Dancer

Richard Fahey will bid to provide Sir Alex Ferguson with further international success when Spirit Dancer lines up in the Howden Neom Turf Cup on Saturday.

The seven-year-old gave the former Manchester United manager and his fellow owners, Ged Mason and Fred Done, a day to remember when scoring in the Bahrain International Trophy last November and attentions were soon turned to securing more valuable prizes in the region.

Spirit Dancer tuned up for his crack at this $2million prize by finishing fourth in Meydan’s Jebel Hatta last month and his handler believes that will have put him spot on for this Saudi Cup night assignment.

“I felt he would need the run the last day and it looked that way as well,” said Fahey.

“He has had four or five weeks to acclimatise now. It’s all stuff of dreams, which is becoming a reality when we get to run on Saturday.

“It’s fantastic here, we are well looked after and the horse is happy. When you come on these trips, the most important thing is how the horse is – and the horse is in good order. I’m very pleased with him and at the moment I wouldn’t swap my fella.”

Fahey admitted to being awestruck by the footballing great in the early stages of training for him, but now relishes the time they spend together comparing notes on how to prime star sporting talent for action.

“To be fair, when I first started training for him, I was a little bit humbled,” Fahey this week.

Sir Alex Ferguson has enjoyed Spirit Dancer's success of late
Sir Alex Ferguson has enjoyed Spirit Dancer’s success of late (David Davies/PA)

“I have some fantastic conversations with him and he has been to the yard three or four times now. He is just a wonderful man and you can see why he has been a success.

“It’s a humbling experience but it’s amazing, because even this (Thursday) morning we were discussing footballers and horses and Sir Alex was asking why we didn’t canter on the grass.

“I explained we race on the (grass) surfaces because if we were to train on them all the time, we wouldn’t have many horses left, so we tend to use the artificial surfaces – and he compared it to a very good football team whose training pitch was quite quick and a lot of the players were getting hurt, so there is comparisons with football and racing.”

There is plenty of British and Irish involvement in the extended 10-furlong event, with Aidan O’Brien’s Luxembourg a clear favourite with the bookmakers, having knocked on the door behind Auguste Rodin on home soil in the autumn before also going close in Hong Kong in December.

Luxembourg will represent Aidan O'Brien in the Neom Turf Cup
Luxembourg will represent Aidan O’Brien in the Neom Turf Cup (Donall Farmer/PA)

Andrew Balding’s The Foxes is another who is no stranger to international competition, having finished second in the Belmont Derby last summer, and the Dante winner is expected to take a step forward from his comeback run at Southwell recently.

A January afternoon at Rolleston is poles apart from the pressure cooker of Riyadh on Saudi Cup night, but connections are confident of a bold bid from their four-year-old.

“He’s got here in great form,” said the trainer’s wife and representative Anna Lisa Balding.

“I was very pleased with how he looked out there on Thursday morning.

The Foxes warmed up for his Neom Turf Cup challenge at Southwell
The Foxes warmed up for his Neom Turf Cup challenge at Southwell (PA)

“Last year, we took him to America and he finished second in a Grade One, so we felt he would be up to the travel again.

“We’re delighted with his position in gate six and Oisin Murphy is back on and he rides him so well. He needed the run last time at Southwell but it was a good effort and he will come on for it.”

John and Thady Gosden struck gold with subsequent Royal Ascot and Juddmonte International Stakes champion Mostahdaf 12 months ago and will look to repeat the dose with stable newcomer Jack Darcy.

Astro King has been something of a superstar for Daniel and Claire Kubler and their Cambridgeshire hero should not be underestimated after being far from disgraced in sixth behind Spirit Dancer last time.

“With a little more luck, he might well have placed second or third (in Bahrain),” said Claire Kubler.

“He was on the rail in Bahrain and ran into traffic. It was frustrating but we had to notice that it was established horses like Point Lonsdale and Nations Pride that were in his path and he was finishing stronger than them.

“It’s amazing for our team and his owners to be a part of this occasion. It’s so exciting and we feel he can run well.”

