John Gosden looking to repeat Saudi Cup glory with Mishriff at Dubai World Cup

John Gosden looking to repeat Saudi Cup glory with Mishriff at Dubai World Cup
Mishriff, winner of last month’s Saudi Cup, will run at the Dubai World Cup on Saturday, (File/AFP)
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Updated 22 March 2021

John Gosden looking to repeat Saudi Cup glory with Mishriff at Dubai World Cup

John Gosden looking to repeat Saudi Cup glory with Mishriff at Dubai World Cup
  • Mishriff’s trainer and owner will hope for more success at the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic

RIYADH: John Gosden was proud to witness an exciting new chapter in his family’s horse racing history, after Mishriff won the $20 million Saudi Cup for owner Prince Abdulrahman bin Abdullah Al-Faisal.

Five years ago, he had tried to dissuade his 25-year-old son Thady from following in his footsteps as a trainer — just as his own father, “Towser” Gosden, had done before his death in 1967.

John, 16 then, turns 70 three days after Saturday’s Dubai World Cup meeting, and Thady will soon share a license with him to extend the Gosden dynasty.

With coronavirus quarantine protocols preventing John from attending the world’s richest race in Riyadh last month, it was left to Thady to oversee Mishriff’s surprise victory, which he now hopes to repeat in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic as part of Meydan’s showpiece.

“It was wild after the race with all the celebrations,” said John. “It was great, he did a good job in Riyadh so doesn’t need the old man in Dubai."

“I’m not retiring yet. I don’t mean to hang on forever, but a great friend of mine, the wonderful American trainer Charlie Whittingham, had never won the Kentucky Derby and people always used to tease him about it. Then when he was 73 and 76 he won it twice,” he added. “Age is a number and, as long as you are contributing and being a positive influence, that’s fine. If not, then get out of the way.

“My father, the last thing he said to me before he died, was ‘whatever you do, don’t be a racehorse trainer.’ It’s 52 weeks of the year, seven days a week. Our house was in the stable yard so I was brought up with horses all around me.”

It’s a piece of advice he dutifully passed on to his own son, with little success.

“I did try to persuade Thady. Five years ago, I said to him, ‘I’m going to be really clear: This is your idea, not mine,’ and he said ‘I’m very clear on that’,” Gosden said. “He’s got a passion for it and the appetite, and that’s what you need. I tried to do something else, but I came back to racing.”

That something, after graduating from Cambridge, was to help design a science park in Venezuela. “But when I was going to the track at 4.30 a.m. in Caracas, I knew it was time to be honest with myself,” he said.

John returned to work for Sir Noel Murless and Vincent O’Brien before heading to California in 1979 to make his own mark. He was persuaded to leave America in 1988 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and vice president of the UAE, paving the way for the rise of the Godolphin operation.

“I was a little surprised when I came back to discover they had 42 other trainers as well in Europe so I wondered at the time why they needed me,” laughed Gosden, who has four children with his wife Rachel.

“It all goes hand in hand with his vision for Dubai to become an international meeting place. I remember picking the training track at Al-Quoz with him — and it turned into being an amazingly successful operation.”

The Sheikh Mohammed-owned Benny The Dip gave Gosden his first Epsom Derby win in 1997. As Godolphin grew, he moved on to work with Robert Sangster before spending the last 15 years running his own Clarehaven Stables in Newmarket.

Gosden, though, has long had an affinity with the Gulf and a successful relationship with Prince Khalid bin Abdullah Al-Saud, founder of the Juddmonte Farms breeding operation, before his passing in January aged 83.

“He was a very brilliant man, a great judge of every situation. He had a great sense of humour too — a man of extraordinary humility which is quite a rare quality these days.

“He was very incisive in his thinking and, in 40 years, he developed the greatest breeding operation in thoroughbred racing history,” Gosden added. “That is something that will never be seen or done again, a quite extraordinary achievement.”

While the American dirt horse Spectacular Bid, which he described as a “phenomenal machine,” is one he would have loved to train, Gosden picks the Prince Khalid-owned Enable as the best he did.

“She was absolutely amazing, the type of horse that made you want to get up in the morning,” he said of the horse that retired in 2020 with 15 wins in 19 races. “She was the most consistently brilliant horse I ever trained. To win three King George’s, back-to-back Arcs, the Eclipse Stakes and a Breeders’ Cup Turf, there’s not many that will ever do that again. A third Arc was one dance too far. But that’s life.

“I’ve been incredibly lucky. The races I’ve dreamt of winning, I’ve won. The Saudi Cup was probably one I never thought I would win — and we did. It was special.”

