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Liverpool legend Michael Owen eyes Champions Day glory

A STABLE HOBBY: Ex-footballer Michael Owen

WHEN YOU think of Michael Owen, only two sports spring to mind - football and his beloved horse-racing. His penchant for the sport of kings is why it makes perfect sense for him to be an ambassador for British Champions Day, which takes place at Ascot on October 18.

Throughout his career, Owen was known for his interest in horses and now that he has retired from playing, he has been able to give a little bit more time to something that has always given him enjoyment.

Alongside owning Manor House stables, the former England international runs a management company aimed at guiding the careers of young players.

He told the Voice of Sport: “Racing has always been part of my life. Sometimes you get asked to do sponsorships and a lot you turn down because it doesn't feel right. But with my passion for horses, it was a very natural thing to do.

He added: “Champions Day is like a stand alone fixture in the racing calendar, and we're trying to increase that popularity; get some of the best horses there and get a new crowd into racing.”

The former Liverpool striker is not the only football man with a keen eye on the equine world. He laughs while admitting that he twisted Wayne Rooney's arm to get involved and his former Manchester United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, who also has two horses looked after by his Manor House team.

But contrary to popular belief, horse-racing is not just for the wealthy employees of the Premier League. “Most people see it as a wealthy man's sport, but these days you can get involved in any number of partnerships or syndicates, so it has become affordable for a lot more people,” explained the former Liverpool star.

“Champions Day caters for all walks of life. The more you get into it, the more you realise it's for everyone.”
And he's not wrong. On Champions Day, which will feature six high-class races, tickets start at £30 with under-18's getting in free.

Owen, who played 89 times for England, added: “We've demonstrated, it's not just any old race meeting. It's got some of the best equine talent from around the world, and there are lots of things we do to encourage all generations to come.”

As a footballer, the-father-of four faced some of the best defences in the world, but his next competitor trumps all of those as his horse - Brown Panther - is expected to go up against the Queen's filly, Estimate, for the third time next month.

It currently stands at 1-1 but Brown Panther recently had the best result of his career by winning the Palmerston House Estate Irish St Leger on September 14.

Owen said: “We went up against her (Estimate) in the Ascot Gold Cup, although we got our revenge at Goodwood. Hopefully Brown Panther will be hard to beat.

“The Queen has been involved in horses for such a long time and if you own a horse it's inevitable you will come up against her if your horse is competing at that level. It definitely adds to the occasion.”

*Michael Owen is an ambassador for QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on October 18. For tickets www.britishchampionsseries.com

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