Horse Racing

Famous footballers who own racehorses from Antoine Griezmann to Michael Owen

The sport of kings has attracted many famous faces from the world of football over the years.

But while some simply love a day out at the races, others have taken their interest a step further and dabbled in ownership.

Michael Owen once said the excitement of racing was the one thing that could match the thrill of scoring a goal. The former England international, often pictured at the races with Love Island daughter Gemma, has been a familiar fixture at the tracks since retiring from the beautiful game.

In 2017, he even got in the saddle himself, finishing an impressive second place in a charity race at Ascot.

And owning horses provided fellow striker Charlie Austin with 'much-needed escapism' from the pressure of playing top-flight football.

With Royal Ascot back on the cards this week, we look at footballers' successes in the sport as well as other horseracing converts.

Sir Alex Ferguson

The ownership of Rock of Gibraltar, the European Horse of the Year in 2002, is undoubtedly Fergie's most famous racing pairing.

The Aiden O'Brien-trained miler was a belter, winning eight Group Ones on the trot in 2001 including both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas.

And his Clan Des Obeaux is a two-time King George winner which also saw success during this year's Aintree Grand National Festival.

Charlie Austin

Former Premier League striker Charlie Austin has owned horses for many years and was kept close to racing while growing up in Hungerford.

He is the co-founder of Excel Racing, a syndicate which has had success with horses on the flat such as High Acclaim and seven-time winner Kyllachy Gala.

Another Batt earned Austin more than £250,000 before he was sold in 2020.

Wayne Rooney

The former Man United and England striker invested £200,000 on racehorses Switcharooney and Pippy, but retired the pair after they managed just a single victory between them in 23 starts.

Switcharooney later ended up at the Racehorse Rescue Centre and required surgery for a nasty condition affecting the hoof in 2017.

Rooney also owned a horse called Announcement which had to go for anger management therapy after it lashed out and broke a trainer's nose.

Ian Wright

The ex-England and former Arsenal forward is part of the ownership syndicate Crowd Racing Partnership which owns Born To Finish.

The son of Dark Angel has won ten times, including a hat-trick of wins on the all-weather in the space of 12 days.

Commenting on his ownership experience, Wright said previously: “It’s my first go at ownership and I’m in the group with people and it’s really nice when you’re with everybody. They’re all so excited about it because we all have a little piece of him. A hat trick of wins was unbelievable.”

  • Michael Owen spotted at the races after daughter made crude horse joke on Love Island

Antoine Griezmann

World Cup-winning Frenchman Antoine Griezmann is another footballer with a real passion for the race track.

Introduced to racing by his father Alain, his venture into ownership was spearheaded by his No 1 runner Natsukashi.

In 2018, his horse Tornibush, trained near Lyon by Philippe Decouz, won four races at Longchamp in 2018.

Meanwhile, Hooking was the winner at Chantilly and Longchamp last year while Start Me Up won at Saint-Cloud in May.

Claudio Pizarro

Peru's Pizarro was signed by Chelsea in 2007 and was soon introduced to the UK's racing scene.

His filly Raymi Coya won the Oh So Sharp Stakes and took the Listed Michael Seely Memorial the following season.

He and Joey Barton co-owned a horse called Crying Lightning – a winner in Dubai and of the Listed Autumn Stakes at Ascot.

Thomas Muller and Alvaro Odriozola also got involved with Pizarro’s racing venture and they co-owned a filly called Thebeautifulgame.

Barton's other notable horses are My Propeller which was a Listed winner in both England and Scotland and She Looks Like Fun.

Michael Owen

The former England striker has his own racing yard called Manor House Stables and recently announced a new partnership with trainer Hugo Palmer after a shock split from Tom Dascombe.

Owen’s best horse was arguably the stayer Brown Panther; bred by Owen, which won the Dubai Gold Cup in 2015 as well as the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2011.

The win left Owen visibly moved – he had been present when Brown Panther was foaled from his mare Treble Heights. He said: “I don’t think anyone, unless you’ve actually done it, can believe the sort of feeling that you get out of it."

Brown Panther also won the Irish St Ledger in 2014 but the thoroughbred sadly had to be put down after suffering a leg injury in the race the following year.

Diego Maradona

Off the pitch, the footballing legend was a horse racing enthusiast.

Introduced as an owner by his friend Hector Del Piano, a leading Argentine owner-breeder, Maradona’s horses carried blue-and-yellow silks – a nod to the Boca Juniors colours.

His highest-profile horse was Diegol which won six races – five at Palermo and the G1 Gran Premio Joaquin V Gonzalez at La Plata in November 1997.

Liverpool stars

Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain enjoyed a fairytale foray into racing after buying a horse from Owen.

Their horse Mr McCann won the British EBF Novice Stakes at Haydock and was also victorious at Epsom. He recently came fourth in the German 2,000 Guineas at Cologne.

The players' former Liverpool teammate Adam Lallana is also involved in the ownership

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