Sir Alex Ferguson's joy as Spirit Dancer lands mammoth payday in Saudi Arabia

Sir Alex Ferguson lifts another trophy
Jockey Oisin Orr and co-owners Peter Done, Sir Alex Ferguson and Ged Mason celebrate their stunning victory - Debbie Burt

Sir Alex Ferguson landed his biggest-ever winner as Spirit Dancer won the Howdens Neom Turf Cup to scoop a prize just shy of £1million in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

It is usually called an across-the-card double when you have a winner at two different meetings but Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager who won everything in football, had an across-the-world double when Spirit Dancer and Kaid du Berlais won 4,000 miles apart at Riyadh and Kempton respectively.

The white-faced Spirit Dancer, trained by Richard Fahey and ridden by Oisin Orr, swept down the outside to beat Killer Ability by a comfortable length to add to the £500,000 he won in Bahrain in November. He may have won a Classic and countless prestigious Group Ones with Rock of Gibraltar but it was 82-year-old Ferguson’s biggest winner in monetary terms.

Ferguson was in Saudi Arabia with co-owners Ged Mason and Peter Done to cheer Spirit Dancer, a horse he also bred, back into the winners’ enclosure.

“It’s fantastic, a friend of mine encouraged me to have a stud in Hemel Hempstead, we bought a mare from Andreas Wohler in Germany and you can see the results today,” Ferguson said.

“Richard [Fahey] said he would have a chance but you can never be too confident in a race like this.

“He’s a Frankel, they’ll go up mountains for you. We are living the dream, one hundred per cent.”

The Coral Adonis Juvenile Hurdle is usually a fairly reliable Triumph Hurdle guide but when it became a duel from the second last between the half length winner Kalif Du Berlaid and Gimme Five it also became a contest between their respective high profile part-owners Ferguson and golfer Graeme McDowell.

Ferguson is a regular racegoer and well-used to winners. But being on hand to watch his own horse was a whole new experience for McDowell, who dropped in on his way between Florida and the Middle East to see Gimme Five, a horse which had already won twice for him and fellow golfer Brooks Koepka, finish a game second the first time he had seen him in the flesh.

“Harry [Derham] has made it an unbelievably cool experience,” said McDowell. “I never met Four Of A Kind [his first horse] and this was my first time meeting Gimme Five but we keep in touch. He sends video updates every week, it’s been such a fun experience.

“Brooks has enjoyed it. He watched it and he was texting straight after. He’s disappointed but we loved the effort. They think very highly of Kalif Du Berlais and for ‘Five’ to hang tough like that was amazing. I thought he had it!

Spirit Dancer at the finishing post
Spirit Dancer wins by a length - Steven Cargill/

“I couldn’t have asked for anything more. If he had popped his head in front, that would have been dream stuff. It was a lot of fun. I was walking out from the stables with Harry and I said to him: “This is kind of cool doing what you have to do” – you see them grow into athletes.

“Gimme Five isn’t the biggest horse in the world but they love his work ethic and he’s got an amazing attitude. They call him a little dude in the yard. Ah, I’m gutted but Sir Alex is one of my heroes and I’m happy to let him have that. He’s got a hell of a horse, too.”

McDowell, who won the US Open in 2010 and sunk the winning putt in a Ryder Cup, added: “Brooks wants a stable full of the things! He wants to know if Gimme Five will run in the Kentucky Derby this year! No, I’m joking, but we have a WhatsApp group about the horse and it’s lighting up all the time.

“I think Brooks was wondering what I was dragging him into. He’d just won his fifth Major last year, we had spoken about it and I told him we had a horse he needed to get involved in. What an experience. There’s nothing quite like coming to see all this in the flesh. It’s a bit of a drug. I can see why people love it so much, My heart was racing harder than it has raced in a long time.”

Neither horse is Cheltenham bound after Saturday’s hard race but Ferguson - who shares Kalif Du Berlais with Ged Mason, Fred Done and John Hales - has a fantastic future chasing prospect on his hands. He has already enjoyed great victories over jumps with two-time King George winner Clan des Obeaux but this four-year-old will likely go chasing next season and is definitely one to watch.

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