Michael Owen has paid tribute to his stable star Brown Panther who was put down on Sunday (13 September) after breaking a leg during the Irish St Leger.

The former England footballer said it was “the saddest day of my life”.

Brown Panther was attempting to retain his title in the Group One race at The Curragh when the accident happened. The seven-year-old was pulled up by jockey Richard Kingscote approaching the home turn.

The son of Shirocco fractured two bones in his right hind leg, in what trainer Tom Dascombe described as a “catastrophic accident”.

“The toughest, most honest, most brilliant horse I will ever set eyes on passed away doing the thing he loved most,” said Michael.

The former England footballer bought his first racehorse Etienne Lady in 1999 and has since has become more involved with owning and breeding. He is now landlord of Tom Dascombe’s Manor House Stables in Cheshire.

Brown Panther was out of Michael’s mare Treble Heights, and the owner was present at the birth.

He added: “I was with him when he was born, shared an experience for seven years that will never be repeated and gave him his last kiss goodbye. What an honour to own and breed him. I love you Panther, life will not be the same without you.”

Tom Dascombe said it was “overwhelming the genuine affection in which Brown Panther was held”.

“It is apparent that many people saw Brown Panther as their horse not just ours,” he added.

“He died at the scene of his greatest triumph, doing what he loved best.

“No matter how heartbreaking this is for us, Brown Panther was happy and cared for by everyone right up until the moment he was put down. We were blessed to have him and, of course, he will be hugely missed.”

Brown Panther won 11 of 28 starts during his career. Highlights included a win in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2011, the Goodwood Cup in 2013 and the Dubai Gold Cup in March.