While a first Dubai World Cup will have to wait, Gosden said the Sheema Classic — which he won with Dar Re Mi in 2010 and Jack Hobbs seven years later — will be a test run to see if Mishriff is considered for October’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

“We are trying something quite new by going for the Sheema Classic,” he added. “It’s a step up and a bit of a fact-finding mission. I think he will stay the mile and a half on turf, but you never know.

“If he doesn’t stay, then we come back mid-summer and go for the Group 1 mile-and-a-quarter European races like the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, the Eclipse Stakes and the Juddmonte International.

“If he does, then he can attack one of those in the summer and be pointing for the Arc. Whether he goes to a Breeders’ Cup is way off anyone’s thinking right now,” said Gosden.

“As a trainer I’d also be dead keen for another Saudi Cup next year, but the owner, Prince Faisal, is a breeder and he might have other ideas.”


Al-Ittihad reclaim SPL lead ahead of international break for FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar

Al-Ittihad reclaim SPL lead ahead of international break for FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar
Updated 8 sec ago

Al-Ittihad reclaim SPL lead ahead of international break for FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar

Al-Ittihad reclaim SPL lead ahead of international break for FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar
  • Jeddah club leapfrog Al-Shabab to top spot with 1-0 win over Al-Tai before next round of matches on Dec. 25

Al-Ittihad have reclaimed top spot in the Saudi Professional League after defeating visitors Al-Tai 1-0 at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah in the 13th round of 2020-21 season.

The only goal of the match came from Brazilian striker Romarinho in the 27th minute.

After the conclusion of this round with the visit of newly crowned Asian champions Al-Hilal to Abha Club tonight, the SPL will take a break until Dec. 25 to accommodate the FIFA Arab Cup taking place in Doha from Nov. 30.

The victory is the eighth for Al-Ittihad this season, taking their SPL points tally to 26 points and and leapfrogging Al-Shabab into top spot, while Al-Tai remain at the bottom of the table with 10 points.


Palmeiras retains Copa Libertadores title after extra time

Palmeiras retains Copa Libertadores title after extra time
Updated 28 November 2021

Palmeiras retains Copa Libertadores title after extra time

Palmeiras retains Copa Libertadores title after extra time
  • Palmeiras beat fellow Brazilian rivals Flamengo 2-1
  • Sao Paulo-based club gain their third title

Palmeiras successfully defended the Copa Libertadores title after beating Flamengo 2-1 in an all-Brazilian final that went to extra time on Saturday.
The third title from the Sao Paulo-based club kicked off street parties in the metropolis, regardless of new concerns about COVID-19.
The champion opened the scoring at Centenario Stadium in Montevideo through Raphael Veiga early. Flamengo, which started the final as favorite, levelled in the second half thanks to Gabriel Barbosa. Substitute Deyverson netted the winner in the first half of extra time.
Palmeiras became the first team in 20 years to win back-to-back titles. Boca Juniors won in 2000 and ‘01, the first of those titles against Palmeiras in the final prevented the Brazilian side from retaining its first Copa title.
A counterattack started by defender Gustavo Gomez found right back Mayke free and onside thanks to Flamengo defender David Luiz. Mayke’s low cross reached Raphael Veiga, and he put it past goalkeeper Diego Alves in the sixth minute.
Flamengo wasted opportunities in the second half, and didn’t level until the 72nd, courtesy of its its top scorer Gabriel Barbosa. Assisted by Giorgian de Arrascaeta, the man nicknamed Gabigol scored from close range against goalkeeper Weverton, who was not quick enough to block the shot.
Barbosa scored both Flamengo goals in the 2-1 final win against River Plate in its second and last Copa triumph in 2019.
The 1-1 looked fair at the end of regular time. But it didn’t take long for Palmeiras to regain the upper hand.
A slip by Flamengo midfielder Andreas Pereira in the 95th made the difference. Deyverson, who replaced a fatigued Veiga minutes before, carried the ball all by himself and calmly beat goalkeeper Alves.
Deyverson returned to Palmeiras in June after a loan to Alaves, and was in tears after his first goal in this Copa.
“I had ups and downs here, I made many mistakes, but I never stopped working,” the striker, once again in tears, said.
Deyverson signed a five-year contract with Palmeiras in 2017, but problems on and off the pitch led him to being loaned to Getafe in 2020 and Alaves shortly later. Many Palmeiras fans did not enjoy the news of his return.
Deyverson surprised fans and players alike near the final whistle when he fell to the ground after being lightly touched on the back by Argentine referee Nestor Pitana. Pitana laughed at the player’s reaction and told him to stand up. Deyverson’s rolls on the pitch went viral on social media.
Flamengo goalkeeper Alves said they must congratulate Palmeiras and keep their heads up.
“It hurts a lot to lose it like this. We didn’t give many opportunities to Palmeiras. They played in their style, we played in ours. It wasn’t meant to be,” Alves said, adding midfielder Pereira should not be blamed for the defeat.
Brazil also contributed both finalists in the Copa Sudamericana, won by Athletico. This year marked the first time all four finalists of both Copas came from the same country. Palmeiras’ success was the eighth since 2010 for a Brazilian club.
Palmeiras eliminated local rival Sao Paulo in the quarterfinals and advanced to the final on the away goal rule after drawing at Atletico Mineiro. This week, CONMEBOL scrapped the away goals rule for all future competitions.


