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Butterfly off target for Fergie

Alex Ferguson was narrowly denied a poignant victory at Chester racecourse on the day the legendary manager announced his retirement.

The football world was rocked yesterday morning when it was confirmed the Scot, 71, would stand down as Manchester United boss at the end of the season, having recently guided the club to their 13th Premier League title under his leadership.

Butterfly McQueen very nearly put the seal on a dramatic day when the Andrew Balding- trained three-year-old, whom Ferguson partly owns, finished an honourable second in the Boodles Diamond Maiden Stakes.

The daughter of Curlin had shown up well when narrowly beaten into second on her racecourse debut at Haydock last October and was a 9/1 shot on her return to action.



Breaking from a wide draw, Butterfly McQueen was smartly away and soon up with the pace in the hands of David Probert.

Although she looked like striking gold at the top of the home straight, Probert's mount was all the time being stalked by the John Gosden-trained Space Ship.

The 5/1 shot eventually asserted full control under William Buick, taking victory by two-and-a-quarter lengths.

Although Ferguson was rumoured to be in attendance at Chester, Balding said: "I spoke to him and he said he wasn't coming – he didn't want to turn it into a circus.

"He did tell me he'd be watching the race, I assume from home."