Football and horse racing aren’t often sports that go hand-in-hand. When a bunch of rowdy footballers turn up at a horse racing festival, you can bet your house on a gaggle of paparazzi being close by, as there’s always a chance of trouble breaking out once the free champagne starts to take effect.
There have, however, been a number of footballers who’ve made the transition into horse racing a successful one.
Mick Channon and Micky Quinn were regulars for teams like Southampton, Portsmouth and Newcastle during the 1970s and ‘80s. Both became horse racing trainers once they hung up their boots. Of the two, Mick Channon has enjoyed the greatest success, saddling 19 Grade One winners around the world on the flat, and aCheltenham Festival
winner in 2018 when Mister Whitaker won the Close Brothers’ Novices’ Chase.
Sir Alex Ferguson has long been involved in the ownership side of horse racing, and currently part-owns several horses trained by former Champion Trainer, Paul Nicholls. Sir Alex’s best horse was certainly Rock Of Gibraltar, who earned well in excess of £1m in prize money, thanks to wins in races like the Dewhurst Stakes, the 2,000 Guineas and the St James’s Palace Stakes.
Some have enjoyed a little more success than others.
Together with Andrew Black, founder of betting exchange Betfair, Michael Owen opened his own Manor House Stables once he hung up his boots. Most of Owen’s horses are trained by Tom Dascombe, and the pair can regularly be pictured together atChester Racecourse
during their popular May Festival.
Black Panther was undoubtedly Owen’s most successful horse, winning the Goodwood Cup and the Irish St Leger. The former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United striker also rode in a charity race at Ascot in 2017, where he finished second on Calder Prince after an inauspicious performance in the saddle.
Barton regularly hit the headlines during his playing days with Manchester City, QPR and Marseille, usually for the wrong reasons. Few will know, however, that during his playing days, Barton regularly entered the winners’ enclosure as a horse racing owner.
The now Fleetwood Town manager owned horses trained by the likes of Jeremy Noseda, Karl Burke and William Muir. Barton’s most prolific flag-bearer was My Propeller, who won four of his 18 starts on the flat, including a couple of Listed races at Ayr and York.
Having seen the success his fellow Liverpudlians had enjoyed in the world of horse racing, Wayne and his wife, Coleen decided to buy into a few horses during the early 2010s. The Rooney’s owned three horses, who were all based at Michael Owen’s Manor House Stables, including the appropriately named Switcharooney.
Sadly, the former England captain didn’t enjoy the best of luck on the track. Switcharooney failed to win in four career starts. Announcement, who Rooney owned with ex-Manchester United teammates Michael Carrick, Jonny Evans and John O’Shea, managed a solitary victory over hurdles at Leicester before his retirement in 2015.
Instead of going it alone, several footballers have bought into successful horse racing ownership syndicates. Former Southampton, Burnley and QPR striker, Charlie Austin helped found the Excel Racing syndicate, and the ownership team have enjoyed plenty of success on the flat.
Excel Racing have watched 13 horses carry their colours to victory. Roger Teal’s High Acclaim accounted for three of those winners, scoring at Doncaster and Windsor during his career. Austin’s best horse was undoubtedly Another Batt, who won at Chester in 2018, before scoring in a lucrative handicap during the Dubai World Cup Carnival the following year.
It’s not just British footballers who have a shared love for horses. Champions League and World Cup winner, Thomas Muller is the managing director of a yard he co-owns with wife, Lisa, who’s a top dressage rider in Germany.
Muller has been lucky enough to name a few horses who were bred at the family stables. One he christened Gameday, as he was foaled on the same afternoon that Muller played for Bayern Munich. Another he named Dave, for reasons best known to the charismatic German.