Fahey and Ferguson getting into the Spirit ahead of Saudi Cup

Fahey and Ferguson getting into the Spirit ahead of Saudi Cup
Richard Fahey apeaking at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh (Neville Hopwood/JCSA)
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Updated 23 February 2024
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Fahey and Ferguson getting into the Spirit ahead of Saudi Cup

Fahey and Ferguson getting into the Spirit ahead of Saudi Cup
  • Big-race winner in Bahrain represents some famous connections, including former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

RIYADH: Trainer Richard Fahey has admitted he was “humbled” when first getting the opportunity to train horses for legendary ex-Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, and suggested that saddling Spirit Dancer (GB) in Saturday’s Howden Neom Turf Cup is the “stuff of dreams.”

The co-owner’s homebred capped off a memorable year when winning the Bahrain International Trophy in November, and following a prep run in Dubai last month, appears a leading contender in the $2 million (SR7.4 million) Howden Neom Turf Cup.

“I felt he would need the run the last day and it looked that way as well,” Fahey said. “He has had four or five weeks to acclimatize now. It’s all stuff of dreams, which is becoming a reality when we get to run on Saturday.”

Fahey’s association with one of the most successful British sportsmen has been fruitful for both parties, and the trainer has been able to swap sporting experiences with Ferguson.

“To be fair when I first started training for him I was a little bit humbled,” Fahey said. “I have some fantastic conversations with him and he has been to the yard three or four times now. He is just a wonderful man and you can see why he has been a success.

“It’s a humbling experience, but it’s amazing because even this morning we were discussing footballers and horses, and Sir Alex was asking why we didn’t canter on the grass.

“I explained we race on the (grass) surfaces because if we were to train on them all the time, we wouldn’t have many horses left, so we tend to use the artificial surfaces, and he compared it to a very good football team whose training pitch was quite quick and a lot of the players were getting hurt — so there are comparisons with football and racing.”

Fahey has been impressed with the surroundings in Riyadh and confirmed that the seven-year-old Spirit Dancer has settled in well.

“It’s fantastic here; we are well looked after and the horse is happy. When you come on these trips, the most important thing is how the horse is and the horse is in good order,” the North Yorkshire-based trainer said.

“I’m very pleased with him and at the moment I wouldn’t swap my fella.”

There is no hiding the sheer enjoyment that all connections got from Spirit Dancer’s Bahrain victory and Fahey is hoping for more of the same this weekend.

“It has given them a huge amount of pleasure and I think as a trainer we don’t really respect the pleasure horses give to people. For Sir Alex to be animated and excited and for all the team, it was a great win,” Fahey said.


American golfer John Catlin wins 2024 Saudi Open in Riyadh

American golfer John Catlin wins 2024 Saudi Open in Riyadh
Updated 9 sec ago
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American golfer John Catlin wins 2024 Saudi Open in Riyadh

American golfer John Catlin wins 2024 Saudi Open in Riyadh
  • ‘Pretty special to finish back-to-back events holding the trophy,’ Caitlin says
  • Australian Wade Ormsby finishes runner-up with final day 64

RIYADH: American professional golfer John Catlin won the 2024 Saudi Open, presented by the Public Investment Fund, after completing his wire-to-wire victory at Riyadh Golf Club on Saturday.
He finished seven shots ahead of his nearest challenger on 24-under-par.
From the moment he teed off on Wednesday, Catlin was in the groove, and his final round was a procession.
Having shot a men’s course record 62 on Friday, the American followed it up with 66 on Saturday, his fourth consecutive round in the 60s in Riyadh.
It is Catlin’s sixth Asian Tour title and his second in a row, having beaten Spaniard David Puig in a playoff at the International Series Macau in March, and his form was simply too hot for the rest of the field to handle.
“I am tired, but very, very happy,” Catlin said. “I’ve never gone back-to-back like that. It is pretty special to finish back-to-back events holding the trophy. It was just a special week and I feel very lucky to be the champion.
“I hope my victory shows the fans that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible. I have dreamt about being a professional golfer since I was about 8 years old and I just kept putting in the hard work.”
He added: “I never let anything stand in the way of what I wanted to do, and I’d say that to anybody: if you want to follow in my footsteps, you have to put in the hard work and be willing to sacrifice, then great things can happen.”
Catlin was full of praise for organizers of the 2024 Saudi Open, and said he looks forward to defending his title in 2025.
“It was very well organized. The tournament was awesome. From start to finish we were looked after amazingly, and the people were friendly. The hospitality has been great, the food has been awesome — everything about this event is top class and I look forward to coming back in the future.”
Wade Ormsby’s final day 64 saw him finish second, two ahead of Peter Uihlein and Kiradech Aphinbarnrat in third.
The Australian admitted that it just proved impossible to haul in the runaway leader.
Ormsby said: “John had a big lead, it was difficult, you just want to go out and play as well as you can. There were a couple of potential tiny openings there, but he closed the door straight away. I am really happy with the way I played.”
Reigning champion Denwit Boriboonsub finished in style after a disappointing Friday saw his chances of retaining his trophy slip away.
The Thai golfer shot 63, the joint-second lowest round of the week, but enjoyed his time back at Riyadh Golf Club.
The 20-year-old said: “I’ve enjoyed and relished being the defending champion. It helped me a lot with a two-year exemption on the Asian Tour, which relieves a lot of pressure, and winning means a lot. Yesterday wasn’t so good, but I bounced back and I’m very happy with the score.”


