Michael Owen and Hugo Palmer have been thrilled with the start their new association has made and have big ambitions going forward.
Palmer replaced Tom Dascombe at Owen’s Manor House Stables and is already among the winners, which bodes well considering half his string have had to settle into new surroundings.
With Dubawi Legend boasting solid claims in Saturday’s 2000 Guineas and Owen’s favourite meeting, the Boodles Chester May Festival on the horizon, there was no time for a settling in period.
To top it all, there is even the prospect of an Investec Derby challenge from Mr McCann, owned by half a dozen of Owen’s friends from his former club Liverpool.
“I’m loving life up here and the most important thing is that the horses have settled in,” said Palmer.
“I was always a bit twitchy, largely because the world is full of naysayers who questioned doing it so close to the season but there’s been nothing to worry about, we’ve run an enormous amount of tests and continue to do so and not a single horse who moved has been off their food – as that would be their first sign of protest.
“The few who have run have run well and I’m very excited about the season going forward.”
Owen and Palmer were friends before the more formal arrangement began but to begin with Palmer had no intention of uprooting from Newmarket, his home for the previous 10 years.
“Michael Owen is a very persuasive man. We’ve known each other for a long time and he first asked me in December to come, to which I said no,” said Palmer.
“He asked a couple of weeks later and my answer was still no, but it wasn’t until he rang on January 2 when I was up in Scotland when he talked me into having a look.
“It’s a fabulously impressive place and if I convinced myself that I could do the job here better than in Newmarket and if I could convince the critical mass of the owners, then we were on – luckily the answer to both was yes.
“We’re both hugely ambitious. I’ve always wanted to get to the top and I believe we have the facility and the opportunity here to do that. A lot of the biggest yards are a long way from Newmarket. Obviously there are some big yards there but the likes of Johnston, Easterby, Beckett, Fahey, Hannon and others aren’t. We want to be up there with them.
“Horseracing is not entirely a numbers game, but if we want to be in the top 10 and have huge success, you’ve got a better chance with a few more horses.”
Owen has owned Manor House for 18 years but admits the recent change of personnel has given him a new lease of life.
He said: “I used to go to Newmarket for the sales and the races and we had a mutual friend in Ed Sackville, the bloodstock agent, and I used to stay at Hugo’s sometimes when I went down.
“When myself and Tom parted company, I called Hugo for advice as a friend at first. I’d be going down the list of trainers thinking who I had a chance of getting, not thinking I’d be able to persuade Hugo.
“I cheekily asked him first time and got the response I thought I’d get, but then the more we talked, the more I tried to convince him and here we are now. I’m delighted with how it’s all gone.
“We’ve done loads of work already, there’s loads of work to do, but there’s a real combined thirst to make a special place into something even more.
“Sadly I can’t do anything without attempting for it to be the best. In some ways that’s a good trait, but it can be dangerous in other ways. I want to give Hugo the tools to enable him to be the best he can be.”
He went on: “I don’t really have an end goal. There’s no specific race I want to win, but I just want a really strong business with a brilliant trainer and hopefully we’ll have a load of success and fun together.
“I bounce out of bed at the moment, but I am that type of person anyway. I have to have a purpose in life, but at the minute the only problem I have is not wanting to go to work, as I want to go to the yard. It’s very exciting.”
With a possible pair of runners in the tote+ Chester Cup in Saturday’s Ripon winner Rajinsky and one of the ante-post favourites Solent Getaway, the yard is likely to be well represented, but Palmer admitted he is likely to field as stronger side numerically in the future.
There is one interesting possible in the Derby trial – the Dee Stakes – in Mr McCann.
Owen explained: “It all began when a horse called Mrs Milner won at Cheltenham and I text James Milner about it, a few more texts followed and in a couple of weeks I’d sold him a horse!
“Along with Jordan Henderson, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana (now Brighton), I keep having to tell them it isn’t always like this.
“He won three times as a two-year-old, including an entry into the Derby when the step up in trip brought out some improvement at Epsom. Should he run there, the season will be over, so there’s a chance they could make it.”
Palmer added: “He’ll go there (Chester) ready, but just ready. If we had any hold-up in the next two weeks, we might have to wait. Even Lingfield gives us an extra few days and there’s Goodwood.
“We’ll see how he gets on in a Derby trial. He’s also in the French Derby and the German Guineas.
“Everything he’s shown us so far says that he will stay a mile and a quarter, and they always say if you’re guaranteed to stay a mile and a half you’re too slow for the Derby!”