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Different turf wars beckon for Fergie

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Sir Alex Ferguson with his horse 'Forgotten Hero' at Lingfield racecourse.

Paris – Alex Ferguson's replacement in the Manchester United hotseat shouldn't have to worry about finding the Scot mistakenly sitting in the dugout on match day – his varied interests outside the sport should keep him fully occupied.

As befits a knight of the realm – Ferguson was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999 – he will be able to spend time on the racecourse watching his other favourite sport, racing.

Ironically, because of the announcement of his retirement, he was forced to cancel a day at Chester races with his players on Wednesday, so as to avoid the course being invaded by the press pack and missed his Butterfly Queen finishing second.

He will also be able to cultivate his other great love of vintage wine.

Many a manager, Rafael Benitez apart, who only shared one such convivial experience with him, has commented on the quality of wine that the 71-year-old would produce from his own cellar after a match.

Those two passions – not to mention his love of playing the piano – may seem to jar with his working class background and strong Socialist beliefs, formed from his experiences when he worked in the Glasgow shipbuilding yard at Govan on the River Clyde.

But racing has been a passion for many years, a love passed on by his father Alexander, a shipbuilding plater.

Indeed he has managed to keep his enthusiasm burning despite the sour manner in which his friendship ended with Irish racing giants John Magnier and JP McManus over champion racehorse Rock of Gibraltar.

However, he is an avowed admirer of Magnier's retained trainer Aidan O'Brien as he told AFP after Rock of Gibraltar won the Group One Prix Moulin at Longchamp in September 2002.

“When I go round Aidan's stables and I see him addressing every member of staff by name it takes me back to the time when I was in charge of Aberdeen. It's the same sort of tight knit operation,” he said.

Ferguson, who has an interest in around 20 racehorses both on the flat and over the jumps including the useful Epsom Derby hope Telescope, also found his fame did not make him a target for over-zealous racegoers.

“One of the reasons I like racing is that, largely, people leave me alone,” he said.

“And when they do talk to me, it is likely to be about what is going to win the 3.30 rather than football.”

Ged Mason – who co-owns several National Hunt horses with him and guided by leading trainer Paul Nicholls – says Ferguson's knowledge of racing is impressive.

“His knowledge of racing is better than mine but we discuss all aspects of each horse, when they are running, who'll ride and it's a three-way conversation usually with Paul,” Mason told the Daily Telegraph in April.

“If we have a winner we'll have a good glass of wine to celebrate and we've made a pact that when we have big winners we donate part of the winnings to charity as we are both in it for the fun.” – Sapa-AFP


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