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Joy for Sir Alex Ferguson as he collects the Bahrain Trophy with fellow owner Ged Mason alongside trainer Richard Fahey and jockey Oisin Orr. Credit: Bahrain Turf Club

Exclusive interview with Sir Alex Ferguson: My late wife Cathy would have gone mad if she knew I spent £650,000 on two horses last week

  • Legendary former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had “my best ever moment in racing” when Spirit Dancer landed the Bahrain International Trophy last week

  • Sir Alex has 32 racehorses in training and also a stud operation in Hemel Hempstead – which bred Spirit Dancer

  • Ferguson says his late wife Cathy would have gone mad if she knew he had spent £650,000 on two horses last week

  • Sir Alex was speaking exclusively to Gambling Zone. Where used, please credit: “In an interview courtesy of Gambling Zone and link to

My late wife Cathy would have gone mad if she knew how much I was spending on horses

Last week we bought two horses, one from Ireland – a pointer – and one from France. John Hales is the man who has all the contacts. We depend on John and we’ve bought some very good horses on his recommendation.

They don’t come cheap now. We paid £450,000 for the French horse and £200,000 for the Irish horse. That’s £650,000 and I had to write quite a large cheque.  One of my sons said, ‘What are you doing?’

My late wife would have gone mad at me if she was alive if she knew the amount of money involved!! I must say at the time when I started it was a big release for me.

I never give instructions to trainers or jockeys. I never interfere with a trainer. I would never let anybody interfere when I was a manager so why should I interfere with people who know better in racing.

I have 32 horses in all now – though one of my stars is injured and won’t run until next year

I have 32 in all. I have six with Highclere. Most are National Hunt and a lot are with Paul Nicholls. And with Dan Skelton.

I have got a few on the Flat. Spirit Dancer is one with Richard Hughes and two with Andrew Balding. He’s very good. One is called Hampden Park who won by ten lengths at Ascot first time out in October. He’s injured now and won’t run until the spring.

Building a team was my main strength as a manager – Paul Nicholls’ yard is just like that

Yes. You have times when the team is great, when the yard is great. Paul Nicholls talks about that when you have your ups and downs. Sports goes in cycles – he had the glory years with Denman, Kauto Star and Big Buck’s. I think his yard will soon be back in the big time.

Building a team was my main strength when I became a manager.  It is about leadership. I did it three times. Managers of clubs like Manchester United keep their job through what their team does on the field. Most managers concentrate purely on the first team.

I didn’t do that. I built the club through youth.

Some staff at Man Utd suggested I get something else to do during a break and we went racing at Cheltenham – then I bought my first horse

It all began when I was a child and my father loved the horses. That’s the root of it. He would study Timeform and place his bets.

I backed a few horses when I was younger and went to the races at Ayr and Hamilton. Then I gave it a miss until I went to Aberdeen. Then at Manchester United there was a period when I was working too hard. My wife said, ‘You are going to kill yourself.’

Some staff suggested I get something else to do. There was a break in the season around March time, which is the month when Cathy and I were married. So I said, ‘Do you fancy going to the races?

She asked me where that idea had come from and I told her she was always on to me to do something else. We went to Cheltenham where we met Dessie Scahill and John Mulhern and they became good friends. We were driving into London on the way back and I said,’ Do you fancy buying a horse? I bought my first horse with Jack Berry.

It was a release valve to start with. Then it became more serious! It is a passion now. I have made quite a big investment in National Hunt.

I am especially proud of Spirit Dancer’s win in Bahrain because he was my first foal

I didn’t think we had a great draw. It depended though on how he got out of the gate.  He was 25-1, the outsider. Godolphin had five horses. That’s greed!!

He is a homebred. I have had my stud in Hemel Hempsted for six years. He was my first foal by Frankel out of a mare I bought called Queen’s Dream.  I am especially proud because he was my first foal.

It was a new adventure for me to get into breeding to be honest. I bought the mare from Andreas Wohler in Germany, she’s at Hemel Hempstead, it’s a good family. The first foal was a Frankel and that’s why we were in Bahrain. We’ve had other horses who have done well but Frankel has been fantastic.

A friend of mine got me the cover from Frankel. I decided to put him with Richard Fahey in Malton. It is easier for me to get to see him there in Yorkshire.

Trainer Richard Fahey has been patient with Spirit Dancer but he has got better each year

I watched the Yorkshire trainers. I had a horse with Mark Johnstone who was very good,  Tim Easterby and Kevin Ryan.

I thought I’d give Richard Fahey a try. I went to his yard and was impressed and he has done so well with the horse. He has been very patient because the horse has had a couple of niggling injuries at the start. As a two year old he only ran once.

As a three year old he had a couple of problems at the end of the season so we put him away. Each year he has gotten better.

This was no doubt the best ever moment for me in racing

That is the best no doubt, the best ever moment in racing for me. 100 yards out he looked like he was going to win but I didn’t want to count my chickens. I was just praying and he carried me over the line. The last thing I said to the jockey (Oisin Orr) was , ‘Remember he is a Frankel.'”

And he showed all the heart of a Frankel. Richard said to me that the trophy for the race looked like the FA Cup which he said I was used to picking up.

In five years time, Bahrain will be matching Dubai in terms of the racing

It was my second time there. In 1986 we were invited by the Crown Prince who is now the King. We played a select team. It has changed a lot since! The potential here is enormous.

 You can see that in five years Bahrain will be matching Dubai in terms of the racing. I really think so. They have plenty of land for a start to build things and the money they have gives them the chance to do things.

I loved the hospitality there. I signed a lot of things and had my picture taken but it only takes a second. You shouldn’t ignore people, particularly kids. You have to show patience for this kind of thing which I think I always have done.