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French league 2019-20: Five new signings to watch out for

JEDDAH: The world has a new richest race, with the announcement of the creation of the $20 million Saudi Cup, to be run at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack in Riyadh on Feb. 29, 2020. Details of the contest were announced by Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, at…

French league 2019-20: Five new signings to watch out for

JEDDAH: The world has a new richest race, with the announcement of the creation of the $20 million Saudi Cup, to be run at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack in Riyadh on Feb. 29, 2020.

Details of the contest were announced by Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, at a launch event in Saratoga, New York, on Wednesday.

The race will be run on over a distance of nine furlongs (1,800 meters) on dirt, and will have a maximum field of 14 starters. The race will be free to enter and to participate in.

BACKGROUND

The Saudi Cup will take place four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, Florida, and four weeks prior to the Dubai World Cup. 

The Pegasus World Cup had a peak value of $16 million in 2018, while the Dubai World Cup is currently worth $12 million. 

The prize for the winning horse will be $10 million, with horses down to 10th place sharing another $10 million between them.

“The introduction of the Saudi Cup as an international race is without doubt the most significant event in the history of horseracing in Saudi Arabia, and demonstrates our resolve to develop this great sport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and also our ambition to become a leading player on horseracing’s world stage,” said Prince Bandar.

“We look forward to welcoming international horsemen and women, the media, racing enthusiasts and the public to Riyadh in 2020.” The Saudi Cup will take place four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, Florida, and four weeks prior to the Dubai World Cup. 

This means that the top horses in training have the opportunity to compete in all three of the most valuable dirt races in the world.

The Pegasus World Cup had a peak value of $16 million in 2018, while the Dubai World Cup is currently worth $12 million. 

In terms of turf races, the richest is in Australia (the Everest) and is worth $9.8 million. In Japan, the mark is $6 million for the Japan Cup. 

Europe’s most lucrative event, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, has a prize fund of $5.6 million.

Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, in Saratoga. (Supplied photo)

Prince Bandar’s connection to horses is an emotional one. Less than a century ago, his great grandfather King Abdul Aziz, a renowned rider and the founding father of modern Saudi Arabia, led his army into battle on horseback, earning himself the title “The Last Horseman.”

In 1932, King Abdul Aziz unified the kingdoms of Nejd and Hijaz, creating the sovereign state of Saudi Arabia. Horseracing soon became an important cultural event in the young nation. 

Its status was enhanced in 2003 with the opening of King Abdul Aziz Racetrack, with a 2,000-meter circumference, a three-furlong (600-meter) chute and a state-of-the-art dirt racing surface.

Many of the world’s leading jockeys have ridden regularly at the racetrack over the past few years, and have been impressed with its facilities.

“I’ve been going to King Abdul Aziz Racetrack ever since it opened … Of all the dirt tracks I’ve ridden, it’s the one I like best as you can win from the front and you can win from behind — it’s a fair track,” said Europe’s jockey of the moment, Frankie Dettori.

The King Abdullah Racetrack in Riyadh, the venue for the $20 million Saudi Cup, which will be the world’s richest horse race. (Supplied photo)

“The other thing I like is that the kickback is so much less than on other dirt tracks. I don’t know why, but the sand seems finer and doesn’t stick. You only need a couple of pairs of goggles, where on other tracks you need four or five. It’s a kinder track that I can see turf horses handling.”

US jockey Edgar Prado said: “In my experience, all the time I rode at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack, I’ve found it good and safe with a nice stretch run. Horses handle it very well.”

France’s four-time champion jockey Olivier Peslier said: “King Abdul Aziz Racetrack is one of the best dirt tracks in the world — a wonderful track. And I know that the American jockeys like it very much because it really suits the American horses. It has a long straight, and there isn’t much kickback.”

The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia will arrange and fund the shipment of all invited horses. It will also arrange and pay for the flights and hotel accommodation of the horses’ connections.

In addition to the Saudi Cup, there will be further international races on the undercard ahead of the showcase race. 

Further details of these supporting races and the full race program will be announced at a later date.

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Ravi Shastri reappointed India’s cricket coach

MASON, Ohio: Seven-time champion Roger Federer was ousted from one of his favorite tournaments in only 61 minutes Thursday, falling in straight sets to a 21-year-old qualifier he’d never faced. Andre Rublev — with only one career win over a top-five player to his credit — took advantages of Federer’s numerous mistakes for a 6-3,…