Virus-hit Portuguese team plays soccer with 9 men

Virus-hit Portuguese team plays soccer with 9 men
Updated 28 November 2021

Virus-hit Portuguese team plays soccer with 9 men

Virus-hit Portuguese team plays soccer with 9 men

LISBON, Portugal: Portuguese club Belenenses started a league match against Benfica with just nine players after an outbreak of coronavirus in its squad on Saturday. It was later called off just after halftime.
With two fewer players, Belenenses was soon trailing. Benfica scored all goals in the 7-0 win in the first half.
The referee called the match off just after the start of the second half. Only seven players took the field for Belenenses, which soon lost another player when one dropped to the turf, leaving them with only six.
The laws of soccer allow for games to be played as long as each team has seven players, including a goalkeeper.
Club president Rui Pedro Soares said that despite having a decimated squad his club did not ask for the game to be postponed.


Newcastle need to overcome ‘crisis of confidence’ to avoid Premier League relegation: Howe

Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe applauds fans after the match with Arsenal. (Reuters)
Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe applauds fans after the match with Arsenal. (Reuters)
Updated 27 November 2021

Newcastle need to overcome ‘crisis of confidence’ to avoid Premier League relegation: Howe

Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe applauds fans after the match with Arsenal. (Reuters)
  • New manager has stated he has faith in this group at United, but also underlined the importance of claiming that first three points

LONDON: Newcastle United have the quality to claw back their Premier League relegation battle deficit but are suffering from a crisis of confidence, according to head coach Eddie Howe.

United suffered yet another Premier League defeat at the hands of the Gunners at the Emirates, with Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli’s second-half strikes proving the difference.

The results kept the Magpies at the foot of the top-flight table, without a win in any of their opening 13 games. For perspective, only one team in Premier League history has ever won a relegation battle — Derby County — having made such a poor start.

But Howe has stated he has faith in this group at United, but also underlined the importance of claiming that first three points.

“I do not agree with that,” said Howe, when asked about whether there is a lack of quality in his ranks. “I have seen the dressing room — we have some very good players here.

“We are lacking in confidence, naturally, as we have not won a game this season.

“We will get criticism. We have to take that and have broad shoulders but I think if we stay committed like we did today — it would have been easy to give up with the game at 2-0, and we were good in that last period — the attitude of the players was good. 

“We can only do our talking on the pitch and fight back.” Safety, even with just a third of the season completed, looks a long, long way off for United. Waiting on results elsewhere, the gap to fourth bottom is five points.

Howe continued: “It is difficult enough in the Premier League when you are scraping for points, but when you are at a deficit it becomes very difficult.

“I think everyone connected with the club wants to get that first win as soon as possible.

“We have to look at our next games as an important one and try to give everything to win it.

“Luck often favors the brave and that’s maybe what United are lacking at the moment — a flashpoint in the game that highlights that lay between the Gunners’ two strikes.

Callum Wilson, clean through on goal, is shoved from behind by Nuno Tavares. It was close, but they have been given before. Such is United’s way this campaign, it wasn’t.

Just seconds later Martinelli’s sublime finish ended the encounter as a contest. And Howe sees it as a real turning point, even if he thinks his players let their standards drop either side of half-time.

“I thought we could break the game into thirds. I thought the first third of the game was very good. The middle third, not so good and the final third very good,” he said.

“The key moment for me is Callum Wilson going clean through with a chance to equalize, but the penalty is not given.

“I don’t think Callum would go down there if he is not shoved.”

United take on fellow strugglers Norwich City at St. James’ Park on Tuesday evening, and will have to do so without skipper Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Ritchie, after the experienced duo picked up their fifth bookings of the season at the Emirates.


Arsenal brush aside Newcastle as Howe suffers first defeat

Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli celebrates with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after scoring against Newcastle United, Emirates Stadium, London, England, Nov. 27, 2021. (Reuters)
Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli celebrates with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after scoring against Newcastle United, Emirates Stadium, London, England, Nov. 27, 2021. (Reuters)
Updated 27 November 2021

Arsenal brush aside Newcastle as Howe suffers first defeat

Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli celebrates with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after scoring against Newcastle United, Emirates Stadium, London, England, Nov. 27, 2021. (Reuters)
  • Second half goals from Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli at the Emirates Stadium made it four wins for Arsenal from their last five league games
  • Eddie Howe was in charge of Newcastle in person for the first time after missing last weekend’s 3-3 draw against Brentford due to a positive COVID test

LONDON: The battle to find balance between attack and defence has been a five-year struggle on Tyneside — and is so far proving the impossible conundrum for Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe.

