Best known for his 89 England caps and that goal vs. Argentina, Michael Owen is a household name to anyone with a passing interest in football. But could a change in career be in the cards? Perhaps so, as on Friday, the 24th of November of this year, Owen will take to the saddle to ride in The Prince’s Countryside Fund Charity Race.
After founding Manor House Stables in 2006, it was clear that Owen was taking this horse racing business seriously. And it’s a well-known fact in footballing circles that Owen’s affinity for racehorses and the sport of racing has become more than just a hobby since his retirement in 2013. But none could have guessed that he would make the leap from racehorse owner to jockey.
Incredibly, although he has an obvious passion for horses, Owen only rode for the first time this year. That’s right — the man who has owned scores of horses had never been in the saddle. According to Owen himself, this was more due to the fact that he was too busy with football rather than any lack of desire to get into the saddle (whereas, we think he was just scared). But, either way, the fact that he is a complete novice adds even more interest to a race that is already attracting the attention of both the mainstream media and race lovers alike.
Owen’s training is being overseen by Manor House Stables’ resident trainer Tom Dascombe, who feels that this race is an enormous challenge for anyone, let alone a former footballer who has never raced or even ridden a horse before.
Of course, this year’s Royal Ascot Gold Cup, which will be the venue where favorite Order of St George will defend his title, will be too early for Michael. But, who knows? If he turns out to be as talented in the saddle as he was on the pitch, we just might see him on one of his own horses at next year’s meet.
I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who will hope Owen’s first attempt at Ascot will be a successful one. But rather than from a feeling of goodwill towards the former striker, this sentiment will be inspired more from the hope that a good race will encourage the one-time European Footballer of the Year to hang up his commentary headphones and give the punditry a rest.
To say he’s not a popular pundit would be a gross understatement. His tedious over-analysis of the most mundane aspects of the game and his habit of dropping inaccurate facts into his commentary make him an easy target for his detractors. But the fact is that here is a former professional footballer (and a darn fine one, at his peak) who has set an incredibly difficult goal for himself, and all in the name of charity.
The charity in question is The Prince’s Countryside Fund, which helps farmers around the UK and sponsors programmes and projects that also help protect the countryside from over-development. It’s a good cause and obviously one that Owen, as a horse trainer, would have a particular interest in.
So, while we’re not fans of his commentary, we still hope that he rides a good race and at least places. If he sees it through and does well enough, we could be talking about “Owen the jockey” in a few years’ time. As long as it’s better than Owen, the commentator, then we’re 100% behind it.