Forte is 3-1 favorite for Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

Forte is 3-1 favorite for Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs
Forte runs on the track during the morning training for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Monday in Louisville, Kentucky. (Getty Images North America/AFP)
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Updated 02 May 2023
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Forte is 3-1 favorite for Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

Forte is 3-1 favorite for Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs
  • Forte drew the No. 15 post at 3-1 odds on Monday for the $3 million premier race for 3-year-olds
  • Botanical is the 4-1 second choice from the No. 6 post with trainer Norm Casse’s Southlawn the 8-1 third choice from the No. 4 post

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky: Todd Pletcher-trained colt Forte and Brad Cox’s filly Wet Paint are the morning line favorites respectively for the 149th Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.

Forte, the 2-year-old champion whose 190 points led the Derby qualifying trail, drew the No. 15 post at 3-1 odds on Monday for the $3 million premier race for 3-year-olds. He brings in a five-race winning streak and has won six of seven starts including last month’s Florida Derby won by a length over Mage, who will start from the No. 8 post at 15-1 odds.

Stablemate Tapit Trice is the 5-1 second choice after drawing the No. 5 post on Monday, with Cox’s Angel of Empire (154 points) the 8-1 third choice after drawing the No. 14 post.

Wet Paint will lead Friday’s $1.25 million Oaks from the No. 7 post at 5-2 odds. One of three fillies trained by Louisville-born Cox among 14 entrants for the 1 1/8th mile race, she has won all three starts this year and enters with consecutive Grade 3 stakes wins in the Fantasy and Honeybee respectively at Oaklawn Park.

Stablemate Botanical is the 4-1 second choice from the No. 6 post with trainer Norm Casse’s Southlawn the 8-1 third choice from the No. 4 post.

Any suspense over where Forte would start the 1 1/4-mile race was gone quickly when the son of Violence and Queen Caroline by Blame was called out with the first pill drawn. That also relieved Pletcher, a Hall of Famer, of stress after Mo Donegal and Known Agenda started the last two Derbys from the rail. They finished fifth and ninth respectively.

The two-time Derby winner had no complaints either with draws for Tapit Trice and Kingsbarns, a 12-1 choice from the No. 6 post. Both are 3-0 as 3-year-olds and coming off wins in the Blue Grass (Keeneland) and Louisiana Derby respectively.

“I do think it’s different with the one (post) with the new starting gate,” Pletcher said. “But still, I felt like it cost us a position or two last year and the year before. So, just happy to get out of there and pretty pleased with all three post positions.”

Meanwhile, Cox hopes strength in numbers earns his first outright Derby victory just over 15 months since Mandaloun was elevated to the 2021 win following Medina Spirit’s failed postrace drug test.

Angel of Empire certainly has the credentials after his 4¼-length victory in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. He has two wins and a second as a 3-year-old and a solid post just two spots right of stablemate Jace’s Road (50-1). Those posts might offset Cox’s dread after Hit Show (30-1) and Verifying (15-1) drew the Nos. 1 and 2 posts, forcing both to avoid getting bunched against the rail out of the gate.

“Angel of Empire, I think it’s a good draw,” Cox said. “(Jockey) Flavien (Prat) will be able to break running and get a good spot mid-pack. That’s what I’m envisioning. Jace’s Road will probably be more forwardly placed as opposed to Angel of Empire. Hopefully he can get himself up into the mix.”

Wet Paint and Botanical have decent spots in the Oaks, offering Cox two good chances to win that race for the third time in six years.

Post time for the Derby is 6:57 p.m. ET on Saturday. The Oaks goes off Friday at 5:51 p.m. ET.

The Kentucky Derby field from the rail out with odds: Hit Show (30-1); Verifying (15-1); Two Phil’s (12-1); Confidence Game (20-1); Tapit Trice (5-1); Kingsbarns (12-1); Reincarnate (50-1); Mage (15-1); Skinner (20-1); Practical Move (10-1); Disarm (30-1); Jace’s Road (50-1); Sun Thunder (50-1); Angel of Empire (8-1); Forte (3-1); Raise Cain (50-1); Derma Sotogake (10-1); Rocket Can (30-1); Lord Miles (30-1); Continuar (50-1). Also eligible: Cyclone Mischief (30-1); Mandarin Hero (20-1); King Russell (50-1).


