He has a name similar a comic book superhero (read Black Panther) and a touch of mystique to go with it. He has another type of hero as his owner whose loyalty to his jockey mirrors that of a great story of conquest.
Brown Panther was amongst the second group European horses to jet in to Melbourne and take up residence at Werribee on Caulfield Cup Day in the lead up to starting to running in the Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m).
Owned by English football superstar Michael Owen, this six-year-old horse is a certain starter in Tuesday’s Flemington feature.
While his owner will no doubt attract plenty of interest and maybe even more support in betting from Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United fans amongst the other teams he played for, Brown Panther has also caught the attention of other trainers at Werribee.
“I liked the work of the brown one that just want around”, said Gai Waterhouse when asked if any other the other horses working this morning had grabbed her attention outside of her own Tres Blue.
“Now there’s a tip”, she added wryly when informed that the brown horse was Brown Panther.
Trained by Tom Dascombe at his Manor House Stables in Cheshire of which Owen is a partner, Dascombe has arrived in Melbourne not just ready to take on his Melbourne Cup task but also seemingly open minded to the experience.
“The horse looks well and seems relaxed”, Dascombe said of the seven time winner of 17 starts.
Brown Panther’s work today consisted of two 1400-metre canters with the second stint pushed more strongly to the line.
“He did a nice piece of work this morning and was good to the line”, Dascombe added.
Brown Panther arrived in Melbourne after fifth in the Listed Greene King Stakes (1974m) at Goodwood on 25 September; a race seen as a less desired option to running in the Group 1 Irish St Leger (2800m) ten days earlier and missed due to a high temperature in the lead up.
Nonetheless the Dascombe stable is confident that the fitness levels have carried through to this stage of his preparation.
“The rider was happy with him today and he looks great, his weight is good and he is eating everything so you can’t ask for much more”, he said.
Brown Panther’s most significant win to date was in the Group 2 Goodwood Cup (3200m) in August where he defeated Godolphin’s Azeemah who went on to finish second in that Irish St Leger race behind fellow Melbourne Cup aspirant Voleuse de Coeurs.
Despite many international trainers increasingly choosing local jockeys to pilot their horses when racing in Melbourne, Dascombe has elected to stick with UK jockey Richard Kingscote who has ridden Brown Panther in all but three of his career starts to date – including the latest six.
A Melbourne Cup win would provide Kingscote with his maiden success at the highest level.
“It’s a nice experience to come out here and a very nice confidence booster that they a letting me keep the ride,” said Kingscote who has notched 60 wins in the 2013 UK season so far and rode two winners at Royal Ascot in 2011 including Brown Panther’s victory in the King George V Handicap (2400m).
“It would certainly have been cheaper to put a local rider on plus the Aussie jockeys have more experience in these races but I have been given a really good opportunity and I’m taking it with both hands.”
Story by Danny Matthews