Sir Alex Ferguson getting a kick out of breeding

Sir Alex Ferguson says he is enjoying the extra dimension that becoming a breeder has brought to his involvement in horseracing, as he looked forward to Spirit Dancer contesting the Group 2 Howden Neom Turf Cup at Riyadh on Saturday.

The Richard Fahey-trained seven-year-old is already a seven-time winner, four of those successes coming last year, notably the Group 3 Strensall Stakes at York and Group 2 Bahrain International Trophy in the Middle East in November.

That contest was worth £500,000 to the winner but this Saturday’s race on the Saudi Cup card has nearly double that prize-money for first place, and after finishing a close fourth in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta at Meydan last month, Spirit Dancer – the mount of Oisin Orr – should give the legendary former Manchester United boss a fair shout of further riches.

Ferguson owns Spirit Dancer with Ged Mason and Peter Done, and bred the son of Frankel with Niall McLoughlin out of the Oasis Dream mare Queen’s Dream.

Ferguson was the sole breeder of half-brother Hampden Park, by Sea The Stars and a winner at Ascot in October, and half-sister Florence Street (Iffraaj), a winner at Lingfield.

Queen’s Dream has also produced Philip’s Wish, a son of Maxios bred by Ferguson and McLoughlin, and the Ferguson-bred Road To Wembley, by Postponed and unplaced at Kempton this month.

Explaining his foray into the breeding side of the game, Ferguson said: “It was by accident in a way, I was over in Germany at Andreas Wöhler’s place and he put that idea in my mind. I bought a horse from him, a mare called Queen’s Dream, and a friend of mine suggested this operation down in Hemel Hempstead and I said, ‘Well, we’ll have a go!’

“It’s been great and you have fantastic people looking after your horses. We got a foal last week, by Stradivarius, another great horse.”

Speaking about arguably one of the most famous owners in racing who transcends the sport’s bubble, Fahey said: “To be fair, when I first started training for him I was a little bit humbled. 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.  

“Some of the conversations couldn’t be repeated but they are wonderful! It just makes me laugh and if you want to ask him about things that happened he will give you an honest answer and I think he knows I won’t tell anyone what the answers were!  

“It’s a humbling experience but it’s amazing because even this 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 are comparisons with football and racing."

He added: “I enjoy every time he rings. He rings from a withheld number and as a trainer they aren’t good numbers to reply to so I let them ring through then ring Sir Alex back and ask him if he rang through and nine times out of ten it is him. I do enjoy training for him.  

“The only difference is man management. We can’t talk to the horse. I’m sure Sir Alex has given a few dusting downs in his time and we can’t do that, but you can compare the two sports.”