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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Bolstered by two chicken burgers, Owen eyes another go at race-riding

Michael Owen riding Calder Prince (left) finishes second behind Golden Wedding (Tom Chatfield-Roberts) at Ascot
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He went to bed bolstered by two chicken burgers and woke with two sore thighs but either side of a well-earned sleep there was a sense of elation that could now spur Michael Owen into extending his race-riding career.

This was a mission that garnered much media attention and raised a five-figure sum for Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Prostate Cancer UK, Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and The Prince's Countryside Fund.

It ended at Ascot on Friday with Owen, who first sat on a horse only five months ago and dropped 20lb in 21 days, finishing an excellent second aboard Calder Prince.

"The kids wanted to go to KFC on the way home, so I ended up having two chicken fillet burgers – that was nice," said Owen, who more than deserved the Colonel's calorie-packed treat.

"To lose 20lb was blooming hard," he said. "Even so, it's almost the pain and hardness of it that makes it so brilliant. It felt such a good thing to do. I came away even more in love with horses than I was before.

"It might sound strange but I also felt even more in love with people.

"I could have raised £1 million for charity as a footballer but someone would always see bad in it. With this, there was an overwhelming sense of goodwill. I can't find the words for it. The racing industry is absolutely amazing. It's one of the reasons I've become attached to the sport.

"I've scored goals in the World Cup quarter-final and FA Cup final but I've never had so many well-wishers. I must have had about 150 text messages. I didn't even know I had 150 names in my phone! I had 200 WhatsApps and direct messages on Twitter. I spent about three hours last night just replying to everyone."

The kind words Owen received were all merited. The stylish 37-year-old did remarkably well but, like a proper pundit, was quick to critique his own performance in a race won by Tom Chatfeild-Roberts – who has point-to-pointed for the last six seasons and ridden more than 20 winners – and in which whips could be carried but used only in extreme circumstances.

"You get so apprehensive as to what it's going to be like," he said. "It dawned on me only when we circling at the start that this was going to be the real thing. I had a bit of gulp and told myself I couldn't back out now.

"I do have stiffness in my thighs but I'm not walking with a limp. However, I've watched the race back and through the final furlong I looked like a non-trier!

"I literally couldn't push any more. Two furlongs out I could see the winner pulling away from me. That forced me to push sooner than I'd intended, which meant I had nothing left in the last half-furlong.

"I didn't want to carry on pushing and fall off, so decided it was best just to keep the horse balanced. The advice I got was it's counterproductive to start rocking around in the saddle if you can't do it properly and that you're better off letting the horse do the work.

"That's what I tried to do, but it did look like I was a non-trier. It was a right buzz, though."

Michael Owen after finishing second on his riding debut at Ascot

Such a buzz that Owen is now minded to do it all over again.

"I loved every minute of it," he said. "Before the race I reckoned I was 70 per cent to do it only once. Now after the race I'm 70 per cent to do it again.

"If I'd finished last I'd probably have thought, sod that. If I'd won I'd have thought, sod that, as well. I can't go out after finishing second, though. I'll probably have to carry on until I win."


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Before the race I reckoned I was 70 per cent to only do it once. Now after the race I'm 70 per cent to do it again

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