Ferguson red-faced after Ruby rejection

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The Independent Online

Ruby Walsh laughed when it was put to him that he had just become the racing world's equivalent of Alan Shearer after he had turned down Sir Alex Ferguson to join forces with a main rival. But then, he would have considered the analogy and said "to hell with that". Shearer happened to miss out on a treble because of his decision to snub Fergie for Newcastle; Walsh was in the process of doing exactly the reverse.

Cooldine was the second leg of the Irishman's three-timer on an afternoon when he renamed the old song, "Ruby Wednesday". Walsh said it had been a "very difficult decision" to opt for the favourite over the second favourite, Ferguson's What A Friend. "But it proved to be the right decision," he said. "I can tell you, I had a bit of banter with Sir Alex on the phone when I made the call."

It is fair to doubt that Sir Alex would have been in the mood for "a slagging" – as Walsh so eloquently put it – after the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old romped up the hill and Sir Alex flopped in his sofa like Ronaldo in a penalty box as his own horse laboured up the run-in like a four-legged Kevin Keegan. The Manchester United manager could not attend the Festival yesterday due to some prior obligation he had at Old Trafford last night. But he was there in spirit; as well as there in a persistent ring-tone.

His co-owner's ear looked as red as a devil when his mobile went off. "Yeah, he's been on the phone a few times," said the Manchester businessman Ged Mason, as his mobile continued to buzz. The venue was the Cheltenham parade ring, it was five minutes to off in the 2.40 and Sir Alex evidently had some last-minute instructions for his jockey. But as Mason handed Sam Thomas the phone, he simply waved his hand and strode towards his mount. "They don't allow me to use mobiles when I'm riding," said Thomas, citing a Jockey Club rule. Oh what his fellow Welshman Ryan Giggs, would have given for that excuse just before 3pm over the years.

As Thomas leapt on the Paul Nicholls-trained bay, a certain Bryan Robson was chuckling to the press corps. They all assumed he was there as Sir Alex's representative. "Not me," announced Fergie's former captain. "I don't want the hairdryer treatment when it loses. I'm just here as a friend of Ged's and of course, of the boss.

"Sure, United have a big game tonight and this is probably a good way of taking his mind off it. But to relax? No way. Watching your horse running at Cheltenham is the easiest way to get agitated."

They were to prove prophetic words as Ruby dug another gem from the dirt and Sir Alex was left to dream about next year. Certainly, there were plenty of excuses to fuel any optimism. Nicholls revealed that the six-year-old had a "dirty nose" when he awoke yesterday and Mason concluded "he's only young – there'll be other days".

Sir Alex would have liked that. After all, you win nothing with kids. Not in this game.