It was an issue first flagged up by now Everton boss Rafa Benitez under the ownership of Mike Ashley. It’s an argument so often referred to as the “short blanket.”

The concept is a simple one. Pull the short blanket up at one end, your feet are open to the elements at the other, and vice versa. With limited resources, it is tough to provide quality and consistency at both ends.

Steve Bruce, never as eloquent as Benitez, suffered from the same problems. And just 180 or so minutes into his tenure at Newcastle, Howe knows that issue firsthand.

A defensively disciplined display at the Emirates, much more so than at St James’ Park last week, saw the Magpies blunted in attack and ultimately beaten by two moments of real quality.

Second-half goals by Bukayo Saka and his replacement off the bench Gabriel Martinelli ensured United remained at the foot of the Premier League, without a win in 13 in the top flight and with the worst goals against column as well as just six points to show for their early season “efforts.”

Making his debut in the United dugout after a bout of Covid, Howe made three changes from the side that drew with Brentford seven days previously.

Out went Ciaran Clark, Jacob Murphy and Karl Darlow, with Emil Krafth, Ryan Fraser and Martin Dubravka returning to the starting XI.

United were open and expansive against the Bees, but it was more a case of disciplined and compact at the home of the Gunners, as Howe made some tactical tweaks to the side who looked defensively suspect last time out.

And it’s fair to say — for 45 minutes at least — it worked, as United largely frustrated the home side, keeping them at arm’s length.

United’s record against Arsenal home and away is by Premier League standards awful.

They’ve won just once in 20 outings, and have to go back to 2010 for a victory in the red half of North London.

And to get a result against a traditionally difficult foe you have to ride your luck, or hope for players to stand up in the key moments. Luckily, as mentioned previously, Howe decided to make the crucial call to bring back Slovak Dubravka, and United needed their reinstated No.1 to produce a number of crucial stops to keep things equal at the break.

His first stop was to palm away a curling Martin Odegaard free-kick, which skirted over the heads of the United wall. The second, as incredibly reactive as it was, was followed by a miss of biblical proportions by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Some excellent work by Saka down the Arsenal left opened things up for Emile Smith-Rowe, whose header was cleared by Dubravka, only to fall to Aubameyang. But with the goal at his mercy, the Gunners’ skipper clipped on to the United post.

While the hosts were the better side, this wasn’t one-way traffic, however. United had some chances of their own.

A Callum Wilson break down the right unleashed Fraser, whose cross deflected into the path of Jonjo Shelvey, but his 25-yard shot was excellently tipped on to the bar by the outstretched arm of goalkeeping man-of-the-moment Aaron Ramsdale.

It wasn’t until added time in the first-half that Arsenal began to up the ante — and it was this increased intensity that carried through into the opening exchanges of the second-half, which bore fruit on 55 minutes.

The tempo upped, Saka linked up with Albert Sambi Lokonga, then on to Smith-Rowe who found Saka again as he rolled off the back of Emil Krafth and guided the ball into the bottom corner from the angle on the left for 1-0.

As resolute as United had looked, it was no less than the hosts deserved.

Then came some controversy — but as typically has been the case this season for the Magpies, it went against the Premier League strugglers. In fact, within seconds they were two goals down and with yet another top flight mountain to climb.

A direct ball over the top for Wilson split the Arsenal backline and just as he appeared certain to pull the trigger in the area, the slightest of shoves from Nuno Tavares was enough to see the United striker lose his balance but not enough to convince the referee or the VAR officials of a foul.

Almost instantaneously, a direct ball at the other end saw the home side’s lead doubled.

A pin-point pass in behind by Takehiro Tomiyasu picked out the freshly introduced Martinelli, who, with his first touch, guided the ball past the helpless Dubravka.

And despite some light sparring at both ends, the Brazilian’s strike was enough to end this encounter as a contest, ensuring the gloom remains on Tyneside.

No one expected a result at Arsenal, a place United lose at on an annual basis, but results are exactly what the Magpies need. Their predicament at the foot of the table is starting to look a little desperate, despite the signs of improvement under Howe.

What the manager needs to work out is whether he is going to try and play his way out of the situation, or solidify a creaking defensive unit and do it the “boring” way.

At the moment, it feels like this is neither.

Fellow relegation battlers Norwich City and Burnley come to St James’ Park in the next seven days — and it is starting to feel like this week is make or break for Newcastle’s Premier League future.