Racing's Secret Squad

12/10/2015 1:30 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Alan Crowhurst via Getty Images
DUBLIN, IRELAND - SEPTEMBER 12: Joseph O'Brien riding Gleneagles (L) gallop after racing at Leopardstown racecourse on September 12, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

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Spring Racing is a time in Australia where almost everyone - from the hardcore punter, to the once a year flutterer - takes at least a passing interest in what's happening trackside. But beyond the Cup Day excitement, many of us dream of going on step further and standing in the winner's circle as a proud owner. And we're not the only ones who dream of a Melbourne Cup win or taking out the first at Warwick on a Thursday. A secret club of racing enthusiasts exists, but they're much better known for their prowess in other sporting leagues than around the track.

And it's not just here. Last month saw England's most famous sportsperson turned racehorse owner open up about the sadness he felt as his horse Brown Panther passed away after breaking its hind leg. Former Liverpool legend Michael Owen called the passing of his horse the "saddest day of my life".

For Owen, who had been present at the birth of Brown Panther, a great deal of that sadness was derived from the fact the horse had provided him with such great pleasure in its seven years. He talked excitedly of taking Brown Panther to Royal Ascot and how he was in "fantasyland". Moreover, owning a racehorse had taken him further around the globe than he had been as a footballer.

Interestingly though the highlight of Owen's travels was coming to Australia for the Melbourne Cup. His horse may have only finished eighth but it was the sheer spectacle of the occasion that grabbed Owen. Amazed by the Melbourne Cup Parade through Melbourne a few days before the race, he remarked the size of it was "something not even Anfield or Wembley could offer."

Closer to home there are numerous Australian sports stars who like to dabble in horseracing and their interest goes well beyond the punt. Blues coach Laurie Daley has a share in Pop 'N' Scotch, which recently ran second in the Queensland Cup. He has also teamed up with Daryl Brohman and Ricky Stuart in recent years and been a keen investor at the Gold Coast Magic Millions sales.

Premiership-winning Cowboys coach Paul Green is another sporting identity with a passion for racing. After winning the NRL grand final in an extra-time thriller, Green had to put celebrations on hold to watch his horse, Bassett, run in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas on Saturday.

"Winning the NRL premiership was one of the biggest highs of my entire life, but the thrill of watching our horse line up in a Group 1 went pretty close. Unfortunately he didn't get the result we're after, but the buzz of being part of the big occasion is hard to top."

Australian cricket captain Steve Smith is also a keen racehorse owner and he has a share in four horses. Three are trained by leading trainer Chris Waller and the other with old school trainer Les Bridge.

Smith calls it his "hobby" and loves a day out at the races away, but well away from the VIP areas. He's more likely to be found in the general admission area completely relaxed, with maybe a quiet schooner nearby.

Other stars with more than a passing interest include Ricky Ponting and Mark Waugh who own shares in the same horse, Sir Alex Ferguson, whose latest horse is called Hairdryer, a reference to his reputation as Manchester United's feared manager, and Aussie cricket legends Mark Waugh, Aaron Finch, Darren Lehmann, Shaun and Mitchell Marsh, Greg Blewett, Ryan Harris and Glenn Maxwell who part own a horse cheekily named Never Out.

While most of us couldn't afford to foot a Melbourne Cup winner's weekly hay bill, it's nice to know that some of our sporting heroes are living the equestrian dream - even if it is just in their spare time.

If owning a horse isn't for you, you can still experience the thrill of backing a Spring Carnival winner with UBET. Download the UBET app or find your nearest location now.

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