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Former England forward Owen looking to strike in the saddle

Brightening your day with turf tales from beyond the tracks

Michael Owen: after hanging up his football boots, he's now picking up a saddle
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He's still got some way to go to emulate Olympic cyclist-turned-Cheltenham Festival jockey Victoria Pendleton but Michael Owen is enjoying his early days in the saddle.

The former England striker, who scored the first goal of his career 20 years ago last Saturday, has taken up riding in order to take part in a 7f charity race at Ascot in November.

Though he’s already had one fall, and professes a dislike of cantering downhill, the owner of Manor House Stables is making progress under the watchful eye of trainer Tom Dascombe.

“I’m a total amateur but I’ve got plenty of time to learn,” he says. “I need to do a hell of a lot of practice before the race.

“It gives me even more appreciation of what people do every day, the jockeys on the race track and our staff here. Everything looks easy from the side, football looks easy from the side and then you get on the pitch and you get dizzy looking how fast the ball is. I have tremendous respect for anybody who can control half a ton of animal.”

One challenge will be making the weight of 12st for the race in November, which is run in aid of the Prince’s Countryside Fund.

“I weigh 12st 12lb,” he says. “I was 11st 8lb when I retired from playing so that’s 18lb in four and a half years. But I’m still lighter than the trainer!”

Bob's still got it

Congratulations to Lorna Murphy and Boston Bob, who won the Racehorse to Riding Horse championship at Balmoral Show in County Antrim on Thursday.

It was a first public outing for the Punchestown Gold Cup winner since he retired from racing – and he appears just as adept at his new career. Murphy, a solicitor who rides out for Bob’s former trainer Willie Mullins on weekends having formerly worked for him full time, describes her equine partner as “very easy-going, so quiet – but with plenty of character”.

Lorna Murphy and Boston Bob in action at the Balmoral Show in County Antrim on Thursday

She adds: “I got him a few days before Christmas. This was his first show and he’s been amazing, he just took in the atmosphere and behaved when he had to behave!”

Next on Bob’s agenda: the Royal Dublin Horse Show in August – good luck!

BRS team switch to pedal power

A team of intrepid cyclists from the British Racing School will bid to vist seven courses in seven days to raise money for the Rory MacDonald Memorial Fund.

The riders, including BRS chief executive Grant Harris, will cycle from Musselburgh racecourse to Newmarket via Kelso, Redcar, Beverley, Market Rasen and Fakenham. The challenge starts on Sunday, May 28.

MacDonald, who is widely credited with building the BRS into the world leader it is today, died in 2015.

The team is aiming to raise £50,000 for the fund, which in turn funds training for students. To donate, click here.

Harrington and comedian Bea team up for charity

Leopardstown is turning pink for its hugely popular Saval Beg Stakes card next Friday (May 26) as the Dublin track celebrates women in all walks of life while raising funds for Breast Cancer Ireland.

The new event, which is designed to attract women in business and racing to a day at the races, will be backed by chef Indy Power, comedian Aisling Bea and racing legend Jessica Harrington.

There will be tips for the racing that evening by Johnny Murtagh as well as tips for success from Gráinne Seoige, as well as Harrington, who will be using her achievements on the track to inspire women off it.

She said: “I am delighted to be part of the Leopardstown Ladies Evening, it is really great to be involved with a racing event that inspires all women to achieve success within their lives. Hopefully racegoers can take away some nuggets of inspiration and enjoy what will be a great evening kicking off the summer in style.”

Jessica Harrington: using her achievements on the track to inspire women off it

Speaking about Breast Cancer Ireland, which is a charity Harrington is very familiar with, the trainer added: “You just have to keep going, whatever life throws at you and it is this spirit that Breast Cancer Ireland promote.

“We cannot let cancer beat us. Of course prevention is better than cure and the more people who recognise the warning signs the better, hence the importance of educating people about BCI. I lost my sister-in-law to breast cancer and as a result it is a cause, sadly, close to my heart.”

CEO of Breast Cancer Ireland, Aisling Hurley, said: “One in nine women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime but through ongoing research, education and awareness we aim to transform breast cancer from often being a fatal disease (680 deaths annually) into a treatable long-term illness.

“We are delighted to be involved with Leopardstown’s ladies’ evening and in so doing, further raise awareness of the importance of good breast health.”

Tattersalls Ireland launch 2017 event

The launch of the Tattersalls International Horse Trials & Country Fair took place last week where Camilla Speirs, Ben Hobday and Emma Carmichael were in attendance.

The event takes place from May 31 until June 4 at Fairyhouse, County Meath, where the leading riders of the sport tackle the equestrian triathlon.

Combining world class sport with a country fair, Tatts is renowned as one of the events of the summer.

Roger Casey, managing director of Tattersalls Ireland, said: “To have such a wealth of equestrian sporting talent here in Ireland for the weekend is a huge honour and, combined with the Country Fair, will make it a few days not to be missed.”

This was his first show and he’s been amazing, he just took in the atmosphere and behaved when he had to behave
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