Ferguson ‘quite optimistic’ over Spirit Dancer

Sir Alex Ferguson “never dreamed” that he would have a horse good enough to take on the best in the world on the international stage. But in Spirit Dancer – a horse he bred – that is exactly what he is doing.

The former Manchester United manager has become immersed in the racing world since his retirement, enjoying several high-profile victories in the National Hunt sphere.

To date, his Flat exploits had not reached the same heights. But the Richard Fahey-trained seven-year-old Spirit Dancer has started to change all that.

Winning the Strensall Stakes at York last summer earned him an invite for the Bahrain International Trophy, which he won, and he was last seen finishing a respectable fourth in the Group One Jebel Hatta at Meydan in Dubai.

He now runs in the Howden Neom Turf Cup on Saturday in Riyadh, a race worth almost £1million to the winner.

“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 The Saudi Cup.

“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.

“Competing with the likes of Aidan O’Brien and the Japanese, you know you are up against the best, and we’re enjoying it.”

Spirit Dancer on track at Riyadh
Spirit Dancer on track at Riyadh (Mathea Kelley-Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, Feb. 22, 2024)

Ferguson’s racing interests stretch back almost 30 years now, and it is fair to say he is more involved than at any time in his life.

“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,” he explained.

“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. She once said ‘you want to buy all the right horses’, well, I’m trying!

“I got into breeding by accident, I was in Germany visiting Andreas Wohler and he put the idea in my mind, I bought a horse from him, the mare Queen’s Dream (Spirit Dancer’s dam).

“A friend of mine then put the idea in my head about buying the stud in Hemel Hempstead. I said we’d have a go and it’s been great. They are fantastic people there, we had a foal there last week by Stradivarius, so it’s great.”

It is Ferguson’s second trip to Saudi Arabia, the first was in 2008 when Manchester United played in a testimonial to honour local player Sam Al Jaber, who played over 150 times for his country.

“We came to Saudi about 15 years ago to play in a game to celebrate a famous player who had 150 international caps. The King bought 80,000 tickets and gave them all away to the people and it was fantastic,” said Ferguson.

Spirit Dancer is co-owned by bookmaker Fred Done and Ferguson’s big friend, Ged Mason, with whom he is involved with most of his horses – and who initiated a rather painful celebration in Bahrain.

“Ged broke my rib celebrating in Bahrain, I won’t mind him breaking another if it means we win!” said Ferguson.

Mason is loving being involved in the ride and is thrilled at the enjoyment Ferguson is getting from the game.

“When he came round the bend at Bahrain, it was a fantastic sight and the way he pulled away was a pinch yourself moment, to be honest,” said Mason.

“He got the invite to Bahrain because he’d produced the goodies at York. I’m so proud for Sir Alex because he bred him and he’s out of Frankel.

“I think our first venture into ownership was What A Friend and what a friend he was to us, he got our appetite for winning. Clan Des Obeaux won King Georges and Irish Gold Cups, it’s been a fantastic journey and we don’t want it to stop.”

Spirit Dancer confirmed for Neom Turf Cup bid in Saudi

Sir Alex Ferguson will have the chance to secure further international honours after Richard Fahey confirmed his Spirit Dancer is on course for the Neom Turf Cup in Saudi Arabia later this month.

The former Manchester United manager was no stranger to glory overseas during his time in the dugout and alongside co-owners Peter Done and Ged Mason saw Spirit Dancer collect £500,000 when victorious in the Bahrain International Trophy in November.

The seven-year-old has since tuned up for his outing in Riyadh by finishing fourth in the Jebel Hatta at Meydan and Fahey is confident that will put him spot on for the $2million event on February 24.

“I was delighted to get that run in Dubai into him,” said Fahey.

“We were pleased with the run and we were probably just drawn a little bit wide – hopefully the run will put him 100 per cent right for Saudi.

“We’re going to run in the Neom. I was keen to go for the big one there (Saudi Cup), but I just felt nine furlongs on the dirt would be sharp enough for him. He’s a horse I would probably want to go a mile and a half in Saudi rather than a sharp nine, if that makes sense.”

Spirit Dancer’s owners revelled in their Bahrain success before Christmas, with Ferguson describing it as his “best ever” victory as an owner.

