Sadness at the death of Michael Owen’s Brown Panther

Irish St Leger winner Brown Panther Fatally Injured in this year’s renewal

Seven-year-old Brown Panther, who won last year’s Irish St Leger was fatally injured when attempting to defend his crown at the Curragh on Sunday. Owned by former England football star Michael Owen, Brown Panther had won 11 of his 28 races including the Dubai Gold Cup in March, the Goodwood Cup in 2013 and the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2011. He was also second in the St Leger at Doncaster in 2011, three lengths back from the winner Masked Marvel.

Brown Panther sustained a hind leg injury when approaching the home turn on Sunday and vets deemed the injury was so serious that they had no choice but to put the animal down. Owen was shaken with grief in the aftermath and spoke of “the toughest, most honest, most brilliant horse I will ever set eyes on” before adding, “it’s the saddest day of my life”.

Owen clearly had a strong connection to the seven-year-old, who was trained by Tom Dascombe and who was returning after a previous leg injury, and it is a big loss for racing in general as Owen’s high profile helped to garner interest in the sport whenever Brown Panther took to the track.

Fatalities in flat racing are relatively rare compared to the National Hunt side of the sport, the latter having the hazards of hurdles or fences that horses have to negotiate. It might also seem strange to some that an injury to a horse’s leg often means the animal loses its life. But due to the way race horses have developed over the years to have relative light bones, breaks often result in the bone shattering and becoming irreparable.

Aside from that, assuming the break might possibly heal, attempting to get a horse to rest, lying on its side until the bone recovered, would be all but impossible without heavy sedation and then there would be complications of pressure sores or pneumonia to contend with according to leading equine welfare specialists.

A fine career was sadly brought to an abrupt end on Sunday, but Brown Panther will be remembered fondly by many a punter and racing fan.