Sir Alex Ferguson has arrived in the kingdom with a new goal to pursue as he bids to add Bahrain’s richest racing prize to his trophy haul … much to the joy of British Ambassador Alastair Long, a devoted Manchester United fan.
The legendary former United manager will be attending Friday’s meeting at the Rashid Equestrian & Horseracing Club where he has a runner in the richest ever edition of the Group 2 race - the Bahrain International Trophy.
Last night, he attended a special reception hosted at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay by Shaikh Isa bin Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and the excited Long was also present.
“As a life-long Man Utd fan it was an extraordinary privilege to meet the one and only Sir Alex Ferguson – every bit the gentleman and inspiration you would expect,” the ambassador posted on social media, describing himself as ‘star struck’.
The UK’s Daily Mirror reported that Sir Alex is here to cheer on the Richard Fahey-trained Spirit Dancer, which he owns with friends Fred Done and Ged Mason, as it tackles the international Flat race.
“Sir Alex has always had shares in horses with us throughout my training career,” said Fahey, speaking to Great British Racing International.
“I find him a great man. I’ve had some fantastic conversations with him. He’s a good guy. He’s been up the yard a few times and you can see why he has been ahead of his sport for years because he has a great manner, is a proper gentleman and a proper leader.
“He has been extremely patient with this horse. When he arrived you can imagine he was quite backward and Sir Alex can understand, from footballers, that sometimes they need time to mature, and this fella was one of them.”
Spirit Dancer, a son of super sire Frankel who was also bred by Ferguson, won three times over the summer, recording his biggest win in the Group 3 Strensall Stakes at York in August.
“We kept him for the John Smith’s Cup feeling he was well handicapped, which he probably was, but he got the coffin draw in 21 which is nearly impossible to win from,” said Fahey. “He still ran a solid race and has come good since.
“I gave him a little bit of a break after the Strensall and used Newmarket as a prep for Bahrain as he had had four runs in a month.
“The target all season was Bahrain because it’s a million dollar race and everything will suit him.”
He added: “Bahrain is an up and coming racing nation. We were third in this race when it was half a million dollars, now it’s a million dollars.
“It will be a great trip for him.”