All of the son of Frankel’s ownership trio appear keen on another visit to the Middle East, with Fahey predicting a strong showing from his charge in the extended 10-furlong turf contest.

“Barring problems I’m sure his owners are very keen,” continued Fahey.

“Peter Done and Ged Mason are both very keen and Sir Alex is keen as well, so it looks like they are booking and barring problems I would say they will probably be there.

“We certainly enjoyed Bahrain and anything now is a bonus, but we’re expecting him to run a big race in Saudi.”

Murphy excited to renew Mawj partnership at Meydan

Oisin Murphy is relishing the prospect of being reunited with Mawj when she lines up in the Jebel Hatta at Meydan on Friday.

Globetrotting Murphy has kept himself busy overseas this winter, having most recently plied his trade in Florida.

He will jet into Dubai to link up with the horse that provided him and trainer Saeed bin Suroor with Classic honours last season, before returning to America for the big-money Pegasus World Cup meeting at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.

After outbattling Tahiyra to scoop the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, Mawj missed the height of summer with a setback before travelling to America herself, where she added to her top-level tally at Keeneland before being cruelly denied by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita.

She now returns to the nine-furlong trip over which she won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup in Kentucky last October and bids to maintain her unbeaten Meydan record in this Group One event.

“I’m really looking forward to riding her and she obviously had a great year last year,” said Murphy.

“She has won over a similar distance at Keeneland in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and she seems to be nicely drawn in the middle, so it will be interesting to see how the pace sets up.

“She can take a lead or make the running – she is very happy doing lots of things, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Spirit Dancer gave Richard Fahey and famous co-owner Sir Alex Ferguson a day to remember when striking in Bahrain in November and having flourished over the last 12 months, now tries his hand in Group One company for the first time.

Sir Alex Ferguson is one of Spirit Dancer's owners
Sir Alex Ferguson is one of Spirit Dancer’s owners (Mike Egerton/PA)

“We’ve always liked him and he’s relatively lightly raced, but we’re getting a good go with him now as he’s been a bit of a backward horse who has taken time to mature physically and mentally,” said Fahey.

“We’re not surprised he’s improving, but he will need to improve again now.”

Charlie Appleby has won this race three times in the past eight years and after rattling the crossbar with third-placed Master Of The Seas 12 months ago, he now saddles three seeking to get his hands back on the trophy.

Stable jockey William Buick has elected to partner Al Rashidiya winner Measured Time, with the son of Frankel and half-brother to Breeders’ Cup Turf hero Rebel’s Romance winning four of his five career starts.

Measured Time has won four of his five career starts
Measured Time has won four of his five career starts (John Walton/PA)

“Measured Time was an impressive winner of the Al Rashidiya and has done well physically since,” the Moulton Paddocks handler told the Godolphin website.

“This will obviously be more of a test, with Mawj and San Donato in the field, but he heads into it in great order.”

Measured Time is joined in the race by the reliable Ottoman Fleet and Highland Avenue, who were both behind their stablemate in Meydan’s pre-Christmas Group Two.

Appleby added: “Ottoman Fleet has proved ultra-consistent over this trip and doesn’t know how to run a bad race. He deserves to be in the line-up and I’m sure he will give his usual running.

“Highland Avenue has been competitive at Group level and was unlucky to get stuck wide in the Al Rashidiya. Hopefully he can get a better run around this time, which will help his chances.”

Spirit Dancer primed to test Group One waters for the first time in Dubai

The Sir Alex Ferguson-owned Spirit Dancer will search for further international riches on Friday when he attempts to supplement his Bahrain International Trophy success in Meydan’s Jebel Hatta.

Owned by Ferguson alongside Fred Done and Ged Mason, Spirit Dancer gave the former Manchester United manager one of the best days of his racing life when the £500,000 connections earned through victory in the Persian Gulf eclipsed any single winner’s cheque the Scotsman picked up with the legendary Rock Of Gibraltar.

Trained by Richard Fahey, the son of Frankel – who was bred by Ferguson and Niall McLoughlin – has taken his time to fulfil his potential but is now rapidly climbing through the ranks as he prepares to line up in Group One company for the very first time.

