Sir Alex still paying the price for Rock of Gibraltar bust-up

Henry Deedes
Sunday 18 September 2011 21:14

Sir Alex Ferguson has seen off his rival Jose Mourinho and his team are riding high in the Premiership. But still the memory of his racehorse, Rock of Gilbraltar, keeps coming back to haunt him.

Back in 2003, the Manchester United manager, you may recall, became locked in a bitter dispute back with the co-owner of the legendary horse, Irish racing tycoon (and at the time a Manchester United shareholder) John Magnier. Ferguson believed he owned half of the horse's lucrative breeding rights but Magnier did not agree.

The row was finally settled when Magnier offered Ferguson the opportunity of four stud nominations a year for the rest of the horse's life.

However, Fergie declined and opted instead for a one-off payout of £2.5m.

As each month passes, that decision looks increasingly ill-advised. On Monday, a filly sired by 'Rocky' was sold in Ireland for more than £600,000. Experts point out, with those sort of staggering fees, the proud Scot could potentially have pocketed about £2m a year for next decade or so.

Says Martin Hannan, the author of the book Rock Of Gibraltar: "I've said it before and I'll say it again – Sir Alex made totally the wrong decision.

"This horse is now getting silly money for its stud fees. If Sir Alex had taken the nominations, he would almost certainly have recouped that £2.5m in just a few years.

"And the horse could have another ten years in him after that, so he may have missed out on millions."

Brand risks writing off his literary ambitions

Russell Brand has snubbed the leather-elbowed bookworms at the Cheltenham Literary Festival.

The libidinous comedian is supposed to be the star guest at this weekend's gathering, where he is due to discuss his forthcoming autobiography, provisionally entitled My Bookywook.

But being a man with a tale or two to tell (he's a reformed junkie once fired from MTV after dressing up as Osama bin Laden the day after 9/11), Brand is yet to complete the book and announced yesterday he was pulling out.

"Writing his memoirs is taking longer than expected so Russell is going to be locked away with his manuscript for a couple of weeks," explained a spokesman.

"He is really sorry he will not be joining Cheltenham this year."

If Brand is going to hit his deadline, he'll need to pull his (skin-tight) trousers up, so to speak, as it's slated for a 15 November release date.

Hadley knows what's true

The Spandau Ballet crooner Tony Hadley made the trip to the Tory conference this week, and he was talking tough on crime.

"The fabric of society is torn. I walked through Blackpool and there were gangs walking the backstreets and 16-year-old pregnant women everywhere," he told Pandora.

"What we need is Cameron to be like Thatcher, to say enough is enough, things have gone too far.

"Five-year mandatory sentences for carrying a knife and 10 years for carrying a gun. We'll build however many prisons we need."

Worryingly, we can expect more of this firebrand stuff from Hadley in years to come. He's said to be in the hunt for a Tory seat.

A quiet word

Iain Duncan Smith's rousing speech to Tory delegates in Blackpool on Tuesday was one of the highlights of this week's party conference.

It was a far cry from the last time the former Tory leader spoke at the seaside resort, back in 2003, when he cringe-makingly announced: "The quiet man is here to stay."

A former colleague tells Pandora he was dispatched soon after that speech to, in his words, "listen in on delegates' conversations and find out what the party was really saying about him".

Of course, it wasn't long before Duncan Smith got his answer – he was ousted from the leadership less than a month later.

Tales of (another) 3am Girl

Former 3am Girl Polly Graham is the latest journalist to pen a memoir on the highs and lows of being a showbiz hack.

It's slightly a case of two books coming along at once, as her former colleague Jessica Callan has already cashed in on the subject during the summer. "This one has different twist to it though, it's more to do with Polly's search to find a husband," says a friend, "but obviously it will be told against a glamorous backdrop of her life as a showbiz reporter."

Either way, there should be plenty for publishers to get their teeth into. It was Graham's disclosure that Naomi Campbell was attending Narcotics Anonymous that led to the supermodel's entertaining courtroom showdown with the Mirror's then editor Piers Morgan.


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