Pre-season never used to be such a sweat. But then football seldom proved this exciting, even on the great days. And if Brown Panther's success here yesterday represented a valid sample of retirement, Michael Owen is hardly going to yearn long for those rainy Tuesdays in Stoke.
The undoubted sophistication of Owen's approach to the Turf remains consistent with the pleasingly unaffected quality of the gratification he discovers there. As Brown Panther was splashed down in the winner's enclosure, having emphatically outstayed his rivals for the Artemis Goodwood Cup, his perspiring owner handled serial media inquisitions not merely with his habitual patience and politeness, but with contagious excitement. He gestured at the picturesque Ladies' Day crowd, basking in the sun, their gaze divided between the voluptuous Downs and the distant shimmer of the Channel. "It doesn't get much better than this," he declared. "A racetrack like this, and the heritage of this race… just to be part of it is fantastic. To win is a real honour."
After its ghastly, scandal-riddled spring, the British sport has found fresh succour to place alongside the monarch's Gold Cup at Ascot. And a showdown with Estimate in 2014 looks a legitimate target for Brown Panther himself, now that he has shown due relish for this kind of test. In the meantime, however, Owen hopes to fly him across the world for another race saturated in history. "So as long as he didn't bomb out today we were thinking of the Irish St Leger and then the Melbourne Cup," he said. "And on today's evidence I don't see why we should change our minds."
Tracking the leaders throughout, Brown Panther was sent into the lead by Richard Kingscote approaching the furlong pole and opened up by three and a half lengths from Ahzeemah, with the German raider, Altano, finishing well for third. This ranks as a biggest win to date for Brown Panther's trainer, Tom Dascombe, who moved into Owen's Cheshire stables in 2009.
"We've struggled for top-class horses," Dascombe conceded. "We've a few horses, but none quite as good as this. And when you've only got a few, you need to make them produce the results – so this is massive. I think the horse is helping us, because he's maturing. We've taken our time this year, tried to get him spot on for each day."
After years of summer tours to America or Hong Kong, this was a first Glorious Goodwood for Dascombe's patron. "This racing game is so tough on the nerves," Owen said. "In football, I always felt reasonably in control. Here, you're powerless. All you can do is hope the trainer has done his job, and the jockey is going to do his. I'm a young owner, and I've only got one mare of my own. So to have so much luck with a horse I bred is scary."
His only regret was that he could not linger to celebrate, instead rushing off to London for his debut as an analyst for BT Sport. If only he can prove an equal evangelist in that role, he cannot fail.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Elusivity (3.40 Goodwood) Could surprise at big odds, with this downhill dash likely to suit ideally after the five-year-old has collected a series of valid excuses since joining this stable.
Montiridge (2.30 Goodwood) Trainer and jockey are making hay here as usual and this sharp mile looks an optimum test for the class act in the race.
One to watch
Genzy (Ian Williams) Was unlucky not to get up at Ascot on Sunday, closing late off a steady pace after getting caught in traffic.
Where the money's going
Hot Snap is 8-1 from 9-1 with William Hill for the Markel Insurance Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.
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