THE springboard to Brown Panther’s historic success in the prestigious Goodwood Cup for owner-breeder Michael Owen – the newly-retired footballer – came six weeks ago at Pontefract.
The imposing manner of the five-year-old’s second successive victory in the valuable totepool Pontefract Castle Stakes over a mile-and-a-half suggested that the 2011 St Leger runner-up had the potential to step back up in trip for the second time in a career that has been slow to fulfil its rich early promise.
It paid off as Owen, the former Liverpool, Manchester United and England striker, celebrated the biggest win of his burgeoning racing career when his horse of a lifetime galloped clear by three-and-a-half lengths in this two-mile test, part of the Qipco British Champions Series, and prompt talk of a tilt at the Melbourne Cup this November.
“There is a lot of heritage in this race and it’s a fabulous race to win,” said Owen who was overcome with emotion as he embraced the victorious trainer Tom Dascombe in the winner’s enclosure.
“He’s full of stamina. We didn’t want it to be a dawdle and hence we were up there in the box seat, just in case there was no pace.
“The leader all the way No Heretic did us a favour and gave us a nice lead. He’s galloped all the way to the line. It’s a great training performance from Tom Dascombe and a great ride by Richard Kingscote.”
This was a rare foray to Glorious Goodwood for Owen – the meeting normally coincides with the increasingly arduous pre-season football tours to the southern hemisphere that he endured during his career’s latter stages.
“With football you always feel you’re in some sort of control. You and your team-mates are in control, but this racing game is so tough on the nerves – you’re powerless,” added Owen who bred Brown Panther and built the Cheshire stables where Dascombe trains.
“You send your jockey out to ride and you hope your trainer has got him spot-on. I was a little bit excited.
“We thought about the Melbourne Cup last year and we were thinking about it again this year, prior to this race.
“As long as he didn’t bomb out today we were thinking Irish St Leger and then Melbourne Cup, so, on that performance, I don’t see why we should change our mind.”
As for the winning jockey, the success was vindication for Kingscote’s persistence – and diplomacy – after he was controversially ‘jocked off’ Brown Panther in the 2011 St Leger when Owen and Dascombe opted to book the more experienced Kieren Fallon. Kingscote kept his own counsel and sought to prove his bosses wrong. The tactic worked.
“He was stepping up to two miles and I was really confident he’d love the track,” he said.
“I was delighted after the first couple of furlongs, just to get a lead off Jamie Spencer on Mount Athos. It’s brilliant. This is what it’s about and it’s great for everyone in the yard.”
After a typically rough-and-tumble handicap, Franny Norton paid tribute to the battling qualities of his mount Broughton whose Gordon’s Handicap victory was a second Goodwood success this week for in-form Middleham trainer Mark Johnston.
“I love this horse,” said Norton. “He’s come a long way in quite a short time.
“You can’t underestimate Mr Johnston’s horses – they can flop one week and go and win their next three starts.”
The good run of Skipton-born trainer William Haggas continued when his promising Saayerr returned to winning ways in the Audi Richmond Stakes; he’s now a 33-1 prospect for next season’s 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Haggas’s wife Maureen, daughter of Flat legend Lester Piggott, said: “He stayed on very well and William has always really loved him. Six furlongs is his trip but where he will go next is William’s department.”
Meanwhile, the Yorkshire Oaks is the likely target for Lady Jane Cecil’s Wild Coco looked in a different league to her rivals when successful in the Blackrock Fillies’ Stakes for the second successive year.
It was another poignant victory for the trainer after the recent death of her husband Sir Henry, who simply adored Wild Coco, a horse that was returning to the track after a 322-day lay-off.
Majestic Moon’s seven furlong win under Paul Hanagan was another boost to Malton trainer Richard Fahey after Garswood’s comeback success on Tuesday.