Owner Redknapp left with watching brief as Festival debut falls short
Harry Redknapp has overseen some white-knuckle sporting moments this season on his team's road to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but yesterday the Spurs boss had to be content with the joys of taking part.
Cheltenham is jump racing's equivalent of Europe's elite competition, but in Bygones in Brid, Redknapp's runner in the Champion Bumper, he found himself an also-ran rather than a contender.
A £100,000 purchase on the advice of trainer Alan King, Bygones in Brid was on many shortlists for a fiercely competitive race traditionally dominated by the Irish that, ironically, was the only race won by the hosts yesterday.
England manager in waiting, Redknapp was not among the home-grown owners challenging to prevent an Irish monopoly. Watching through the mist from the grandstand, hands thrust into the pockets of his overcoat and lips pursed in tension as the tape went up -- it soon became clear this was not to be a winning Festival debut.
Bygones of Brid, ridden by King's first-choice Robert Thornton, failed to live with Cheltenham pace and trailed home with just seven of the 24-strong field behind him.
Redknapp has enough experience of racing to strike a phlegmatic note in defeat. "I have had horses for years and always loved racing, but to have a Cheltenham Festival runner is fantastic," he said. "It was hard to see what went wrong but we'll have a word with Choc and Alan and hope everything is okay."
Redknapp's involvement in racing began when he was managing Bournemouth with a horse bought for him by David Elsworth and called Slick Cherry in the club's honour. He has bred three horses that are with Charlie Longsdon, and has a Flat prospect called 'Arry's Orse that he has high hopes for.
Redknapp is continuing a rich tradition of links between football and the turf, and is one of several Premier League managers with jumpers, Alex Ferguson the most prominent among them.
Ferguson is expected to be at Prestbury Park tomorrow to see his gelding What A Friend run in the Gold Cup.
To ensure he has the option of attending, Ferguson has moved his weekly media briefing forward to today, though following his five-match touchline ban he may just be cancelling it 24 hours earlier.
Ferguson's racing interest became serious on and off the track with his share in record-breaker Rock of Gibraltar, and his relationship with John Magnier and the rest of the Coolmore set in a dispute over stud fees and ownership. (© Daily Telegraph, London)