Victory in Bahrain was Spirit Dancer’s fourth from his last five runs and although his owners are not able to make the trip to the UAE to cheer the seven-year-old on, connections are hopeful of tasting more overseas success in his first outing of 2024.

Fahey said: “It’s his first Group One and a tough race, a proper Group One and we’re looking forward to seeing him run. Everything is going well and he’s in great order.

“I’m afraid his owners can’t make it this time which is a big shame because I know they were keen to come, but it’s just fallen on the wrong day sadly.

“Sir Alex is used to winning, but he gets a good kick out of it, so let’s hope he runs well again.

“It was a great day (in Bahrain), a very enjoyable day and it’s always great to be a part of these big international meetings and Dubai is exceptional as well, so we’re looking forward to it.”

The Jebel Hatta – which also features 1000 Guineas heroine Mawj – is the beginning of what could be a busy few months for Spirit Dancer in the Middle East, with a trip to the Saudi Cup meeting next month and a return to Meydan on Dubai World Cup night pencilled in on the gelding’s calendar.

His win in Bahrain secures him an automatic spot into the Neom Turf Cup in Riyadh on February 24, but he also has the option of switching to dirt for the fixture’s main event the $20,000,000 Saudi Cup.

Spirit Dancer winning at York last summer
Spirit Dancer winning at York last summer (Mike Egerton/PA)

“We’re certainly using this as a prep for Saudi and he will maybe just need the run,” continued Fahey.

“He will stay in the Middle East now for a few months and hopefully also get an invite for Dubai World Cup night.

“We haven’t decided yet (which race in Saudi Arabia) and we’re just keeping our options open. It’s very difficult to get away from a $20,000,000 race but the Neom Cup does look the easier race, so we will speak to the team and see what they think.”

Fergie time in Bahrain as Spirit Dancer storms home

Spirit Dancer quickened up impressively to give owner and breeder Sir Alex Ferguson a famous victory in the Bahrain International Trophy.

The former Manchester United manager already had a special place in his affections for the Richard Fahey-trained six-year-old, having sent the unraced dam Queen’s Dream to Frankel.

While he has taken time to reach his full potential, this summer saw him win three in a row, including the Group Three Strensall Stakes at York, which booked his ticket for this contest, worth £500,000 to the winner.

Spirit Dancer was not among the favourites due to the class of the opposition, which included Charlie Appleby’s Grade One winner Nations Pride, Saeed bin Suroor’s 2022 Queen Anne runner-up Real World, Israr for the Gosdens and Aidan O’Brien’s Point Lonsdale.

All the main protagonists had their chance but none had an answer to Spirit Dancer, who when Oisin Orr unleashed him down the outside put the race to bed in a matter of strides.

Ferguson was understandably delighted, telling Racing TV: “That is the best ever, without doubt. Against all the pedigrees and form of all the other horses – that’s fantastic, I couldn’t believe it.

“Richard said to leave it to the jockey, he’ll be all right.

“I was terrified looking at all the other people involved in this race. Godolphin had five horses in it. That was great, I’m so proud.

“I said to the jockey ‘remember, he’s a Frankel’.”

Orr said: “I got a lovely sit the whole race and I always felt I had plenty of horse underneath me. I couldn’t believe how well he quickened in the straight, he’s won well.

“He had good form coming here, maybe he just needed his last run a little but he’s come back to his best today.”

Sir Alex Ferguson is presented with the Bahrain International Trophy
Sir Alex Ferguson is presented with the Bahrain International Trophy (Bahrain Turf Club)

A delighted Fahey said: “This race has been the plan for some time, but to win it is a lovely surprise considering the quality of the opposition.

“Our stay in Bahrain has been brilliant, both Sir Alex (Ferguson) and Ged (Mason) have been incredibly well looked after and we have enjoyed every minute.

“Realistically we didn’t think we would win, but Spirit Dancer and Oisin pulled it out of the fire and in the end he won well.”

Ferguson seeking famous away win with Spirit Dancer

Sir Alex Ferguson may have one of the most decorated footballing CVs around, but he is attempting to break new ground when his horse Spirit Dancer lines up in the Bahrain International Trophy on Friday.

