Football Takes Cheltenham Festival

10.3.2022.   9:22

Ahead of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, Inside Sport takes a look at some of football’s famous faces and their involvement in horse racing. From Grade 1 winners to unhappy partnerships, horse racing is a popular choice for many household stars outside of their football careers. Read on to find out the biggest names that have crossed over into horse racing, and who has their eye on next week's Cheltenham festival…

Sir Alex Ferguson

Ex-Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson is well known for his successes on the football pitch, yet the former manager has also seen success within the racing world. If the thrill of 27 major honours while in the hot seat of Manchester United wasn’t enough, Sir Alex’s visit to the 2021 Grand National Festival at Aintree saw a winning treble of three owned horses in a sensational 62-1 winner.

Racing Success

Of his previous horses, perhaps the highest profile horse that Sir Alex has been involved in has been Rock of Gibraltar - which is at the centre of one of the biggest football-related racing scandals to date.

Back in 2001, Sir Alex was reportedly gifted a 50% stake in racehorse Rock of Gibraltar by the then-Manchester United shareholder John Magnier. Sir Alex believed he was due the same 50% in stud fees for the horse, and when Rock of Gibraltar went on to win seven Grade 1 races and was valued at a staggering ?200 million, a bitter legal dispute began.

This saw the relationship between Ferguson and Magnier crumble and cause issues within Manchester United itself. Problems would arise within the football club as the breakdown in relationship spilled over into club matters, such as criticism of transfers and how the club was run. Sir Alex would later accept a settlement of ?2.5 million, leaving him relatively red faced after the ordeal.

More recently, Sir Alex Ferguson’s successes have been much less controversial. Straight out of the blocks at the start of the Randox Grand National Festival in 2021, Sir Alex Ferguson’s owned horses kicked off the festival with three straight wins. Protektorat (17-2), Monmiral (10-11) and Clan Des Obeaux (5-2) totalled an incredible ?169,000 62-1 treble, to which Ferguson himself described as “the best day I've had in my time in racing”.

Ferguson continued, “it’s different to when I was managing my football teams - I was in control of what was going to happen on the pitch, but I’m not in control of that (races) as the trainer does all of that and as an owner you hope it goes well.”

Across his horses, Sir Alex Ferguson see’s two of racing's finest trainers in Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton, who make up his racing portfolio.

Trainer Paul Nicholls Total Earnings - ?12,615,322
Trainer Dan Skelton Total Earnings - ?9,025,439

Cheltenham 2022

As next week’s Cheltenham Festival is set to kick off, Sir Alex has two legs of last year's Aintree treble in action over the week - most notably with Protektorat’s entry in the week’s marquee race the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

? Protektorat - Friday 18th March - 15:30 - Cheltenham Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1)

? Monmiral - Tuesday 15th March - 15:30 - Cheltenham Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1)

Monmiral and Protektorat to repeat their 2021 Aintree heroics at Cheltenham? A ?10 double will get you ?50 in Free Bets when you bet with bet365.

Michael Owen

Alongside Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker-turned-football-pundit Michael Owen also boasts impressive racing involvement. Owen has invested vast amounts of money into his Cheshire-based Manor House stables where he helps to train over 100 horses with trainer Tom Dascombe.

Racing Successes

Perhaps Owen’s most successful horse is found in 2011 Royal Ascot King George V Stakes winner Brown Panther. The British racehorse was described by Owen as a part of the family given the horse's roots in Owen’s stables. Brown Panther went on to make eight notable wins, including the Irish St Leger and the Dubai Gold Cup. Owen was also famously given the day off by Sir Alex Ferguson on the day of a Manchester United fixture in order to go and watch Black Panther at the Irish St. Leger.

Brown Panther would unfortunately be fatally injured in the Irish St. Leger in 2015, a day in which Michael Owen would describe as “the saddest day of my life”.

Since training out of Michael Owen’s Manor House Stables, site trainer Tom Dascombe has amassed total earnings of ?3.4 million from races across 245 wins.

Tom Dascombe Total Earnings - ?3,487,908

Mick Channon

Former professional footballer and 1976 FA Cup winner with Southampton, Mick Channon is nowadays heavily associated with the world of Horse Racing. However, the successful racehorse trainer also boasts a professional football career with an impressive 250 goals across over 750 professional games, representing England 46 times within that.

Previous Successes

Though Mick Channon is yet to produce a winner in one of the British Classic races, he has an impressive 19 Grade 1 wins to his name over a long racing career since his retirement from football. Most notably in 2012, Samitar won the Irish 1,000 Guineas, while he has also seen multiple successes in Britain with Piccolo in the mid 90’s. Although no winners so far, Mister Whitaker and Hold The Note have previously been seen over previous Cheltenham festivals with a handful of 3rd and 4th place finishes.

Mick Channon Total Earnings - ?2,680,884

Cheltenham 2022

Despite a 12th place finish in last year's Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup, Glen Forsa looks set to be entered into two events come next week's Cheltenham festival. As the festival gets underway on Tuesday, Forsa is one to look out for in the Ultima Handicap Chase at 14:50.

Alongside this, the 10 year old Irish racehorse is also named for Thursdays Plate Handicap Chase. A ?10 bet with bet365 on Glen Forsa receives ?50 in Free Bets.

Footballs Failed Ventures

Among some of football’s names who’ve not managed to achieve the same levels of success include former Manchester United and England striker Wayne Rooney, who co-owns a number of horses with his wife Colleen. Although one horse, Switcharooney, was trained at Michael Owen’s Manor House stables, any sense of success seems a distant pipe dream and his once touted switch from football to horse racing has swiftly been ended.

One of the more unusual and surprising partnerships in horse racing is Joey Barton’s co-ownership of race horses with Claudio Pizarro. Barton also invested in a number of horses, however, he was also involved in betting related issues off the football pitch and any talk of horse racing has quietly died off.

Do you have the horse racing nouse of Sir Alex and Michael Owen, or is your racing knowledge as good as Joey Barton’s French? Test your tips and with a ?10 bet with bet365 you’ll receive ?50 in Free Bets.


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