What do the world’s elite footballers have in common aside from great skill and the mental strength to thrive at the top level? Those are vital traits but for every player they lead to two things – vast quantities of disposable cash and a wealth of spare time.
With summer breaks and a host of non-training days, it’s no wonder that many footballers head over to the horse racing track. Some merely gamble while others cross another divide to become involved in the sport itself.
Here are five Manchester United stars, past and present, who have become horse owners…
5. Sir Alex Ferguson
The former United boss is not only one of the most famous owners to have emerged from the footballing world, he’s also one of the most successful. In a busy stable, Fergie’s most notable runner was Rock of Gibraltar which broke horse racing records when it became the first to win seven group one races back in 2002.
It wasn’t all good news for Sir Alex and as his relationship with fellow owner John Magnier broke down, Ferguson launched legal action in a dispute over the horse’s stud rights. Magnier countered and the matter was eventually settled away from the courtroom.
Despite that unhappy incident, Sir Alex maintains his involvement and continues to own several rides.
4. Paul Scholes
Along with Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes is another Old Trafford star to have teamed up with John O’Shea in purchasing horses. The pair had owned runners for a number of years before a breakthrough came at Ascot in 2012 when Diaminda came in at 7/2 in the Helical Bar EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes.
Scholes and O’Shea went on to notch further wins but unfortunately, neither were present when Diaminda gave them that early triumph.
“I think Paul is on a plane to China but John is at the Open golf,” said trainer Alan Jarvis as he collected the trophy on their behalf.
3. David Moyes
The current United boss followed his illustrious predecessor into horse ownership and while he may never match Sir Alex’s achievements as a manager, David Moyes may yet emulate his successes on the track.
Moyes got involved with horse racing while at Everton after being introduced to trainer Graham Bradley through the Toffees’ coach Jimmy Lumsden. Early results were good and after Desert Cry scored a notable win at Sedgefield the Scot explained the reasons for his involvement.
“I wanted a bit of fun, something to take us away from the football now and again so it was a good weekend for me.”
2. Wayne Rooney
At 17, Wayne Rooney was too young to place a bet but by that stage he had already developed an interest in horse racing. While at Everton, the striker purchased two horses but their intended names, Hoof Hearted and Norfolk Enchants were rejected by the jockey club on the basis that they were simply too rude.
In his United days, Rooney went into partnership with wife Colleen and the names began to mature a little. Switcharooney, Pippy and Tomway are all owned by the couple and are trained at former team-mate Michael Owen’s stables.
In addition, Wayne and Colleen have a stake in Yourartisonfire with former United player and current Sunderland defender John O’Shea.
1. Michael Owen
Owen had always held an interest in the horses but when his career became blighted by injury, he suddenly had more time on his hands than most of his colleagues. In fact, as the end drew ever closer, the forward was criticised for spending more time at the track instead of concentrating on getting fit and performing for United and later, Stoke City.
Now, Michael Owen only has a minor role as a BT pundit to occupy him and over the years, he has been behind several successful runners. Currently, he owns five horses and trains over 100 more. Tom Dascombe runs his Manor House Stables which are co-owned by the founder of Betfair – Andrew ‘Bert’ Black.