The Group Two event has a $1million prize fund and Ferguson’s candidate, who is trained by Richard Fahey, booked his ticket when picking up York’s Strensall Stakes in the summer.

Spirit Dancer now faces the toughest assignment of his career as he takes on a strong cast that includes Aidan O’Brien’s Point Lonsdale and the Group One-winning Above The Curve among others.

However, despite being known as one of the most fiercest of competitors on the touchline, Ferguson believes he cuts a much more relaxed figure in the paddock before a big race and would relish the chance to get his hands on yet another international sporting trophy with the talented son of Frankel.

Sky Bet Ebor Festival 2023 – Day Four – York Racecourse
Spirit Dancer winning at York (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I think my competitive element was left in football,” he told Racing TV’s Raceday.

“I never question the trainer and I never get upset if the horse loses because its a different sport for me – I can’t tell a horse what to do, but at least I could tell my players what to do. In that respect I’m not a critical judge at all, ever.

“I enjoy being there and if a horse wins of course you are excited, especially in big races.

“Spirit Dancer has given us great joy and I’ve started a stud and he’s the first product of the stud.”

Meanwhile Spirit Dancer’s trainer is optimistic the six-year-old’s calm demeanour will be an asset when dealing with the rigours of international competition.

“The target all season was Bahrain because it’s a million dollar race and a good opportunity in trip, track and everything will suit,” Fahey told Great British Racing.

“He’s a very laid-back horse. When you go on about international runners, you’ve got to pick the right horse and this horse’s mind is great and I’m sure he’ll probably drive the plane back on the way home because he’s just so laid back. There’s no issues with him at all.”

Defending champion Dubai Future is one of two in the race for Saeed bin Suroor, who also saddles Real World.

Real World is one of two in the race for Saeed bin Suroor
Real World is one of two in the race for Saeed bin Suroor (Nigel French/PA)

They are just two of a strong Godolphin challenge which also features Andre Fabre’s Birr Castle and two from Charlie Appleby’s stable, Nations Pride and Highland Avenue.

John and Thady Gosden’s Princess Of Wales’s Stakes winner Israr and Noel Meade’s Layfayette are other familiar names taking part, while Cambridgeshire winner Astro King has been in great form this term and bids to cap a fantastic year for Daniel and Claire Kubler.

Claire Kubler said: “He is going to be our biggest runner outside of Europe which is incredible. It’s very exciting.

“It’s great having Bahrain putting on a race like this to attract international contenders and hopefully Astro King can put his best foot forward and do us proud.”

Spirit proves well up to Strensall level to land hat-trick

Hot favourite Nostrum trailed home last of six runners as Spirit Dancer completed his hat-trick in the Sky Bet And Symphony Group Strensall Stakes at York.

Considered a Classic contender at the start of the year before injury intervened, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Nostrum made a spectacular reappearance at Newmarket in July before finding Epictetus too strong in a Group Three at Goodwood.

Back on a sounder surface, the son of Kingman was widely expected to get back on the winning trail, but the 5-6 shot checked out quickly halfway up the straight and was virtually pulled up by Ryan Moore.

Flight Plan took the field along for much of the nine-furlong contest and a daring move by Danny Tudhope to plough a lone furrow on the far side of the track after turning for home briefly looked like it might pay dividends.

But the 6-1 chance Spirit Dancer, stepping up in class in the colours of part-owner Sir Alex Ferguson following handicap wins at York and Windsor, came home strongest on the opposite side of the track to get up and score by a length from El Drama under Oisin Orr.

“He’s enjoying life and I’m enjoying watching him – he’s done well,” said Fahey.

“I was a little bit worried they wouldn’t go much of a gallop but there was plenty of pace to aim at and we get the trip well so we were keen to head for home soon enough.

“In the back of my mind, before today, I was thinking about the Bahrain Trophy, the million dollar race there in November time. That’s more or less confirmed, we’ll go there if they invite us. I’m sure he’s earned his ticket there.”

Following the race Moore reported to the stewards that his mount never felt comfortable. The vets examined Nostrum post-race and found him to be lame on his left-hind leg.