Hamilton insists Mercedes story can end on a high

Hamilton insists Mercedes story can end on a high
Updated 23 February 2024
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Hamilton insists Mercedes story can end on a high

Hamilton insists Mercedes story can end on a high
  • The 39-year-old Briton has been with Mercedes since 2013
  • “An opportunity came up in the New Year and I decided to take it,” Hamilton said

SAKHIR, Bahrain: Seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton says his switch to Ferrari programmed for 2025 will add a brand new chapter to his sparkling career, but insisted he hopes to leave Mercedes on a high.
The 39-year-old Briton has been with Mercedes since 2013, but recently activated a break clause to seal a move to the Italian team in 2025.
“An opportunity came up in the New Year and I decided to take it,” Hamilton said, describing the decision as the hardest he’d ever faced.
“We have had an incredible journey together, created history within the sport and it is something I take a lot of pride in,” he said.
Hamilton — without a win in two years — won six of his record-equalling seven world championships with the Silver Arrows.
“This chapter is still not finished and I am still 100 percent focused on delivering for this team,” he insisted Friday.
Mercedes have struggled to match their rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull since Hamilton missed out on what would have been a record eighth world championship in 2021 in controversial fashion.
Current Formula One world champion Verstappen won 19 out of last season’s 22 races as he surged toward a third consecutive Drivers’ Championship.
The opening Grand Prix of the F1 season is set for Bahrain on March 2.


Liverpool to face Sparta Prague in Europa League last 16

Liverpool to face Sparta Prague in Europa League last 16
Updated 23 February 2024
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Liverpool to face Sparta Prague in Europa League last 16

Liverpool to face Sparta Prague in Europa League last 16
  • Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool will be strong favourites to reach the quarter-finals
  • Leverkusen, led by Xabi Alonso, are unbeaten in 32 matches in all competitions this season, and will again face Qarabag

NYON, Switzerland: Three-time winners Liverpool were drawn to face Sparta Prague in the Europa League last 16 on Friday, while unbeaten Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen will take on Azeris Qarabag.
Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool will be strong favourites to reach the quarter-finals as they bid for a quadruple in the German's final season before stepping down as manager.
The first leg will be played in the Czech capital on March 7, with Anfield hosting the return game a week later.
Leverkusen, led by Xabi Alonso, are unbeaten in 32 matches in all competitions this season, and will again face Qarabag, having already seen off the Azeri champions twice in the group stage.
Also renewing acquaintances will be last year's Europa Conference League winners West Ham and Freiburg, after David Moyes' side's brace of victories against the Bundesliga club in Group A.
"It's kind of stupid that you can come back against your group opponents in the round of 16," said Freiburg captain Christian Guenter.
"You could already tell that some of us were upset."
Seven-time European champions AC Milan continue their bid to win a maiden Europa League title against Slavia Prague after their knock-out round play-off win over Rennes.
Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers, losing finalists in 2022, take on Portuguese Primeira Liga pace-setters Benfica, still chasing a first European trophy since 1962.
Premier League club Brighton continue their first ever European adventure at last season's runners-up Roma.
First legs to be played on March 7, second legs to be played on March 14.

Full last-16 draw
Sparta Prague (CZE) v Liverpool (ENG)
Marseille (FRA) v Villarreal (ESP)
Roma (ITA) v Brighton (ENG)
Benfica (POR) v Rangers (SCO)
Freiburg (GER) v West Ham (ENG)
Sporting Lisbon (POR) v Atalanta (ITA)
AC Milan (ITA) v Slavia Prague (CZE)
Qarabag (AZE) v Bayer Leverkusen (GER)


Saudi golfer Faisal Salhab has impressive opening round at $2m International Series Oman

Saudi golfer Faisal Salhab has impressive opening round at $2m International Series Oman
Updated 23 February 2024
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Saudi golfer Faisal Salhab has impressive opening round at $2m International Series Oman

Saudi golfer Faisal Salhab has impressive opening round at $2m International Series Oman
  • Fellow Saudis Othman Almulla, Saud Al-Sharif also enjoy solid starts in Muscat

Muscat: On a tricky Al-Mouj Golf Club course in the opening round of the $2 million International Series Oman, Saudi Arabia’s Faisal Salhab got off the mark with a solid 1-under par 71 round.

