23 February 2024

Fahey making the most of Fergie time with Spirit Dancer

23 February 2024

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.

“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.

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.

“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.

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

“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.”

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