One thing Michael Owen already has in common with his new boss is a love of the Turf, but it seems he is also prepared to borrow something of Sir Alex Ferguson's flair in the transfer market. The new Manchester United striker, dissatisfied with the progress of a multimillion pound investment in racing, wants to recruit one of the most highly regarded young trainers on the scene in Tom Dascombe.
Owen established a lavish racing stable in Cheshire in March 2007, and hired Nicky Vaughan, formerly an assistant to John Gosden, as trainer. They had been introduced by the former England footballer, David Platt, who is married to Vaughan's sister. But results have been poor this season, and Owen did not allow sentiment to stand in his way earlier this week when Vaughan was told that his contract was being terminated.
Dascombe is at the top of Owen's list of potential replacements. From a standing start, he has quickly put himself on the map. After saddling a dozen winners in his first year with a licence, 2006, he improved his score to 26 and then 42 last year, including Group Two juvenile prizes on consecutive days at the Newmarket July Festival – with horses he had bought as yearlings for just €19,000 (£16,3000 and 5,000 guineas respectively). The stable has already sent out 39 winners this term. Plainly a racing education under Martin Pipe, Ralph Beckett and Mike De Kock had not been wasted.
Dascombe must now make a judgement whether linking up with Owen will accelerate his journey up the ladder. His base in Lambourn gives him little scope for expansion, but he wants to consult the patrons who have sustained his career to date. Perhaps significantly, these include Andrew Black, the co-founder of Betfair, who also has horses in training with Vaughan at Manor House Stables.
Owen would welcome more outside clients, as Vaughan has struggled to give the project momentum. Vaughan himself has described his dismissal as "out of the blue", and says that the horses in his care have been struggling with a virus. He has saddled just five winners in 2009.
As things stand, there has been little evidence of the latent stimulus available to the business through Owen's own involvement. But if Dascombe were to bring success to the yard, then there would be potential for Manor House Stables to become one of the more glamorous places to have a horse in training.
Ferguson, meanwhile, will be hoping Last Three Minutes, one of the horses in which he has a share, can escape the bad luck in running he experienced in each of his last two starts when he runs at Ascot this afternoon.
Cape proves capable
Last year, the Tyros Stakes was contested by just four runners but two of them, Rip Van Winkle and Cuis Ghaire, subsequently confirmed themselves among the most talented of their generation. Last night, despite another small field at Leopardstown, there could be no mistaking the sense that the winner, Cape Blanco, will likewise be plying his trade at the highest level before long.
The Galileo colt surged clear of his four pursuers in the soft ground. At one stage Perfect Symmetry closed to half a length, but Cape Blanco simply gathered his stride approaching the last of the seven furlongs and coasted over the line.
Quite how far this stamina will take Cape Blanco is hard to say, his dam being a half-sister to the top-class sprinter, Paris House. A similar mix produced Rip Van Winkle, but Cape Blanco has the relentless look of their sire. In the continued absence of Steinbeck, he looks the most plausible Classic type produced from Ballydoyle this summer, and was conspicuously well backed beforehand.
Later Casual Conquest proved unable to defy a Group One penalty in the Meld Stakes. He looked likely to win when leading in the straight but was worn down inside the last by She's Our Mark, with Lord Admiral intruding late for second. Dermot Weld had warned that he would need the run after a break and will be entitled to view this performance, under 10st, as a perfectly adequate foundation for the colt's Arc preparations.
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Credit Swap (5.35 Ascot) Lightly raced for his present yard and improved for the step up to a mile at Newbury last month. A 4lb higher mark looks perfectly fair, and the same claiming jockey keeps the ride.
Jiggalong (3.05 Thirsk) A filly dropped to a selling handicap would normally discourage interest, but her modest rating allows few options, and she has shown enough in sprints to suggest she can do better stepped up to a distance in keeping with her pedigree.
One to watch
Cape Melody (Hugh Morrison) Caught the eye going sweetly at Ffos Las on Tuesday but could not recover the head start granted a well handicapped rival. She had failed to last a seventh furlong on her previous outing and remains on the upgrade.
Where the money's going
Golden Sword is 9-2 from 5-1 with Ladbrokes for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot tomorrow.