Racing: Shinbone knock for Ferguson on his big day

A HUGE crowd at Haydock Park yesterday celebrated football's biggest winners as a horse with a losing sequence of 30 took the big race of the day.

Kosevo ended his long losing run in the Manchester United Players Handicap, centrepiece of Sir Alex Ferguson's testimonial raceday which drew a crowd of 14,643 but failed to break the course record.

The day, though, achieved one of the British Horseracing Board's aims for Sunday racing in attracting new faces to the sport, although the lure was not the mainly moderate horses on show but a chance to see the treble- winning Manchester United team and their trophies.

Ferguson, a long-time racing supporter and more recently a racehorse owner, said: "It's a family day and there are an amazing number of kids here today. They are Manchester United fans here to see their heroes but it brings people to racing."

The only damper on Ferguson's day came when his own horse, Shinbone Alley, lost by half a length to Trouble Mountain in the Done Bookmakers Keep Paying Out On Manchester United Maiden Stakes.

Gary Stevens, narrowly beaten on Siege in Saturday's John Smith's Cup at York, made an immediate impact on his first rides at the Lancashire course as he notched a 102-1 treble on Untold Riches, Ten Kingdoms and Distinctive Dream, deputising for the injured Darragh O'Donohoe on the first two.

The lateness of his call-up did not prevent Stevens from carrying out research on Untold Riches, who had disappointed on her last start at Yarmouth.

"I spoke to John [Gosden, the trainer] this morning and he said to jump out and make the running as she is a bit unwilling with traffic round her," Stevens said. "We jumped out and she was very, very happy. The ground is very, very firm but she loved it. John told me to stay off using the whip as she resents it," he said. "So I just used hands and heels and she responded to it."

He repeated the tactics on Ten Kingdoms in the Ladbroke Handicap, making all for a three-and-a-half-length defeat of Summer Splendour.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Courtney Gym

(Brighton 5.00)

NB: Gaily Mill

(Windsor 8.00)

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<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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