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  Saturday, 4 May, 2002, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Rock wins 2,000 Guineas
Rock of Gibraltar held off the hot favourite Hawk Wing to win the 2,000 Guineas
Rock of Gibraltar proved the pick of Ballydoyle
Sir Alex Ferguson's Rock of Gibraltar held off a scintillating late burst from favourite Hawk Wing to land the 2,000 Guineas, the first Classic of the Flat season.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained Rock of Gibraltar beat his Ballydoyle stablemate Hawk Wing by a short head over the Rowley Mile at Newmarket.

Redback (25-1) was half a length back in third with French challenger Zipping (40-1) fourth.

Rock of Gibraltar hugged the right-hand side of the course as the 22-strong field spilt into three groups early on, with the lowly-drawn Hawk Wing on the left.


This makes up for not being in the FA Cup final at Cardiff
Sir Alex Ferguson

The groups eventually merged into two and Johnny Murtagh produced Rock of Gibraltar with a furlong left to travel.

The pair were immediately under pressure from the flying 6-4 favourite Hawk Wing on the other side of the course.

But the faster ground to the jockeys' right proved the key as Rock of Gibraltar - a duel Group One winner at two - stayed strong to land a 9-1 victory.

"I'm ecstatic. This makes up for not being in the FA Cup final at Cardiff," said Manchester United manager Ferguson, for whom Rock of Gibraltar was his first Classic winner as an owner.

"I didn't know where he was for most of the race. I kept looking from the race to the television and back again but I couldn't see him.

"Then he suddenly appeared and he quickened so well, Johnny gave him a brilliant ride."

O'Brien insisted that the draw probably had a negligible affect on the outcome.

  Sagitta 2,000 Guineas result:
1. Rock of Gibraltar 9-1
2. Hawk Wing 6-4f
3. Redback 25-1

"It's very hard to say whether it made a difference," he said.

"I'd say it was a good horse that beat him (Hawk Wing) rather than a bad draw.

"That's just the way the race panned out. Both ran big races and being realistic, looking at their futures, it was better to have them spread out.

"Both of them thought they'd won at the end."

Rock of Gibraltar was the only horse to beat Hawk Wing in their juvenile year when he edged his rival into second in the Railway Stakes at The Curragh.

Winning jockey Murtagh insisted his mount was finishing the stronger of the two and said: "It's a great day for everyone involved and it's a good result for racing.

Dreaming

"Sir Alex is a big name in the football world and now he's a big name in the racing world.

"Everyone's been sweet on him at Ballydoyle and he's been working well and he's won here well.

"He had a good turn of foot and quickened up well and I think he won cosily in the end.

"I made up my mind to go to the right and I told Aidan and he said to do my own thing, just get him relaxed.

"He is a lovely strong colt, a proper miler, and it has been a pleasure to ride him for Sir Alex. I have been dreaming about it all week."

But Spencer insisted his horse would have benefitted from a lead-out.

"I had no Redback for a lead on my side," he said. "There was nobody to help Frankie on Naheef in front and I got there a lot sooner than I wanted to be."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Cornelius Lysaght
"Gibraltar is the Roy Keane of the racing world"
Links to more Horse Racing stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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