Scandinavian star Square De Luynes on track for Saudi Cup success

Square De Luynes is preparing in Dubai ahead of a shot at the Group 3 Neom Turf Cup at the Saudi Cup. (Steven Cargill)
Square De Luynes is preparing in Dubai ahead of a shot at the Group 3 Neom Turf Cup at the Saudi Cup. (Steven Cargill)
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Updated 25 February 2022

Scandinavian star Square De Luynes on track for Saudi Cup success

Square De Luynes is preparing in Dubai ahead of a shot at the Group 3 Neom Turf Cup at the Saudi Cup. (Steven Cargill)
  • Trainer Niels Petersen harbors global ambitions for ‘Frankel of the Fjords’ with preparation in Dubai before heading to Riyadh next month

RIYADH: Scandinavian star Square De Luynes is on course for a shot at the Group 3 Neom Turf Cup at the Saudi Cup meeting next month.

Nicknamed “Frankel of the Fjords” by his fans, the three-time winner of the prestigious Stockholm Cup International is being prepared in Dubai for the $1.5 million contest over 2,100 m on Saturday, Feb. 26 by trainer Niels Petersen.

The seven-year-old could be joined by stablemates Kick On and King David at the Saudi Cup meeting, who are both aiming at the $500,000 Saudi International Handicap on Friday, Feb. 25 — a race restricted to horses trained in International Federation of Horseracing Authorities-registered Part II and III racing countries, like Norway. 

There is no doubt Square De Luynes is the star of the trainer’s potential Saudi raiding party, and Petersen, a Dane based in Norway, said: “Square De Luynes is the best horse in Scandinavia — by the figures, by his performances, by everything. He’s the star of the show here — he’s such a popular horse.

“He’s got a high cruising speed. He can run over anything from 1,800 m to 2,400 m and he’s as good on soft ground as he is on fast. He can also go from the front or come from behind, it doesn’t matter. He beat the track record at Ovrevoll by a good margin over 1,800 m in August after 11 months off the track,” he said.

“I think the track in Saudi will suit him — left-handed, two bends, it should be spot on — and the 2,100 m distance should be ideal,” Petersen added. “That’s why we are targeting the Saudi Cup meeting. Looking at last year’s Neom Turf Cup, he should be good enough and he’s so well in himself.”

It had been Petersen’s plan to run Square De Luynes, among others, at last year’s Saudi Cup meeting, but the harsh Norwegian winter threw a spanner in the works.

This time he was able to ship a select team to Dubai. The horses have been in the UAE several weeks and all three of Petersen’s Saudi hopes will have prep-runs at Meydan.

“We’ve been lucky with the weather in Norway this year as we’ve been able to train them up until we left, so that’s a big plus. Normally we get a lot of rain in the autumn,” said Petersen. “When that happens and it freezes, you lose everything as the track turns to concrete.

“This year it just turned cold and they were able to get a lot of salt on the track,” he said. “They also put a lot of new sand down so we could work horses on it — you couldn’t race on it but you could do a good canter. It meant we could maintain the horses’ fitness which we’ve been unable to do in other years.

“That’s why we couldn’t go to Saudi last year. There was no point as it was a hard winter here and the horses lost too much of their condition. You don’t take chances with these horses — you need to do it right.”

Square De Luynes is owned by the Stall Power Girls — a syndicate made up of some of his owners’ wives, including Petersen’s own wife. Their distinctive pink colours will certainly stand out on Saudi Cup day.


Manchester City’s youth Abu Dhabi Cup returns in 2023

Manchester City’s youth Abu Dhabi Cup returns in 2023
Updated 11 sec ago

Manchester City’s youth Abu Dhabi Cup returns in 2023

Manchester City’s youth Abu Dhabi Cup returns in 2023
  • Competition open to young male and female players from Feb. 18-19 at Zayed Sports City Stadium

ABU DHABI: The Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup will return to the UAE capital in February 2023, for the first time since 2019, the organizers have announced.