Shaheen, Amir star as Pakistan dismiss New Zealand for just 90

Shaheen, Amir star as Pakistan dismiss New Zealand for just 90
Updated 13 min 18 sec ago
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Shaheen, Amir star as Pakistan dismiss New Zealand for just 90

Shaheen, Amir star as Pakistan dismiss New Zealand for just 90
  • Shaheen led the attack with 3-13 while Amir, returning to international cricket after nearly four years, finished with 2-13
  • Spinners Abrar Ahmed, Shadab Khan doubled pressure as New Zealand were dismissed for their second lowest against Pakistan

RAWALPINDI: Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Amir led a destructive Pakistan attack to bowl out an under-strength New Zealand for a paltry 90 in their second Twenty20 clash in Rawalpindi on Saturday.
Shaheen led the attack with 3-13 while Amir, returning to international cricket after nearly four years, finished with 2-13 as the visitors were bowled out in 18.1 overs after being sent in to bat.
Amir retired from international cricket in 2020 after he was dropped from the team, the second break in his career after he was banned for five years in a spot-fixing scandal in 2010.
Spinners Abrar Ahmed (2-15) and Shadab Khan (2-15) doubled the pressure as New Zealand were dismissed for their second lowest total against Pakistan in the game's shortest format.
Mark Chapman (19), Cole McConchie (15), Dean Foxcroft (13) and Tim Seifert (13) were the only batsmen to reach double figures.
The first of five-match series was washed out after just two deliveries, also in Rawalpindi, on Thursday.
Both teams are preparing for the Twenty20 World Cup to be held in June in the United States and the West Indies.
New Zealand are missing a host of their top players due to playing in the ongoing Indian Premier League, unavailability and injuries.


Pakistan wins the toss and elects to field in 2nd T20 against New Zealand

Pakistan wins the toss and elects to field in 2nd T20 against New Zealand
Updated 20 April 2024
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Pakistan wins the toss and elects to field in 2nd T20 against New Zealand

Pakistan wins the toss and elects to field in 2nd T20 against New Zealand
  • Pakistan retained the same playing XI from the washout that included three debutants — Usman Khan, Irfan Khan and Abrar Ahmed
  • Pakistan wicketkeeper-batter Azam Khan was ruled out of the series because of a slightly torn calf muscle that needs 10 days to heal

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan: Pakistan captain Babar Azam won the toss and elected to field against New Zealand on Saturday in the second Twenty20 of their five-match series.
The first game was rained out Thursday after only two balls could be bowled. Shaheen Shah Afridi had clean-bowled debutant Tim Robinson for a duck and New Zealand was 2-1 before rain denied further play.
Pakistan retained the same playing XI from the washout that included three debutants — Usman Khan, Irfan Khan and Abrar Ahmed. Fast bowler Mohammad Amir returns to action in his hometown after he came out of retirement for this June’s T20 World Cup in the United States and the Caribbean.
Pakistan wicketkeeper-batter Azam Khan was ruled out of the series because of a slightly torn calf muscle that needs 10 days to heal.
New Zealand made one change and brought in all-rounder Cole McConchie in place of Josh Clarkson, who was ill and didn’t travel to the stadium with the team.
Both sides are using the series to prepare for the T20 World Cup.
Michael Bracewell is leading the Black Caps, who are without nine key players competing in the Indian Premier League. The squad was further depleted just before the tour when Finn Allen and Adam Milne were injured in training.
Rawalpindi will also host the third game on Sunday before the series moves to Lahore for the last two games next week.

