Saudi Cup winner Junior Alvarado excited ahead of Dubai World Cup bid

Saudi Cup winner Junior Alvarado excited ahead of Dubai World Cup bid
Junior Alvarado celebrates after winning the G1 Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racecourse. (Erika Rasmussen/JCSA)
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Updated 27 March 2024
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Saudi Cup winner Junior Alvarado excited ahead of Dubai World Cup bid

Saudi Cup winner Junior Alvarado excited ahead of Dubai World Cup bid
  • Saudi winners Senor Buscador and Spirit Dancer seek more success in Dubai

DUBAI: Saudi Cup winning jockey Junior Alvarado is relishing the chance to add a second major Middle East title to his resume when he and Senor Buscador line up alongside some of the best in the world at the G1 Dubai World Cup this Saturday.

Reflecting on an extraordinary night at King Abdulaziz Racecourse earlier this year, Alvarado said: “Turning in I had a lot of ground to make up, so I was a little worried. In Senor Buscador’s case, I came round the outside and I was following Ushba Tesoro. I was then attempting to finish in the minor places which would’ve been good, but then I thought second would be great and all of a sudden 50 meters before the wire, I thought ‘I have a chance here.’ I went all out, and he kept digging, he fought and got to the wire first.”

Recounting his experience Alvarado called the Saudi Cup “great, second to none” and said he was looked after well from the moment he landed in the Kingdom.

“I love the racetrack, it’s probably one of the most beautiful tracks ever,” he added. “As for the dirt track itself, I thought it felt very safe and even when being held up behind other horses, the kick back was not an issue. I felt there was a lot of cushion in the ground which helps the horses.

“I would love to return to ride in Saudi again, I would do it in a heartbeat. I had a beautiful experience there; everything was handled brilliantly and the racing is on another level.”

Alvarado expressed confidence that Senor Buscador would adapt to the new challenge of Dubai and his attempt to land the Middle Eastern double.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to ride in Dubai, so I don’t know how different the surface is compared to Saudi, but from watching race replays, I think Senor Buscador will handle the dirt completely fine,” he said. “If anything, the track will favor us because of the nice long straight as he’s a big horse that keeps coming and coming.”

“The Dubai World Cup is going to be competitive,” said Alvarado. “I don’t think I can point out one horse in particular, but the danger would be if there’s not enough pace. The pace will play a big factor, and we will try to avoid traffic when it’s time to make a run. He’s always going to show up and he’s going to run a big race, so there isn’t a specific horse to be scared of in the field.”

Another major story on Saudi Cup night was the Richard Fahey-trained Spirit Dancer backing up his win in the Bahrain International Trophy by landing the G2 Howden Neom Turf Cup for owners Sir Alex Ferguson, Ged Mason and Peter Done.

Fahey and connections are now looking forward to running their son of Frankel in the G1 Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night.

“Everything’s going great. Looking at the videos and speaking to the lad out there, I believe he’s come on in his coat and his demeanor, he’s in very good form,” Fahey said.

“He did have five weeks to acclimatize from his first run this season to the Neom Turf Cup and it’s nearly another five weeks again. We’re very lucky to be able to have him there because it’s more or less the same climate in the Middle East and he’s had time to settle into a good routine — he’s loving his time there. It’s an easier preparation to do it there than from here.

“He definitely runs in the Sheema Classic. It was always in the back of my mind to go to a mile-and-a-half. You’d have every confidence that he should stay. He relaxes and in all his races he’s always finished well.

“We are in at G1 level, so it will be a huge ask, but we’ve had a nice prep and it’s always nice coming there off the back of a win. I’m really looking forward to seeing him run.”

Fahey too had high praise for the Saudi Cup meeting and the way he and all those connected with Spirit Dancer have been treated in the Middle East.

