IT’S a busy morning at Michael Owen’s horse racing enterprise in Cheshire.
Turning into the long driveway, the five-furlong gallops come into view with a number of jockeys astride some of the stable’s promising young thoroughbreds.
Manor House Stables is a hive of activity.
The estate, near Malpas, currently houses up to 90 horses and some of these residents will be running this weekend at Chester and at Haydock.
Running in the Betfred Temple Stakes at the Merseyside Course will be one of the Manchester United striker’s own horses, the five-year-old Blue Jack, whom both owner and trainer, Tom Dascombe, have high hopes for.
Blue Jack and his equine friends are certainly well looked after at this state-of-the art facility .
There are some 40 full-time staff working on the site and further development plans include additional stables, a specialist veterinary centre and a spa and pool – for the horses, you understand.
The training yard was converted from a cattle barn by Owen and his wife and Louise and started business in March 2007, initially with 30 horses.
In 2009, Owen approached Dascombe to see if he would join the team at Manor House Stables.
The trainer said he’d consider it, but only if his principal owner and trainer approved and could be involved as well.
The man in question was none other than Andrew ‘Bert’ Black, co-founder and the original designer of the internet site Betfair, life-long racing enthusiast and owner of 40 horses.
Owen invited Black to become joint owner of Manor House Stables and he agreed, paving the way for Dascombe to enter the partnership.
At 37, Dascombe is one of the sport’s brightest young trainers and is passionate about racing.
“It comes from my grandfather and my dad,” he says. “I always wanted to be a jockey – I loved horse racing. I was too heavy for the flat but rode national hunt for about 10 years – until I realised I was no good. Then I decided to move into a different area of the sport.”
Dascombe has only been on board at Manor House for less than a year but he is already settling in and is looking forward to new developments at the facility.
“It’s a lovely place,” he said. “I’ve been here about eight or nine months now. We’ve put in a new gallops and plenty of paddocks.
“We’re putting in a swimming pool, equine vet facility.
“I’m still learning about the place, learning about the gallops, but we’ve certainly moved forward now from last month and hopefully it’ll be better again this time next month.”
He added: “We want to get the best horses we can, be competitive in good races and, at the same time, train winners.” How often does the stable’s owner get down to Malpas?
“Michael comes in about once a week to look at the horses and what we’ve been doing. He’s mad keen on his racing.
“We don’t see a great deal of him during winter but I expect we’ll see a lot more of him over summer when he hasn’t got so many football commitments.”
Nestling in an idyllic spot in the Cheshire countryside, Manor House Stables is a truly impressive place.
As well as excellent facilities for the horses, there is a well-appointed owners’ lounge with a viewing balcony.
And you don’t need to be a footballer or an internet betting entrepreneur for your racehorse to be trained at Manor House, though it certainly helps.
As you might expect, the day-to-day expenses of owning a racehorse doesn’t come cheap.
The basic rate at Owen’s stable is £45 per day – purely a training fee – and any veterinary costs, farrier fees, racing expenses and transport expenses are extra.
The sum of £63 a day gets you the inclusive package which covers pretty much everything: stable lads’ overtime and expenses when your horse goes racing.
If you’re now trying to add that up in your head, it equates to £22,995 for an average year.
But think of the thrill of the race. And the prize money you could win!