The youth tournament caters for players of all abilities, with the aim of developing footballers in the region.

Launched in 2017, the youth tournament has over the years attracted international interest with the participation of 13 countries from four continents, over 1,750 players (including Manchester City academy footballers from the UK) and 4,000 spectators.

In 2018, the organizers also launched a new girls’ category, which will return for the upcoming 2023 edition.

The tournament will be held over the weekend of Feb. 18 and 19 at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the largest multi-purpose venue in the UAE. Off the pitch and away from the action, families will be able to enjoy live entertainment and fun activities in the ‘City Village.’

Aref Hamad Al-Awani, general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said: “Abu Dhabi Sports Council is delighted to once again support the Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup. Football tournaments in the capital city are essential to ensure the growth, further development and improvement of the football landscape in the UAE. We are very excited to see the Cup competition return in 2023 and are looking forward to welcoming teams from the region competing alongside youth Abu Dhabi football clubs.”

The age categories for the 2023 tournament will be under-8, under-10, under-12 and under-14 boys, and two categories for under-11 and under-14 girls.

Simon Hewitt, senior manager, Football Operations MENA - Football Education, said: “We can’t wait to see so many young footballers playing with a smile on their faces and having fun at the Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup in February 2023. The tournament returns and promises to be a fantastic experience for all involved, from players to families and the coaches.”

“The tournament caters for all levels of abilities with day two ending in a selection of finals for the City Cup, City Plate, City Trophy and City Shield all up for grabs, with one lucky team winning an all-expenses paid trip to the City Football Academy in Manchester.”

Meanwhile Saleh Mohamed Saleh Al-Geziry, director general for tourism at the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, said: “Inspiring the next generation of sports stars and sharing Abu Dhabi with the world are among the key goals of DCT Abu Dhabi, so we’re thrilled to support the Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup and showcase our world-class sporting infrastructure and partnerships.”


Runners have new short races before Abu Dhabi Marathon 2022

Runners have new short races before Abu Dhabi Marathon 2022
Updated 16 min 43 sec ago

Runners have new short races before Abu Dhabi Marathon 2022

Runners have new short races before Abu Dhabi Marathon 2022
  • Yas Island and Al-Ain stadium to host 1km to 21.1km events
  • Aim to hone fitness of elite and amateur racers, say organizers

ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi Sports Council and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company have announced an all-new Race Series Edition of short distances that will allow elite and amateur runners to hone their fitness ahead of the fourth edition of the ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon on Dec. 17 this year.

The series is open to people of all ages and will feature three organized runs. The first is scheduled to take place on Sept. 3 over 5 kilometers inside Yas Mall Abu Dhabi, and over 1 kilometer and 3 kilometers. The second event will take place on Oct. 8 at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al-Ain, and offer an outdoor race of 10 kilometers as well as options of 3 kilometers and 5 kilometers.

The third run of the series is on Nov. 5, just over a month before the ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon. It will provide participants the chance to race a 21.1-kilometer half-marathon on a new course on Yas Island, as well as options of 3 kilometers, 5 kilometers and 10 kilometers.

Aref Al-Awani, general secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said: “The new series of community races represent a distinctive addition to the fourth ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon program and the agenda of our sporting activities in general.

“It further reveals our enduring commitment to encourage the practice of sports among members of society of all age groups and ensuring that it promotes our healthy and active lifestyle program to further improve the Quality of Life Index in Abu Dhabi.”

In keeping with the slogan “For the Community, By the Community,” the series demonstrates how the marathon is driving community engagement and promoting a healthy lifestyle for all UAE residents, he added.

Dr. Saif Sultan Al-Nasseri, director of the Human Capital Directorate at ADNOC, said: “The Race Series Edition provides a great opportunity for members of the public to train and practice their race strategies ahead of the ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon and we encourage everyone to take advantage.

“ADNOC is pleased to support this initiative and we will continue enabling the wellbeing of our community through our integrated health and sporting initiatives.”

