Wednesday 29 March 2017

The battle for the Rock of Gibraltar

John Magnier's elaborate plan to make up for a snobbish slur on his mate Alex Ferguson would lead to an epic battle for a £50m horse. Liam Collins tells the story of the showdown between a sporting legend and some of Ireland's richest men, a battle which changed the face of sport

'I have been given the
privilege of teaming up
with them. Nobody could be
blessed with better friends' —
Alex Ferguson with, from left,
John and Susan Magnier
in 2001 before their bitter
feud broke out over a horse
'I have been given the privilege of teaming up with them. Nobody could be blessed with better friends' — Alex Ferguson with, from left, John and Susan Magnier in 2001 before their bitter feud broke out over a horse
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

As his battle for an iconic 19th league title goes down to the wire, it is hard to believe that 10 years ago the most famous manager in British football was fighting for survival at Manchester United after a bitter feud with one of Ireland's richest men threatened to end his career at the club.

As the well-heeled guests made their way into the Gimcrack Dinner at York racecourse on a frosty night of December 12, 1999, few could have anticipated that one of the high points of racing's social calendar would ignite a row that would pit the football manager Sir Alex Ferguson against his one-time friend, the multi-millionaire owner of the Coolmore racing empire, John Magnier.

Racing tradition dictates that the owner of the horse that wins the famous Gimcrack Stakes at York addresses the annual dinner of the same name. As Mull of Kintyre had won the race in his dark blue colours that year, it fell to the stallion master of Coolmore, John Magnier, to give the speech.

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