Englishman out to see if he can crack Australia’s biggest race with Brown Panther.
Former football star Michael Owen played in three World Cups and for some of the greatest club teams but his burning ambition is to own the first English-trained winner of Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup.
Owen, 33, bred and races Brown Panther and opted for early retirement after 17 years of top-level soccer including for England so he could travel to major race meetings around the world.
Brown Panther, trained by Tom Dascombe in Cheshire, is one of nine overseas-trained runners entered for Australia’s iconic horse race over 3,200 metres (two miles) at Flemington.
Five overseas stayers have won the Melbourne Cup — Dunaden and Americain (France), Delta Blues (Japan), Vintage Crop and Media Puzzle (Ireland) — but England has yet to land the big prize in the Aus$6 million ($5.7 million) race.
“England have never had a winner in the Melbourne Cup so obviously it would be a first, it would be a huge honour,” Owen said this week. “But I don’t want to get too carried away.
“I get quite nervous, in particular, when this fellow runs. He’s obviously my best horse.
“I never really suffered with nerves throughout my (football) career. When you’re actually doing something, you feel as though you’re in control of it, but when the jockey and horse trot off down to the gates you’ve got no control whatsoever.”
Owen, the fourth all-time England top scorer with 40 goals in 89 internationals and who played for Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United, tweeted Sunday: “Trying to keep my expectations in check! I suppose the 16-1 bookmakers quote him reflects his chance.”
Brown Panther has the form to give the Cup a shake after his dominant win in the Goodwood Cup over a similar distance in August, beating Godolphin’s Ahzeemah and another Melbourne Cup runner Mount Athos.
Newmarket trainer Luca Cumani is having another crack at the Melbourne Cup with Mount Athos after close seconds with Purple Moon (2007) and Bauer the following year.
Mount Athos was heavily checked on the home turn in last year’s Cup and eventually finished fifth, but that hasn’t put off Cumani for Australia’s famous handicap race.
“I’m an obstinate Italian so-and-so, and here I am, back to try again,” said Cumani of his second favourite behind locally trained Fiorente, who is the clear 5-1 favourite.
Fiorente went down by a length to Green Moon in last year’s Melbourne Cup and was the third runner-up for Gai Waterhouse, who previously trained Te Akau Nick (1993) and Nothin’ Leica Dane in 1995.
Green Moon and Dunaden are bidding to become only the sixth horse to win multiple Melbourne Cups in the race’s 152-year history.
French jockey Christophe Lemaire will be on Verema in one of his last big-race rides for the Aga Khan stable, while Newmarket trainer Ed Dunlop’s much-travelled Red Cadeaux, who lost a head-bobbing finish with Dunaden in 2011, is looking to go one better.
The Goldolphin stable, which has had three runners-up in over 15 years at the Melbourne Cup, is pinning its hopes on Royal Empire.
“There is no problem with the draw, and I am very happy with the horse. He did all his serious work in England and he has just been ticking over here,” trainer Saeed bin Suroor said.
“He stayed one mile, five furlongs in Britain, so I can see him staying two miles in Australia.”
The other members of the European contingent in the race are Dandino, Simenon and Ruscello.