Lineups:
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Saim Ayub, Mohammad Rizwan, Usman Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Irfan Khan, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Naseem Shah, Abrar Ahmed.
New Zealand: Tim Robinson, Tim Seifert, Dean Foxcroft, Mark Chapman, James Neesham, Michael Bracewell (captain), Cole McConchie, Ish Sodhi, Jacob Duffy, Ben Sears, Ben Lister.


Barca coach Xavi hails rivals Madrid ahead of Clasico

Barca coach Xavi hails rivals Madrid ahead of Clasico
Updated 20 April 2024
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Barca coach Xavi hails rivals Madrid ahead of Clasico

Barca coach Xavi hails rivals Madrid ahead of Clasico
  • “When you have won so many times you play with more calm, less desperation, more confidence, they are a very good team,” Xavi said
  • “In the end people say it’s luck, I don’t believe much in luck — I think it’s effort, defensive work, the solidarity they showed, everyone working so hard”

MADRID: Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez praised rivals Real Madrid ahead of their Clasico showdown in La Liga on Sunday.
Los Blancos lead the Spanish top flight by eight points with champions Barcelona needing a victory at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday to stand any chance of retaining the trophy.
After Barcelona crashed out of the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain and Madrid beat holders Manchester City in midweek, Xavi acknowledged the record 14-time winners’ quality.
“When you have won so many times you play with more calm, less desperation, more confidence, they are a very good team,” Xavi told a news conference Saturday.
“In the end people say it’s luck, I don’t believe much in luck — I think it’s effort, defensive work, the solidarity they showed, everyone working so hard.
“The three up front worked harder than ever, Man City missed some clear chances but that’s football, it’s not luck that Madrid have knocked out the best team in the world twice in three years.”
Xavi said he was not throwing in the towel in La Liga despite Madrid’s significant advantage.
“For us it’s the most important game of the season, we have to win to put pressure on the leader,” he added.
“We have enormous respect for Real Madrid, they’ve lost just one game out of 31, their numbers are extraordinary.
“We don’t have bad numbers in La Liga, we’ve got four points less than when we were leaders last season (at this stage).”
Xavi’s counterpart at Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti, said his team could strike a killer blow in the title race.
“It’s a great chance for us to get closer to winning La Liga, but we know it’s hard because Barcelona are a very competitive side,” said the Italian.
“We are very close if we are capable of winning ... it will be the usual Clasico, a hard-fought, equal game.”
Ancelotti said defender Ferland Mendy was tired after the win over City and was given an extra day of rest, but the rest of his squad was fit, beyond the long-term absentees.
Madrid are aiming to win a league and Champions League double for the fifth time in their history.
“The cake is prepared and we have to put the cherry on top this month,” said Ancelotti. “We’re very well positioned.”


Saudi Arabia beat Thailand to edge closer to AFC U-23 Asian Cup quarterfinals

Saudi Arabia beat Thailand to edge closer to AFC U-23 Asian Cup quarterfinals
Updated 20 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia beat Thailand to edge closer to AFC U-23 Asian Cup quarterfinals

Saudi Arabia beat Thailand to edge closer to AFC U-23 Asian Cup quarterfinals
  • The 5-0 win leaves the Green Falcons top of Group C of the tournament, which acts as qualification for this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris

DOHA: Saudi Arabia on Friday night thrashed Thailand 5-0 to edge closer to the quarterfinals of the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup.

The win at Khalifa International Stadium leaves the Green falcons top of Group C with a maximum of six points from three two matches.

Iraq, who defeated Tajikistan 4-2 later on Friday, sit in second with three points, with Thailand third on goal difference. Tajikistan, with two defeats, are bottom of the group with no points.

A win or draw for Saudi Arabia against Iraq on Monday will secure top spot in the group and progress to the last eight.

Saudi took the lead against Thailand after four minutes through Ayman Yahoo’s third goal of the tournament, before Ahmed Al-Ghamdi and Abdullah Radif scored in first-half stoppage time to all but end the match as content.

Radif went on to complete his hat trick with strikes in the 52nd and 73rd minutes.

The U-23 Asian Cup, which runs until May 3, also provides a pathway to the men’s football competition at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The tournament sees 16 nations split into four groups of four teams, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. The competition also serves as a route to the Olympic Games in Paris this summer, with the winners of the two semifinals both securing automatic qualification.

The two losing semifinalists will contest third place, with the winners also booking a place in Paris, while the fourth-place finishers have a final chance with a play-off against an African qualifier.