Spirit Dancer races to victory!
TDT | Manama
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
The fifth running of the Bahrain International Trophy, and the first following the race’s elevation to Group 2 status, produced a memorable result and scenes of jubilation as the six-year-old gelding Spirit Dancer, co-owned and bred by Sir Alex Ferguson, scored a decisive victory to land the winner’s share of the $1million prize fund.
In front of an excited crowd at Rashid Equestrian and Horseracing Club (REHC), Spirit Dancer, ridden by Oisin Orr and trained by Richard Fahey, came clear of his rivals, leaving Israr and Point Lonsdale to fight out the finish for second and third place.
His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, was in attendance and he presented Sir Alex with the Bahrain International Trophy.
Also on hand were His Majesty the King’s humanitarian works and youth affairs representative His Highness Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa; Supreme Council for Youth and Sports first deputy chairman, General Sports Authority president and Bahrain Olympic Committee chief His Highness Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa; REHC High Committee chairman His Highness Shaikh Isa bin Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa; and other high-ranking officials. HH Shaikh Isa commented: “Congratulations to the owners of Spirit Dancer, including Sir Alex Ferguson and Ged Mason, following Spirit Dancer’s victory in the 2023 Bahrain International Trophy.
“It was a thrilling race to watch and in terms of quality it was the best horserace ever staged in the Kingdom. “I am also delighted to say it was witnessed by the largest audience yet in the race’s five-year history, both from the perspective of those present at the club and those watching around the world in the 110 countries where the race was broadcast.
“We are very proud of how the Bahrain International Trophy has grown, and I extend sincere thanks to the international participants who have supported the race and assisted in raising awareness of racing in Bahrain.
“I would also like to thank our commercial partners, Bapco Energies, Beyon, The Bahrain Economic Development Board, and our official timekeeper, Chopard, without whom the progress we have made would not have been possible.
“We are already looking forward to 2024 and the hope that it can match this year’s running.” In what was the strongest renewal in the race’s five-year history, the field included runners from five different countries and included three previous Group 1 winners.
The race was also more valuable than ever following an increase in the prize fund to $1M and the race’s status being upgraded to Group 2 level.
For 81-year-old Sir Alex, who owned and bred Spirit Dancer, and who won so many trophies during his remarkable career in football, it was a special day.
He described it as the best moment of his racing life. Speaking after the race, Sir Alex said: “That is the best moment (of my racing life), no doubt.
“When you looked at the field, I was worried. Godolphin, O’Brien, Fabre they’ve all got horses here. And we are just a wee stable from Yorkshire.
“It was a fantastic performance. He won well. When he hit the front, Ged just jumped on 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 with him. He won well, won easy.” Richard Fahey, trainer of Spirit Dancer, added: “This race has been the plan for some time, but to win it is a lovely surprise considering the quality of the opposition.
“Our stay in Bahrain has been brilliant, both Sir Alex (Ferguson) and Ged (Mason) have been incredibly well looked after and we have enjoyed every minute. Realistically we didn’t think we would win, but Spirit Dancer and Oisin pulled it out of the fire and in the end he won well.”
In second place was Israr, owned by Shadwell Estates and trained in England by John and Thady Gosden, while In third was Point Lonsdale, owned by the Coolmore partners and trained in Ireland by Aidan O’Brien.
HRH the Crown Prince and Prime Minister and HH Shaikh Isa bin Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa cheer on during yesterday’s action at REHC
Spirit Dancer, ridden by Oisin Orr and trained by Richard Fahey, winning the 2023 Bahrain International Trophy from Israr (striped cap) and Point Lonsdale