There were two annoying bogeys – one of them a three-putt on the par-3 eighth green that tested everyone in the field with its severity – but Salhab also hit 15 out of 18 greens in regulation and missed only two fairways all day.

Saud Al-Sharif and Othman Almulla, the other two Saudi professionals in the field, had impressive starts too.

Al-Sharif was 1-under par for his round through 15 holes, before a double bogey on the seventh hole pushed him to 1-over par. Almulla started with three bogeys in his first four holes, but came back to make 12 straight pars before an unfortunate triple bogey on the difficult 16th hole saw him finish at 6-over par.

After signing his card, Salhab, 27, flashing his trademark wide smile, predicted that 2024 would be a year of change for Saudi professional golfers.

He said: “It’s so good to see that the things I’ve been working hard for in the offseason with my coach (Jamie McConnell), with other members of the team like my psychologist (Andrea Debellis), Saudi Golf, and the other pros, is showing early results.

“This was a good start, but hopefully, a lot more to come this year. I honestly think this could be a breakthrough year for us Saudi professional golfers. We have been given this incredible opportunity to play the International Series events and on the Asian Tour, and we are on the verge of showing positive results. We have all had good spells and we only need to string it together for a longer period.

“The mentality is back to trying to win — trying to do well. We do not want to try making cuts anymore. These last couple of years have shown us that we have the game. I’ve seen it playing against these guys. They’re excellent players. But we’re very good as well, and we need to believe that more.

“We’re getting that mentality this year of not having any fear — become a kid again. We’ve been dreaming all our lives of playing with these guys. Now that we are here, why are we being timid? It’s completely wrong.

“So, this is a year of what can we do, rather than putting ceilings on ourselves,” Salhab added.

That fearlessness was very evident during Salhab’s round, when he bounced back with a birdie on the 17th hole after making a couple of unforced errors to wind up with a bogey on the previous hole.

He said: “I hit a good drive and then a 3-wood to about 40 yards. The chip went over the green, and then I did not have a great return chip before my par putt from 10-12 feet lipped out.

“But that’s where I think I showed good attitude and some of the talks that I had with Andrea paid off. I spoke to my caddie and told him, ‘let’s forget about the bogey. We’re good enough to birdie any hole here.’ I just hit a couple of good shots after that and made a 15-foot birdie putt.”

Salhab has had better rounds as a professional – his best was a 4-under par 68 in Indonesia last year. But he was pleased with his 71 in Muscat, especially because Al-Mouj was decidedly playing tougher.

“Hundred percent this was better. Even though the scorecard would say the round in Indonesia was better by three shots.

“This was solid. I kept hitting good shots and finding fairways and I stuck to my processes. I was happy with how I thought on the golf course and how I kept pushing myself.

“I just need to keep doing this. I need to keep working hard and believe in myself,” Salhab added.


Kenya bids solemn farewell to marathon sensation Kiptum

Kenya bids solemn farewell to marathon sensation Kiptum
Updated 23 February 2024
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Kenya bids solemn farewell to marathon sensation Kiptum

Kenya bids solemn farewell to marathon sensation Kiptum
  • World marathon record-holder was killed in a late-night car crash on February 11
  • Kelvin Kiptum’s Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana also died in the crash

