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Horse Racing

How football greats including Ferguson, Owen and Channon have made millions in their second careers with racehorses

FOOTBALL greats have a made a killing in another sport since turning their back on the Beautiful Game.

Alex Ferguson, Michael Owen and Mick Channon are just a few to have landed on their feet in the Sport of Kings.

Fergie has the golden touch when it comes to top racehorses

Whether it’s training a top talent, winning big at Aintree or even racing at Ascot, footballers have found their skills go from the pitch to the racetrack with ease.

And perhaps no one has shown that better – or more famously – than Fergie.

Just last month the Manchester United icon netted £169,000 as one of the co-owners of three winning horses at the Grand National Festival.

And that same month his stable star, Clan Des Obeaux, saw off the best in Ireland to win the prestigious Punchestown Gold Cup.

Victory there brought in just under £127,000 and, coupled with the horse’s earlier Aintree win, saw the Paul Nicholls-trained runner net a tidy £211,728 profit from just two runs.

Fergie, 79, is a regular at racetracks and loves nothing more than seeing his runners in the flesh, while counting the cash from his winnings.

It’s difficult to know exactly how much he has won due to his various shares in various horses with various owners.

But it’s pretty much certainly in the seven figures, with Rock Of Gibraltar netting just under £1.3million alone.

Of course, it hasn’t all been smooth.

His disagreement with former United shareholders over legendary racehorse Rock Of Gibraltar ultimately led to the Glazers taking control of the Old Trafford club.

But for all of Fergie’s success, he never went into the training game.

That’s where former England striker Channon comes in.

The 72-year-old has enjoyed a remarkable second career as a horse trainer since hanging up his boots.

Southampton’s record goalscorer, who netted 21 times in 46 England appearances, was famed for his windmill celebration.

Fans saw it enough times during his 22-year career, which included spells at Manchester City, Newcastle and Norwich.

He scored 236 times in all and was part of the Saints side that delivered one of the biggest FA Cup upsets ever when they stunned Manchester United 1-0 at Wembley in 1976.

But always lingering in the background was a passion for horses.

It never escaped. Mick would ask commentators for the results at half-time.

He bought his first horse for £440 in 1973 and watched her win three races.

That horse, Cathy Jane, lit a flame and her son, Man On The Run, was co-owned by Mick and Kevin Keegan.

Although Keegan didn’t have the golden touch like Mick did, the pair enjoyed days out at the track together.

Channon in his pomp playing for England

The Southampton legend has become a top class racehorse trainer

Mick recalled: “I got him along to the races. Our horse came stone last, so we got drunk on champagne.”

By the early 2000s Channon was one of the top trainers in England.

At one point he had enjoyed more winners than the late Sir Henry Cecil and John Gosden – whose horse Mishriff won the world’s richest race earlier this year.

By the time he was established at West Ilsley stables near Newbury – once owned by The Queen – he had nearly 200 horses under his watch.

In 2002 he saddled 123 winners. The prize money was racking up and up and up.

Then came Youmzain.

Bought for £33k, he went onto win almost £4m, finishing runner up three times in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe from 2007 to 2009 and twice second best in the the King George Stakes at Ascot.

The horse cemented straight-talking Channon’s position as one of the best trainers in the business.

And he provided joy during an awful time in 2008 when Mick was involved in a car crash that tragically took the life of his friend Tim Corby.

The footballer-turned-trainer achieved a lifelong goal when he won a Classic race with Samitar in the Irish 1000 Guineas in 2012.

But that was not to be the end of it all.

Mick remains as busy as ever now, with more than £2.6m won from his horses in the past five seasons alone.

Another Three Lions hero with success on the track is ex-Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle and Man Utd hero Owen.

Owen actually has experience riding a horse in a race

The England hero looked the part as a jockey

And, unlike the others here, he actually knows what it’s like in the saddle.

Owen, who owns Manor House Stables, finished second on his riding debut at Ascot in November 2017.

The racing fanatic rode Calder Prince over the Prince’s Countryside Trust seven-furlong Flat race and said afterwards: “I’m home in one piece and had the time of my life.”

Quinn in his heyday for Coventry

More recently he was celebrating a win for his horse Ever Given – named after the giant cargo ship that blocked the Suez Canal earlier this year.

Owen set up Manor House before retiring from football fully and has seen trainer Tom Dascombe use it as a base for great success.

Speaking of trainers, ex-Coventry and Newcastle ace Mick Quinn packed in football – and the gambling and fighting – to muck out in stables.

Famed for being the last opposition player to score a hat-trick against Arsenal at Highbury, Quinn now takes on the billionaires who run the Flat racing world.

And he has been in decent form this season, rattling off three quickfire winners earlier this month.

One of his star horses is Inver Park, owned by Purplebricks founder Kenny Bruce.

You’ll find Quinn at the racecourse these days rather than the football pitch

Racing is a world away from the rough and tumble of footie, including the 22-man brawl Quinn was a part of that police had to be called to stop when Portsmouth played Wimbledon in March 1986.

Speaking of that Pompey side, Quinn said: “You had to have a criminal record to play in our team – I got three weeks’ jail when I was caught driving already disqualified – but we could play.

“We were fighting every day in training but, on the pitch, we had each other’s backs.”

Quinn earned £1,500 a week at his peak but left football penniless owing to gambling, drinking and relationship problems.

Racing and training from his Newmarket base has been a way to rebuild his life and those three winners in 11 days earlier this month netted a tidy £11,772.

Quinn relished beating the big boys on the pitch.

He has another fight on his hands against rich rival owners.

But one thing all four of these former footballers have in common is a successful second career in horse racing.

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