Last year’s marathon attracted more than 12,000 participants of various ages, in addition to a sizeable group of elite international athletes. The 42.2-kilometer race was held alongside 10-kilometer, 5-kilometer, and 2.5-kilometer competitions.


Nutrition for health and sports under spotlight in Riyadh

Nutrition for health and sports under spotlight in Riyadh
Updated 10 August 2022

Nutrition for health and sports under spotlight in Riyadh

Nutrition for health and sports under spotlight in Riyadh
  • Saudi federation holds workshops with PepsiCo
  • Seminars part of Vision 2030’s xQuality of Life Program

The importance of nutrition for athletic performance and general health was under the spotlight in Riyadh recently with the Saudi Sports for All Federation, or SFA, holding its second series of workshops with PepsiCo’s Gatorade Sport and Science Institute.

The popular program saw 61 participants selected from 303 applicants, which included Community Sports Groups, coaches, and experts in several sporting codes.

Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini, managing director of the SFA, said: “At SFA, we take a holistic approach to health and wellness that encompasses all elements required for a healthy lifestyle. The sports nutrition workshop is one of our initiatives to provide our communities with trainers to help them navigate a lifestyle driven by sports and physical activity.

“Participants from the workshop are now equipped with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to support fellow citizens and residents with guidance on nutrition and hydration as we embark on our goal to increase sports and physical activity in the Kingdom,” she said.

PepsiCo’s GSSI was established in 1985 to help athletes with expert nutritional advice.

Karim Khedr, franchise VP, said: “Through our partnership with SFA, we are aiming to improve people’s quality of life in Saudi Arabia. We recognize the importance of working with partners who share the same ambitions — and together we want to empower athletes for success by providing tools to advance them to become strong assets in building a better future.

“We are proud to see the number of participants who attended the sports nutrition training workshops and look forward to further playing our part in supporting the Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030 goal of being among the leaders in selected sports regionally and globally.”

The three-day seminar covered a range of topics, including hydration, the function of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals, and dietary supplements.

Participants received personalized GSSI certificates and will serve as sports ambassadors.

The workshops are supported by the Ministry of Sport. This is part of Vision 2030’s Quality of Life Program to increase the number of people exercising at least once a week to 40 percent.


Naomi Osaka exits opening match at Toronto with back injury

Naomi Osaka exits opening match at Toronto with back injury
Updated 10 August 2022

Naomi Osaka exits opening match at Toronto with back injury

Naomi Osaka exits opening match at Toronto with back injury
  • She had been eliminated from her last three competitions in the first or second round
  • Includes straight-sets loss to Coco Gauff at last week’s Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic

TORONTO: Naomi Osaka’s recent struggles continued Tuesday with an early exit at the National Bank Open.

The four-time Grand Slam champion retired from her first-round match with a back injury. She was trailing 7-6 (4), 3-0 against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi when she withdrew from the contest.

“I felt my back from the start of the match, and despite trying to push through it, I just wasn’t able to today,” Osaka said. “I’d like to pay credit to Kaia for playing well and want to wish her all the best for the rest of the tournament.”

Entering the tournament, Osaka had been eliminated from her last three competitions in the first or second round, including a straight-sets loss to Coco Gauff at last week’s Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic. That was her first tournament since the French Open as she recovered from an Achilles injury.

Prior to that run, she had her best tournament of the year making it to the final of the Miami Open in early April before losing to top-ranked Iga Swiatek.

The 31st-ranked Kanepi will next play No. 8 Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

In other matches, 10th seeded Gauff beat fellow American Madison Brenglem 6-1, 6-3; China’s Zheng Qinwen got past Canada’s Rebecca Marino, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4; Italy’s Camila Giorgi defeated ninth-seeded Emma Raducanu of England, 7-6 (0), 6-2; and Bianca Andreescu of Canada beat Daria Kasatkina of Russia, 7-6 (5), 6-4. Elize Mertens of Belgium, Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, Ajla Tomljanovic of Russia, Amanda Anisimova of the US, and Zhang Shuai of China also advanced.