CHEPKORIO, Kenya: Top athletes and dignitaries led hundreds of mourners at the funeral Friday of Kenya’s world marathon record-holder Kelvin Kiptum in the nation’s athletics heartland where he was born, trained and died.
Kiptum, a 24-year-old father of two, was killed in a late-night car crash on February 11, just months after shattering the marathon record in Chicago.
President William Ruto and World Athletics head Sebastian Coe were among those attending the funeral in the Rift Valley town of Chepkorio.
“Kelvin’s achievements were extraordinary. That he should have scaled such heights at such a young age in itself is almost unique,” Coe said Thursday after his arrival in Kenya.
Kiptum ran the Chicago race in October in two hours and 35 seconds, slicing 34 seconds off the previous fastest time set by his Kenyan rival, the marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge.
While Kiptum only competed in three marathons, he won all of the races, posting three of the seven fastest times in history for the event.
His sudden death has left Kenya, and the wider athletics community, reeling.
“Fare thee well champ,” was the front-page headline on Kenya’s leading Daily Nation newspaper.
Mourners, including 1,500m record-holder Faith Kipyegon, started arriving at the funeral venue at dawn, some wearing black T-shirts with a picture of Kiptum emblazoned across the front.
They viewed the body, laid out in a half-open casket on a red carpet, as a choir sang religious songs.
Four giant screens were mounted to stream the event for the many villagers gathered outside the venue.
Hundreds of people had turned out Thursday as Kiptum’s coffin was taken from the Rift Valley town of Eldoret to his home village of Chepkorio.
And in the nation’s capital Nairobi hundreds of people joined a solemn candlelight vigil, paying an emotional tribute to the rising star who had been the overwhelming favorite for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
After the funeral ceremony, Kiptum will be laid to rest in Naiberi, near Eldoret, where the government has built a new home for the family of the national hero.
Police said Kiptum was driving near Eldoret at around 11:00 p.m. on February 11 when his car careered off the road into a ditch and hit a tree.
Kenya’s chief government pathologist, Johansen Oduor, said on Wednesday the results of an autopsy showed Kiptum had suffered severe head injuries.
Toxicology tests were still under way, he added.
Kiptum’s Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana, 36, also died in the crash.
Hakizimana, who had trained Kiptum since 2019, was laid to rest in the Rwandan capital Kigali on Wednesday.
Known for maintaining a gruelling training schedule that sometimes topped 300 kilometers a week, Kiptum had recently announced he was hoping to smash the mythic two-hour mark at the Rotterdam Marathon in April.


Despite Islamabad fightback, skipper Rossouw inspires Quetta to victory

Despite Islamabad fightback, skipper Rossouw inspires Quetta to victory
Updated 23 February 2024
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Despite Islamabad fightback, skipper Rossouw inspires Quetta to victory

Despite Islamabad fightback, skipper Rossouw inspires Quetta to victory
  • In low-scoring match, Rilee Rossouw holds his nerve with 34-run inning to guide Quetta to victory
  • Gladiators’ Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Wasim take three wickets each to keep Islamabad at bay

ISLAMABAD: Despite a valiant fightback by Islamabad United, Quetta Gladiators continued their impressive run of the tournament by beating the former by three wickets at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Thursday.

“Continuing our winning streak,” the Gladiators wrote on social media platform X after the match ended.

Batting first, United scored a lackluster 138/9 at the end of their 20 overs courtesy of a stellar bowling performance from the Gladiators. Spinner Abrar Ahmed returned figures of 3/18 while Mohammad Wasim finished with 3/20. Akeil Hosein finished with 2/32 while pacer Mohammad Hasnain returned figures of 1/35.

United’s only resistance in the batting department came from Agha Salman, who top-scored with a decent 33-run knock from 23 balls while opener Alex Hales scored 21 from nine deliveries.

What should have been an easy chase for the Gladiators turned into a difficult one when United took quick wickets to put the pressure back on Rossouw’s squad. United skipper Shadab Khan returned figures of 2/24 while pacer Naseem Shah finished with 2/34.

Rumman Raees and Hunain Shah took a single wicket each before Rossouw guided United to victory with a composed 34-run innings that came off 38 balls and featured only three boundaries.

Opener Jason Roy provided the Gladiators an impressive start to the game by smashing 37 runs off 18 balls while Sherfane Rutherford held his nerves to score 29 runs from 23 balls before Naseem rattled his stumps.

The Gladiators and table-toppers Multan Sultans both have three wins from the tournament so far. Islamabad, with a single win and two losses, is at number three on the PSL points table.