Excitement builds for England ace Owen as race-riding debut nears
A couple of falls have done little to dent former England star Michael Owen's enthusiasm ahead of his race-riding debut at Ascot a fortnight on Friday, when he will participate in a seven-furlong contest in aid of the Prince’s Countryside Fund.
The tumbles occurred at the British Racing School in Newmarket where Owen, now a prominent owner-breeder, went to fine tune his riding technique after learning the ropes at his Manor House Stables operation in Cheshire.
"It was really insightful and, if anything, it has brought me on a lot but also put me back a couple of strides because it was the first time I’ve fallen off a horse – twice!” Owen, 37, said.
He added “It’s made me think that they’re not machines. I’ve been doing some practice back at home and it felt very easy and I thought I would breeze it.
"But there’s been wide-open spaces, horses you don’t know and it’s been very, very different. It’s made me think to myself that I need to do some hard work between now and Ascot. It was a big learning curve.”
Owen, who retired from professional football in 2013, had to undertake the standard fitness test for all jockeys hoping to gain a licence.
The tests included exercises such as the plank and squats, which provided an examination of the core muscles, as well as the 'bleep test' to ensure sufficient levels of cardiovascular fitness.
“It was a tough fitness test – it was obviously specific to what you’re going to be doing so some of it was not what I would have normally done in my career," Owen added.
Regarding his potential mount in the race, Owen said: "I’m in a fortunate position that I have two horses in my stables that are within the right band and age to run in the race: one is a good boy who is quite safe and the other is quite a hard puller, I’m told, who is not so safe but he’s a bit better.
“I’m obviously swayed to the one who gives me the best chance of winning."
So will Owen, whose competitive instincts helped him win the coveted Ballon d'Or as a player and smash goalscoring records, be going all out to win?
"Taking part has never been the game for me, I always want to win," said Owen. "However, this is probably an exception and just getting across the line will be an achievement considering I hadn’t sat on a horse for the first 37 years of my life."
Videos courtesy of the Prince's Countryside Fund
Charity race riders
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Michael Owen Former England footballer
Harry Meade Event rider
Emma Evans Assistant trainer to husband David Evans
Maurice McCarthy Over 20 charity race rides
Tom Chatfeild Roberts Works at Jupiter asset management
Jenna Linwood Works at Ascot racecourse
Mark Richmond-Watson Works at James Hambro & Partners
Louise Daly Master of the Ledbury Hunt
Southerly Roberts Science tutor
Hannah Partridge Works at Mr President creative agency
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