FORMER England star Michael Owen hopes to have bred a potential prize-winning horse for Chester's Boodles May Festival, which he has presented with a special name.

The two-year-old Bay Colt by Kodiac, victorious on debut at Musselburgh, was announced to the world on social media last month. The horse has been given the name 'Balon d'Or', a footballing accolade which Owen won as European Footballer of the Year in 2001, making him the last Englishman to do so. It is being considered for the CAA Stellar Lily Agnes Conditions Stakes.

"Balon d’Or is the scourge of Hugo’s life at the minute because I put it out there that I’ve saved a special name for a special horse. I keep telling Hugo that he can work well under pressure so don’t worry," Owen said.

"I told everyone I was saving this name and I gave it to this particular horse. He went and won first time out. He’s a possibility for the Lily Agnes, so we’ll see what happens. There’s lots of two-year-old racing between now and then, but he’s a possibility. We’ll just wait and see."

Chester and District Standard: Trainer Hugo Palmer and owner Michael Owen.Trainer Hugo Palmer and owner Michael Owen. (Image: Chester Racecourse)

Recalling the tale of when the news broke, Hugo Palmer said: "With Balon d’Or, Michael made a real rod for all of our backs. Michael was on holiday so when the horse won at four o’clock in the afternoon - wherever Michael was it was 10 o’clock - he got very excited on Twitter and told the world that he was saving the name for a special horse.

"He’s a strong, stocky, sprinting, fast two-year-old who will get six furlongs. Michael bred him and has the mare at home. It would be lovely to win a Lily Agnes, but what we’ve ultimately got to start doing is get some black type, change the way his horses appear on the page and look after the value of his mare.

"Right here, right now, if I asked him do you want black type or the Lily Agnes, it would be the Lily Agnes. He wouldn’t even think about it. Fingers crossed he can do the job."

Owen and Palmer began a successful partnership, with the trainer experiencing his first May Festival last year after moving from Newmarket to Manor House Stables in Cheshire.

"Hugo had his first May Festival last year and did really well to win two races. It was a successful time for us," said Owen. "Ever Given improved under Hugo’s care and went on to win a big race at Epsom and Flaming Rib ran really well at the May Festival to win, and he’s gone on to better things. We’re really excited about this year’s and hopefully we can emulate that, but it’s so difficult to win. Any win would be a bonus."

"Our whole season at Chester last year went well. We had a really good strike rate there, plenty of winners and had a great time," Palmer continued. "We’ve got a really exciting and nice team of horses for this season in general. Particularly for Chester’s May meeting, we’re very keen on being well represented in the two-year-old races and we also have two for the Chester Cup – a wonderful, historic race. There aren’t many better trophies to put in the cabinet anywhere in racing, are there?"

Last year’s third place finisher Rajinsky joins Zoffee in being one of those two entries for Hugo Palmer in the 2023 Tote Chester Cup - the biggest and most valuable prize on offer at Chester’s Boodles May Festival.

For Owen, who had his first ever winner at Chester with Treble Heights in 2002, having the world’s oldest racecourse in the city of his birth remains incredibly special.

"I pinch myself that we’ve got somewhere so special in our city. I was born and brought up in the area and I don’t think I’m biased when I say that it’s the best track for fun, for racing, for everything really. It’s a special place, and everyone that you bring to Chester always has a great day."

The Boodles May Festival will take place at Chester Racecourse from Wednesday, May 10 to Friday, May 12. Further information is available at: