Liverpool legend Michael Owen's new goal is a Derby winner for the current Kop stars

Former England striker's stables are training an outstanding hope for the showpiece race and he's just as thrilled as he was during his playing highlights

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Liverpool may be challenging for an unprecedented four trophies this season, but on top of that they might also have a Derby winner in their ranks.

A syndicate of six players led by James Milner owns a three-year-old colt called Mr McCann who was bought last year on their behalf by Michael Owen, the former Anfield and England star. Owen, a racing fanatic, runs a top class stables in Cheshire.

The horse is named after Matt McCann - the club’s head of press and a good friend of manager Jurgen Klopp.

He won three times as a two-year-old including a race which provides a possible fast track entry into the Epsom classic. He cost £65,000 and could soon be worth millions. It seems everything at Anfield could be about to turn to gold.

His next run is in the Dee Stakes at Chester on Thursday, a trial for the world’s most famous race on June 4. If he does well then he will be off to the Derby.

As Owen says, it is an astonishing and scarcely believable turn of events and above all an incredible story.

“I have tried to explain that it is not usually that easy!" he said.

“To have your first horse win three times as a two year old and be rated 102 and be entered in the Derby is a lifetime experience for some people.

“Some people can have 50 horses and not enjoy such success. It’s been unbelievable and I hope it will encourage them to get involved in the sport even more.

“To have the first horse they’ve had scale such heights already is a great start. We are really excited about them being involved and also the horse that they have got because he has been a superstar for us so far."

Besides Milner, the fortunate Anfield aces who have a stake in the horse are Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The sixth member is Adam Lallana, who has since moved to Brighton.

They took the plunge after a horse called Mrs Milner won a race at the Cheltenham Festival last March. Milner tweeted about her success, which was picked up by Owen on social media.

“James and I got talking and quite quickly it became evident the lads would love the idea of owning a horse,” Owen continued. “By the next day he told me there were six of them interested and there we were off to the sales to buy them a horse. Mr McCann is the result.”

Owen has a lifelong passion for racing. At the height of his fame as a player at the age of 24, he bought Manor House Stables and slowly but surely has turned it into one of the best in the country.

Last month he made a huge statement of intent by appointing Hugo Palmer as his trainer at the yard. The ambitious pair are set on challenging for racing’s top honours in the manner Owen did as a player when he scored 40 goals for England in 89 international appearances.

Palmer ran a successful operation in Newmarket, the home of British horse racing, for a decade. He trained classic winners Covert Love, who took the Irish Oaks in 2015 and Galileo Gold, who landed the 2,000 Guineas in 2016.

He and Owen had become good friends through racing and when the former decided he wanted a fresh start for his stables, turned to Palmer at the start of the year.

The latter took some persuading to up sticks and head to the north-west but at the third time of asking agreed to combine the best of his yard and that of Owen’s. They now have 150 horses in training. Owen describes Palmer’s appointment as a huge coup.

“Michael and I had had endless hours of conversation,” Palmer said. “I said no twice! But it is such a fantastic facility. Michael is every bit as ambitious if not more so than me. It is so appealing and attractive to work alongside somebody who shared the same vision. This place is already on the map but we want to make it the biggest thing on the map.

“We want to move it onwards and upwards and really take it places. We have a live chance Dubawi Legend in the 2000 Guineas on Saturday and we have a Derby entry with Mr McGann.

“We want to be competing at the top level. Of course we will continue to do things for all budgets but just because a horse doesn’t cost millions doesn’t mean we can’t go to the top level. Galileo Gold was £25,000, Covert Love was £30,000, these are group one winners from the sales who have gone on to the top level.

“There are trainers all around Britain who have proven that you don’t need to be based in Newmarket to perform at a very high level.“

Owen, now 42, can scarcely contain his excitement at the moment. “The whole place is buzzing. I’ve never been so up for it. I’m getting in early every morning and I’m loving it.”

'One of the best teams'

Next week is a momentous one for Liverpool. On Tuesday there’s the second semi-final leg of the Champions League tie with Villarreal in Spain where they travel with a 2-0 lead, then on Saturday they face Spurs in their quest for the Premier League title.

Liverpool’s involvement on so many fronts means the syndicate won’t be able to get to Chester to see their horse run. But Owen will definitely be hot-footing it back from Spain on Tuesday night, where he is a pundit for BT Sport in time for the three day Festival at his local track.

His admiration for his old club holds no bounds. “This team has got to be one of the best teams we have ever seen; certainly that I have ever seen. Liverpool have had some great teams in the past but this team possibly tops the lot.

“The only thing they need to do now is convert that ability into more and more trophies and then they will go down as one of the greatest of all time.

“They are Premier League winners and they are Champions League winners in recent years and it's likely they will add to that tally this season. They are an extraordinary team to go and watch – they and Manchester City are head and shoulders above any team in the world at the moment in my opinion.

“These things go in cycles and lots of Liverpool fans weren’t born when they had other great teams in the 70s and 80s. It’s wonderful for a new generation of fans to see such a superb team. And you have got to make the most of these great times. Because sooner or later Manchester United will be coming back or Chelsea or Arsenal and maybe even Newcastle! So everyone has their turn and at the moment it is Liverpool’s turn and they are certainly making the most of it.”

It was his father Terry who nurtured his love of racing. “I have always loved the game. I used to play football on a Saturday as a 10, 11, 12-year-old and on the way home with dad we would pull up in front of a shop, and he would walk into the bookmakers and if I had scored a goal or two he might give me a pound to buy some sweets or chocolate next door. When I was 18, I owned my first horse. And I have been hit with the bug ever since. But there is nothing that has catapulted us into the limelight as much as Hugo joining us.

“I am really excited about what we have got to look forward to over the next 10 years or so. I am so excited for what the future holds. That is all I have ever dreamed of really.”

And he and Mr McCann will be hoping that dreams do come true and sooner rather than later.

Updated: May 01, 2022, 10:19 PM