Osaka struggled with unforced errors and had four of her five double faults in the first set. She won the first game with the help of three unforced errors from Kanepi, but the four-time Grand Slam champion lost her momentum after going up 2-1.

Kanepi won four of the next seven games to go up 5-3. From there, Osaka had to fight her way out of two set-point opportunities from Kanepi. With a mix of a strong backhand and multiple errors from Kanepi, Osaka was able to tie it up and send the set to a tiebreaker.

With the tiebreaker tied 3-3, Kanepi turned up her level of play taking four of the next five points as Osaka handed her set point on a shot past the baseline. Kanepi built on that momentum in the second set, taking advantage of Osaka’s mishaps and firing sharp forehands past the Japanese star.

After hitting her second ace of the match earlier in the final game, Kanepi closed out with a strong serve that Osaka returned high and wide.

Andreescu won this event in 2019 before taking the US Open title in what was a breakout year for the 22-year-old. She hasn’t won a tournament since, having battled through injuries and taking a “mental break” at one point in 2021. Andreescu’s lone final appearance this year has been at the Bad Homburg Open where she fell to Caroline Garcia.

Andreescu will play Alize Cornet of France in the second round.


Kyrgios lifts mental game for seventh straight win, Murray out

Kyrgios lifts mental game for seventh straight win, Murray out
Updated 10 August 2022

Kyrgios lifts mental game for seventh straight win, Murray out

Kyrgios lifts mental game for seventh straight win, Murray out
  • Kyrgios has won 13 of his last 14 singles matches and stands 28-7 this breakthrough season

MONTREAL: Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios let an early lead slip but regrouped on Tuesday for a 6-4, 6-4 first-round victory over Sebastian Baez at the ATP Montreal Masters.

World No. 37 Kyrgios, a title winner last week in Washington, next faces world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, who won last week’s Los Cabos crown.

“It will be a great test and a lot of fun,” Kyrgios said. “He’s a hell of a player. He’s unorthodox — an animal.

“I want to see where my game’s at so I’ll be giving it my best shot.”

The day was a disaster for Britain’s Andy Murray as the treble Grand Slam winner was cut off in the first round, a 6-1, 6-3 victim of Taylor Fritz.

The American presented nothing but frustration to Murray, who lost with just seven winners and 19 unforced errors while Fritz fired 30 winners in 87 minutes.

“It’s an honor to be on court with Andy,” Fritz said. “He has been dominating since before I came onto the tour.”

Medvedev’s chances of retaining the top ranking over the next month are on the line when he plays Kyrgios.

The 27-year-old Australian secured his seventh straight match victory since losing to Novak Djokovic in last month’s Wimbledon final.

Kyrgios said he is on point physically but had to work to maintain mental strength in the match played 48 hours after lifting the trophy in the US capital.

“Physically I feel fine, mentally I’m tired,” he said. “I’ve not had much sleep in the last few days.

“I’ve put Washington behind me already. I’ve not played great in Montreal in the past, so I’m just trying to create some good memories for myself.”

Kyrgios held a comfortable 5-1 margin in the opening set before Argentine Baez fought back to 4-5 before dropping the set.

The Aussie managed to stop the rot and left nothing to chance in the second set as he closed out victory.

Kyrgios has won 13 of his last 14 singles matches and stands 28-7 this breakthrough season.

Earlier, fellow Aussie Alex De Minaur finished off a match delayed from Monday by rain, winning four of the only five points remaining to add to the misery of Canadian Denis Shapovalov 7-5, 7-6 (7/4).

Shapovalov stands 1-9 since upsetting Rafael Nadal at Rome last May as his slump deepens.

French showman Gael Monfils defeated Spain’s Pedro Martinez 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-2.

Matteo Berrettini’s comeback from the Covid-19 positive test which forced him to quit Wimbledon stalled out, with the Italian losing 6-3, 6-2 to Paolo Carreno Busta in the opening round.

Berrettini played a clay final last month against Casper Ruud in Gstaad, but was unable to make a decent start to his pre-US Open cement season.