England legend Owen raring to go for race-riding debut at Ascot
Game day has finally arrived for Michael Owen as the former England football star has his first ride in public at Ascot on Friday in the Prince's Countryside Fund Charity Race.
Despite having ridden a horse only for the first time this year, Owen has faced the challenge head on, not least as he has needed to shed nearly 2st to make the weight on his ride Calder Prince, who tackles ten rivals in the 7f contest (12.15) before the start of the six-race jumps meeting.
There has been no La Manga-style training camp to fine-tune the skills required for his new discipline, just plenty of hard yards at his Manor House Stables establishment in Cheshire, run by trainer Tom Dascombe.
"He's come a long way in a short space of time, having gone from never having ridden a horse to riding at one of the best venues in the world," said Dascombe on Thursday.
"It's been a lot of fun and hard work. It's quite exciting for him and I'm sure he'll be very nervous."
Owen, who has been picking up tips from jockeys Richard Kingscote and Hayley Turner, said: "It's been a big learning curve. I'm riding a horse who gives me the best chance of winning and this was never just about taking part. Having said that, on this occasion I realise crossing the line will be an achievement."
Owen is not the only leading owner to take part as his opponents include Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, who will be bidding to go one better after finishing second in the race last year.
Also among those lining up are international eventer Harry Meade, who has an equestrian success at Ascot on his CV, and Jenna Linwood, who works as racing assistant at the course.
This will be the third Prince's Countryside Fund raceday at Ascot, with the total amount raised for the charity, which in turn supports British farmers and the countryside, expected to surpass £1 million.
The Prince of Wales, who founded the fund in 2010, will be in attendance and will take part in the trophy presentations.
Nick Smith, director of racing and communications at Ascot, said: "Michael Owen's participation has helped shine a light on the work that the Prince's Countryside Fund does in securing a sustainable future for farming families and our rural communities across the UK.
"The racing industry plays an active role in the countryside as a major employer in rural areas, with many racecourses acting as community hubs.
"Racecourses based in urban areas play an invaluable part too, of course, showcasing a sport with roots in the countryside to a non-rural audience, many of whom encounter horses only on the racecourse itself."
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