“The whole Saudi Cup meeting was exciting and there was a great atmosphere. I’m just pinching myself at the moment and enjoying the trip. We’re very lucky to have the opportunity to do this, and we have to come together and thank Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Bahrain, as they’re giving us fantastic opportunities and all three countries have looked after us fantastically well.”

Other Saudi Cup night winners on show at Meydan include Ballydoyle’s Tower of London, who triumphed in the Longines Red Sea Turf Handicap; and the Yoshito Yahagi-trained Forever Young, a winner of the Boutique Group Saudi Derby.

In addition, there are Sports Boulevard Riyadh Dirt Sprint winner Remake; the 17-race unbeaten Purebred Arabian Asfan Al-Khalediah, who won the Diriyah Gate Development Authority Obaiyah Arabian; and Tilal Al-Khalediah the winner of the Ministry of Culture Al-Mneefah Cup.


WWE stars praise ‘passionate and excited’ fans after epic showdown shakes Jeddah

WWE stars praise ‘passionate and excited’ fans after epic showdown shakes Jeddah
Updated 11 sec ago
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WWE stars praise ‘passionate and excited’ fans after epic showdown shakes Jeddah

WWE stars praise ‘passionate and excited’ fans after epic showdown shakes Jeddah

JEDDAH: WWE made a historic return to Saudi Arabia with the double-header of “SmackDown” and “King and Queen of the Ring” this weekend at Jeddah’s Superdome.

Superstars such as Sami Zayn, Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, and Logan Paul performed in front of thousands of fans at the Jeddah venue.

The historic double-header showcased WWE’s commitment to its partnership with the General Entertainment Authority, with this being the tenth event of the partnership.

In total, 20,000 passionate fans flooded the arena, marking a historic moment in WWE’s legacy in the Kingdom.

Gunther, a WWE Superstar, who defeated Randy Orton and became the King Of The Ring on Saturday evening told Arab News that Saudi fans always display an immense level of passion and enthusiasm whenever WWE visits the Kingdom.

Syrian Canadian WWE SuperStar Sami Zayn, who is much loved in Saudi Arabia because of his Arab background, told Arab News: “It’s always good to be back in Jeddah. Especially after last year (“The Night of Champions”), which was amazing, it was my first time back here in a few years. I'm just always excited to perform in front of these fans because they’re very, very excited fans, and they have been particularly nice to me.”

He continued: “I plan on successfully defending the Intercontinental Championship in front of my people.”

Sami won the title match and defended his title against both Chad Gable and Bronson Reed in a Triple Threat Match.

It was a festive feel for fans, as they enjoyed the complete WWE fan experience.

Aziz, who is a Saudi pro wrestler and owner of Future Federation Wrestling, said: “We are pumped, we are hyped to be here tonight, my favorite wrestler is the ‘American Nightmare,’ undisputed champion, Cody Rhodes — I want to thank GEA for making tonight special.”

Khalid, a teenage fan from the Kingdom who attended with his family, said: “I am very excited to see my favorite wrestlers, I want to thank the GEA for organizing this event.”

As the final bell rang and the last fireworks faded in the world’s largest geodesic dome, fans left with lifetime memories of witnessing a historic double-header. For one magical evening, WWE had transported them to a world of excitement, drama, and pure adrenaline.

WWE is renowned globally for its larger-than-life production values, and Jeddah’s historic double-header of “Smackdown” and “King and Queen of the Ring” was no exception.

WWE is taking its sports entertainment offering worldwide and plans to visit more destinations in the Middle East and Europe. Recently the company announced an inaugural tour to Berlin with their upcoming “WWE Bash” event in August this year.


