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Monday, 10 December, 2018

'I'm excited to get the chance to find out what it's like to ride in a race'

The former footballer and owner of Manor House Stables, 37, gets a grilling

Michael Owen with his Royal Ascot and Irish St Leger hero Brown Panther
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What advice would you give your ten-year-old self?
Choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life.

What's your earliest racing memory?
After my football matches on a Saturday morning my dad would stop off on our way home and have a 50p patent on three horses racing that afternoon. I would sit on the sofa with him watching the races and cheering them on.

What's your favourite aspect of the sport?
Racing has changed me over the years. I guess it started off being the betting that I enjoyed, then it went to breeding and training and now I enjoy socialising, so a bit of everything.

What's been your proudest moment in the world of racing so far?
My proudest achievement would be breeding Brown Panther. In terms of a specific moment, I couldn't pick between winning at Royal Ascot, the Irish St Leger and the Dubai Gold Cup as they were all so special.

What has been the best day of racing you've ever attended?
The Melbourne Cup in 2013.

Who has been the greatest influence on your career?
My dad. Both he and Mum created the perfect environment for me to fulfil my dreams. He's my best mate.

What’s the best bet you’ve ever had?
I ran the London Marathon in 2014 with my 20st best mate Jonesy. We had a little wager on who would win and of course I did, so he had to donate £5,000 to my chosen charities. On a serious note, I backed a horse called Mr Macattack and he went from 12-1 into 13-8 favourite for his debut at Wolverhampton nine years ago. That won me a few quid.

If you could play any other sport professionally, which would it be and why?
Being a golfer sounds like a cool job. However, I've always wanted to feel what it's like to ride in a race as a jockey, so I'm excited to be in the Prince’s Countryside Fund charity race on November 24 at Ascot. 

What do you think racing does best?
Despite the prize-money being better in some other countries, we have a racing calendar that is steeped in centuries of tradition, heritage and prestige.

What's the one thing you would change about racing?
There are so many fascinating characters who own horses and it would be good if they got more exposure.  

Which country would you most like to race in that you haven’t yet?
Brown Panther took us all over the world and I'm very fortunate I got to see him in some incredible races in Australia, America and Dubai. I've also been to Sha Tin in Hong Kong, so I suppose the next big place in terms of racing is Japan. 

Brown Panther beats Hillstar in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester

Frankel or Dancing Brave?
Frankel; he has to be the best horse ever seen.  

What’s your biggest ambition in racing?
To develop Manor House Stables into a yard that regularly sends runners to all of the biggest meetings.

And outside of racing?
I've fulfilled my work ambitions earlier in life, so now I'd say I want my four kids to grow up happy and healthy.

What's your worst habit?
My wife tells me that when I've had a few to drink, I end up talking to everybody. It’s a stark contrast to how I was when I was still playing football.

If you could meet one person, past or present, who would it be?
Mike Tyson. At his peak, he was my hero.

What has been your most embarrassing moment?
My best mate Jonesy asked me to be his best man at his wedding. Of course I was delighted and I prepared a brilliant speech and put together a video montage to play alongside it. After about 25 seconds the projector overheated and cut out. I’m not sure my speech made any sense without the video.

What is your most treasured possession?
The Ballon d’Or trophy. It’s only as I've grown older that I realise what an achievement winning that accolade was.

Michael Owen in his footballing days, after scoring for England against Germany

How do you relax away from racing?
Racing is my relaxation.

What's the strangest or funniest thing you've seen on a racecourse?
I don’t think it has happened yet. Tune in and watch me attempt to ride in the Prince’s Countryside Fund charity race.

Who do you most admire from the ‘other’ code?
I certainly don’t admire Tom Dascombe as a National Hunt jockey. I'd have to say Martin Pipe for changing the way National Hunt horses are trained. He flew up recently to visit Manor House Stables – what a man!

What’s your biggest fear?
There aren’t many things I'm scared of but heights is probably my biggest fear.

Do you have a nickname?
In the footballing world I was simply known as MO but I don't have a nickname with friends and family.

Social media – friend or foe?
I would have to say friend but only because I've learned not to read the replies if I ever tweet anything about football.  

Who would be your four ideal dinner party guests?
Tom Dascombe, Ed Sackville, Colin Gorman and Aidan O'Brien.

Brown Panther took us all over the world and I'm very fortunate I got to see him in some incredible races in Australia, America and Dubai

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