Top flight footballers have two things in common: Money and lots of spare time. With nothing to do in their days off and a large wad of cash in their back pockets, it’s no wonder that many head to the race course in an attempt to spend both commodities.
Most players like a flutter and many have indulged their passion further by progressing from punter to race horse owner.
Here are 5 Liverpool players who made that transition.
5. Terry McDermott
McDermott joined Liverpool from Newcastle United in 1974 and went on to win ten major honours in his eight years at the club. Along with his club team mate Kevin Keegan, the midfielder developed a love of horse racing and over the years he has owned a number of high profile runners.
His best known, and certainly most successful horse was the Jonjo O’Neill trained Intersky Falcon which earned McDermott 12 wins in a 36 race career stretching from February 2001 until July 2006. A hurdler, Intersky Falcon never won at Cheltenham but enjoyed a host of other successes including the Swinton Handicap Hurdle and the John James McManus Memorial Hurdle.
4. Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman
When the Anfield duo combined to enter the horse racing world, you could be forgiven for thinking that they weren’t taking it all that seriously. Among their early runners were ‘Some Horse’ and ‘Another Horse’ with McManaman confessing that it made him laugh whenever the commentators mentioned their names.
In the years that followed, those names became more serious as did the success. The Macca and Growler partnership as it was called, produced Samon and Seebald – the latter giving them their biggest success when it won the 2003 Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Celebration Chase.
3. Dominic Matteo
Like many before him, former Liverpool and Scotland defender Matteo was one of those unfortunate players whose hobby turned into an addiction. Frustrated by injury and a dwindling career, he confessed in his autobiography ‘In My Defence’ that he blew around £1m trackside, with one unsuccessful bet costing him a cool £100k.
While at Leeds, the player also went into horse ownership with Blackburn team-mate Garry Flitcroft but their career was no more successful than Matteo’s own gambling pursuits.
2. Kevin Keegan
It’s rumoured that Keegan’s first pair of football boots were funded by a particularly lucrative win on the horses. His father made a purchase that would lead to a glittering career with England, Liverpool, Hamburg, Southampton and Newcastle.
In his younger days he had made a living by washing cars at a stable, near to his family home in Doncaster. With horse racing in the family blood, it’s no surprise that Keegan junior became involved in the sport alongside a number of outside interests that included a brief but truly unforgettable singing career.
Football led Keegan to cross paths with Mick Channon and the two formed a potent partnership for England and later on at Southampton. Their mutual love of racing saw Keegan as owner and Channon as trainer and years after washing the cars of those attending horse sales, Kevin was owning his own stables in Hampshire.
1. Michael Owen
There can be few players more devoted to the sport of horse racing than Michael Owen and that dedication has led to many years of success on the turf. Currently, the former Liverpool and England striker owns five horses and trains over a hundred more at Manor House Stables which is managed by Tom Dascombe and co-owned by the Betfair founder Andrew ‘Bert’ Black.
Towards the end of his playing career, injuries meant that Owen had more time on his hands than most of his contemporaries and that led to criticism that he was wasting his energy on the track rather than the football pitch. Now, with only the occasional pundit’s slot to occupy him, Michael is free to indulge his passion.