‘Truly exceptional’: Jorge Jesus hails Al-Hilal players as champions lift Roshn Saudi League trophy in glitzy ceremony

 ‘Truly exceptional’: Jorge Jesus hails Al-Hilal players as champions lift Roshn Saudi League trophy in glitzy ceremony
Updated 59 min 2 sec ago
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‘Truly exceptional’: Jorge Jesus hails Al-Hilal players as champions lift Roshn Saudi League trophy in glitzy ceremony

 ‘Truly exceptional’: Jorge Jesus hails Al-Hilal players as champions lift Roshn Saudi League trophy in glitzy ceremony
  • Club can secure an invincible league season if they avoid defeat at Al-Wehda on Monday
  • Al-Hilal beat Al-Tai 3-1 on Thursday through Salem Al-Dawsari, Michael and Malcom goals

RIYADH: After newly crowned Roshn Saudi League champions Al-Hilal lifted the league trophy in a stunning ceremony at Kingdom Arena on Friday night, manager Jorge Jesus says the season may be the best ever in the 66-year history of the club.

Unbeaten domestically this season, Al-Hilal — who created world history by winning 34 matches in succession between September and April across all competitions — clinched the title with three games to spare. The champions are 14 points ahead of second-placed Al-Nassr.

An invincible league season will be secured for the Saudi Super Cup winners if they avoid defeat in their final match at Al-Wehda on Monday. The King’s Cup final against Al-Nassr concludes Al-Hilal’s campaign.

Jesus said: “This season has been truly exceptional for the team — arguably our best ever. The credit goes to the immense talent within the squad and the incredible sense of unity that transcends both on and off-field interactions. We’re currently vying for three local trophies this season. We’ve already secured two and are determined to win the last one.”

Al-Hilal’s latest victory saw them beat Al-Tai 3-1 on Thursday thanks to first-half goals from Salem Al-Dawsari and Michael, and a goal on the hour mark from Malcom. Andrei Cordea netted a consolation strike for Al-Tai.


Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc wins first home F1 Monaco Grand Prix

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc wins first home F1 Monaco Grand Prix
Updated 26 May 2024
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Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc wins first home F1 Monaco Grand Prix

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc wins first home F1 Monaco Grand Prix
  • McLaren’s Oscar Piastri followed the man from Monaco across the line with Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari in third

MONTE CARLO: Charles Leclerc finally broke his Monaco Grand Prix curse on Sunday as Red Bull had an off weekend with Max Verstappen sixth and Sergio Perez crashing out on the first lap.
Leclerc ended years of frustration at his home race by taking the jewel in the Formula One calendar from pole at his third attempt.
A tearful Leclerc said: “No words can explain this. It means a lot, it’s the race that made me dream of becoming a F1 driver.
“Tonight is going to be a big night!“
McLaren’s Oscar Piastri followed the man from Monaco across the line with Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari in third.
Leclerc had started at the front of the grid at the circuit he used to travel along on the bus to school as a kid in 2021 and 2022 only for misfortune to stop him winning on both occasions.
With Ferrari now a much smoother run ship under Fred Vasseur this was a far slicker Ferrari team than then, and Leclerc dictated the pace perfectly from the front, until the end of the first lap.
That was when the red flag had to come out to stop the race after a three car pile-up with Perez’s Red Bull ripped apart.
Perez spun after being hit hard from behind by Kevin Magnussen’s Haas.
Nico Hulkenberg in the other Haas was a third innocent casualty.
The race on the narrow streets of the Principality was interrupted for around 30 minutes to allow debris to be cleared off the circuit.
All three crash victims were missing at the restart along with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, who joined this unhappy group of onlookers after he was forced to retire following a tangle with his team-mate Pierre Gasly.
Leclerc escaped all the drama and led for the rest of the race to claim a hugely popular success.
With three-time world champion Verstappen only sixth, Leclerc moved to within 31 points of the Dutchman ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time.


Countdown to glory: Riyadh Season’s ‘5 vs. 5’ boxing spectacle set to thrill global audiences

Countdown to glory: Riyadh Season’s ‘5 vs. 5’ boxing spectacle set to thrill global audiences
Updated 26 May 2024
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Countdown to glory: Riyadh Season’s ‘5 vs. 5’ boxing spectacle set to thrill global audiences

Countdown to glory: Riyadh Season’s ‘5 vs. 5’ boxing spectacle set to thrill global audiences
  • Russian powerhouse Dmitry Bivol leads the pack as fight world’s biggest names prepare for Kingdom Arena showdown

RIYADH: In a thrilling culmination of Riyadh Season festivities, boxing enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the “5 vs. 5” global showdown at the Kingdom Arena next Saturday. 

