Alex Ferguson and Nick Nurse are just two thoroughbred racing-loving champion sports coaches who would have watched with envy as another member of their exclusive club transformed Flemington into Pagan’s Paddock on Victoria Derby Day.

Yes, the jockeys of several Victoria Derby runners, particularly Billy Egan aboard Cherry Tortoni and Fred Kersley on Hit The Shot, blew their chances of Group One glory because they positioned themselves too far off the lead in a contest conducted at a pedestrian pace. The Victoria Derby competitors completed the first 1,500 metres of a 2,500m race more than five seconds slower than the Hotham Stakes field did on the same track two hours earlier.

But that should not detract from both the story and the achievement of Victoria Derby winner Johnny Get Angry and his novice trainer, Denis Pagan. Johnny Get Angry jumped from the Flemington barriers as a six-start maiden, which cost NZ$50,000 as a yearling. Pagan, who masterminded North Melbourne‘s two Australian Football League Premiership wins in the late 1990s, was saddling only his 12th starter after receiving his provisional licence just four months ago.

Racing Post is Ferguson’s favourite newspaper so, when I was writing most of its football content, I knew when I criticised Manchester United, the man celebrated as the greatest soccer manager of all time was guaranteed to know about it. And on one occasion, Ferguson let me know he knew about it. I did not require the services of a hairdryer that day. Ferguson has owned many champion gallopers but none better than Rock Of Gibraltar, which won 10 of his 13 races in the early 2000s, including seven at the highest level.

Nurse and Canada’s basketball team were impromptu visitors to Belmont in Perth during my time as the Western Australian Turf Club‘s Racing and Wagering Manager. Nurse, who coached Toronto to National Basketball Association Finals success in his first season in the hot seat, wanted his players and staff to take their minds off basketball between training sessions leading into their friendly games versus Australia. So Nurse, a member of the Donegal Racing syndicate that owned Grade One victor Keen Ice, directed the team bus to Belmont to witness Paul Harvey ride a Wednesday double.

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