Featuring a stellar lineup of top boxers from around the world, the spectacle promises to deliver unparalleled excitement and fierce competition. 

Leading the pack is Russian powerhouse Dmitry Bivol, a dominant force in the ring and holder of the World Boxing Association super light-heavyweight title since 2017.

Joining him is British fighter Hamzah Sheeraz, the reigning Commonwealth and WBC Silver middleweight champion, alongside American prodigy Austin Williams, the top-ranked amateur boxer on the US team.

The roster boasts an array of international talent, including Libyan champion Malik Zinad, holder of the WBA Mediterranean continental championship, and Chinese fighter Zhilei Zhang, ranked among the world’s top heavyweights. 

Big names such as Deontay Wilder from the US, British pro Daniel Dubois, Filip Hrgovic from Croatia, Willie Hutchinson from Scotland, and British champions Craig Richards and Nick Ball round out the formidable lineup, promising a showcase of skill and athleticism that is sure to captivate audiences worldwide.

The high-profile fight showdown highlights Riyadh Season’s commitment to positioning the Saudi capital as a premier global destination. Drawing spectators from all corners of the globe, it affirms the capital’s growing prominence on the international stage, and reinforces the city’s reputation as a hub for world-class entertainment and sporting excellence.


Nepal hope for Lamichhane US visa as T20 World Cup deadline passes

Nepal hope for Lamichhane US visa as T20 World Cup deadline passes
Updated 26 May 2024
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Nepal hope for Lamichhane US visa as T20 World Cup deadline passes

Nepal hope for Lamichhane US visa as T20 World Cup deadline passes
  • The World Cup begins next Saturday, co-hosted by the US and West Indies, with Nepal’s first game on June 4
  • Nepal are keen to select Lamichhane, who had his eight-year sentence for rape quashed on appeal this month

KATMANDU: Nepal said Sunday they had not given up hope on including controversial star Sandeep Lamichhane in their T20 World Cup squad, despite the spin bowler being denied a US visa and the deadline for final squads expiring.
The T20 World Cup begins next Saturday, co-hosted by the United States and West Indies, with Nepal’s first game on June 4 in Dallas.
“We are lobbying the embassy through the Nepal government,” Chatur Bahadur Chand, president of Cricket Association of Nepal, told AFP on Sunday.
Nepal are keen to select Lamichhane, who had his eight-year sentence for rape quashed on appeal this month.
The International Cricket Council said that all T20 World Cup squads had been named by the May 25 deadline.
Any alteration to Nepal’s squad would now require approval from the ICC’s event technical committee.
Nepal will play their first two group games in the United States followed by two in the West Indies.
Lamichhane, 23, was once the poster boy for cricket in Nepal, but was not included in the original squad because of the conviction for raping a young woman in a Katmandu hotel in 2022.
Former captain Lamichhane said late on Wednesday that the US Embassy in Nepal had “denied my visa for the T20 World Cup,” calling the decision “unfortunate.”
Nepal are making their second appearance in the T20 World Cup and will face the Netherlands in their opening match in Dallas on June 4, followed by group games against South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Before his rape trial, Lamichhane’s success as a leg-spinner had dramatically boosted the sport’s profile in the Himalayan republic.
In 2022, when an arrest warrant was first issued, Lamichhane initially failed to return from Jamaica, where he was playing in the Caribbean Premier League.
He was dismissed as national captain and arrested, but Nepal lifted his playing ban when he was freed on bail.
It allowed him to keep playing, including at last year’s Asia Cup in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, until he was convicted in January.