Ravi Shastri reappointed India’s cricket coach

MASON, Ohio: Seven-time champion Roger Federer was ousted from one of his favorite tournaments in only 61 minutes Thursday, falling in straight sets to a 21-year-old qualifier he’d never faced.
Andre Rublev — with only one career win over a top-five player to his credit — took advantages of Federer’s numerous mistakes for a 6-3, 6-4 victory that further depleted the top of the men’s bracket in the Western & Southern Open.
Federer has won the tournament more than anyone, using it as a springboard to the US Open. He had 16 unforced errors against the 70th-ranked Rublev, who raised both fists and wiped a teary eye in celebration after Federer’s forehand sailed long to end it.
Struggling with his serve, Federer got broken twice in the first set.
“And there you have it. It set the tone for the match a little bit,” Federer said. “He was super clean — offense, defense, serving well. He didn’t give me anything.”
Federer, who lost a classic five-set match for the Wimbledon title to Novak Djokovic, thinks he’s in good shape heading into the US Open despite the upset in Cincinnati.
Second-seeded Rafael Nadal withdrew before the start of the tournament because of fatigue after winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal on Sunday. Djokovic was the only one of the Top 3 left, set to play later in the day.
The day began with the ATP fining Nick Kyrgios $113,000 for expletive-filled outbursts that included smashing rackets, insulting a chair umpire and refusing to get ready to return serve during a second-round match the previous night.
Back against the wallIn the women’s bracket, top-seeded Ashleigh Barty reached the quarterfinals, joined by a resurgent Venus Williams.Barty beat Anett Kontaveit 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, raising her fist in triumph after fighting off one match point to take the 2-hour, 10-minute match. She was down a break in the second set before rallying on a day when she struggled to find consistency.“The best thing is when my back was against the wall, the tennis was there,” Barty said. “It may not have been there the whole match, but we were able to find it when we needed it.”Barty, the French Open champion and currently ranked No. 2, can move up to the top spot by reaching the final.With the crowd cheering for her, Williams recovered from a rough first set and beat Donna Vekic 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, her best stretch of tennis in since she won three straight matches in March at Miami.After a first-round loss in Toronto last week, her ranking slipped to No. 65, her lowest in seven years. With sister Serena cheering courtside, Venus reached the semifinals.“I mean, I’m pretty pumped,” Venus Williams said. “When you’re winning, it’s fun.”Serena Williams withdrew from the tournament because of back spasms. She calmly watched her sister advance.“I think she believed in me,” Venus Williams said. “She was rooting hard but didn’t seem panicked at all after I lost the first set.”

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Low-ranked Rublev ousts Federer in Cincinnati; Barty advances

MASON, Ohio: Seven-time champion Roger Federer was ousted from one of his favorite tournaments in only 61 minutes Thursday, falling in straight sets to a 21-year-old qualifier he’d never faced.Andre Rublev — with only one career win over a top-five player to his credit — took advantages of Federer’s numerous mistakes for a 6-3, 6-4…

Low-ranked Rublev ousts Federer in Cincinnati; Barty advances

MASON, Ohio: Seven-time champion Roger Federer was ousted from one of his favorite tournaments in only 61 minutes Thursday, falling in straight sets to a 21-year-old qualifier he’d never faced.Andre Rublev — with only one career win over a top-five player to his credit — took advantages of Federer’s numerous mistakes for a 6-3, 6-4 victory that further depleted the top of the men’s bracket in the Western & Southern Open.Federer has won the tournament more than anyone, using it as a springboard to the US Open. He had 16 unforced errors against the 70th-ranked Rublev, who raised both fists and wiped a teary eye in celebration after Federer’s forehand sailed long to end it.Struggling with his serve, Federer got broken twice in the first set.“And there you have it. It set the tone for the match a little bit,” Federer said. “He was super clean — offense, defense, serving well. He didn’t give me anything.”Federer, who lost a classic five-set match for the Wimbledon title to Novak Djokovic, thinks he’s in good shape heading into the US Open despite the upset in Cincinnati.Second-seeded Rafael Nadal withdrew before the start of the tournament because of fatigue after winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal on Sunday. Djokovic was the only one of the Top 3 left, set to play later in the day.The day began with the ATP fining Nick Kyrgios $113,000 for expletive-filled outbursts that included smashing rackets, insulting a chair umpire and refusing to get ready to return serve during a second-round match the previous night.
Back against the wallIn the women’s bracket, top-seeded Ashleigh Barty reached the quarterfinals, joined by a resurgent Venus Williams.Barty beat Anett Kontaveit 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, raising her fist in triumph after fighting off one match point to take the 2-hour, 10-minute match. She was down a break in the second set before rallying on a day when she struggled to find consistency.“The best thing is when my back was against the wall, the tennis was there,” Barty said. “It may not have been there the whole match, but we were able to find it when we needed it.”Barty, the French Open champion and currently ranked No. 2, can move up to the top spot by reaching the final.With the crowd cheering for her, Williams recovered from a rough first set and beat Donna Vekic 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, her best stretch of tennis in since she won three straight matches in March at Miami.After a first-round loss in Toronto last week, her ranking slipped to No. 65, her lowest in seven years. With sister Serena cheering courtside, Venus reached the semifinals.“I mean, I’m pretty pumped,” Venus Williams said. “When you’re winning, it’s fun.”Serena Williams withdrew from the tournament because of back spasms. She calmly watched her sister advance.“I think she believed in me,” Venus Williams said. “She was rooting hard but didn’t seem panicked at all after I lost the first set.”

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Liverpool beats Chelsea on penalties to lift Super Cup

PARIS: The saga of Neymar’s seemingly inevitable departure from Paris Saint-Germain is proving a long, drawn out affair bringing the curtain down on what will ultimately feel like a fleeting and failed experiment.Having arrived in France in 2017 hoping a world-record transfer to PSG would help him emerge from the shadow of Lionel Messi at…

Liverpool beats Chelsea on penalties to lift Super Cup

PARIS: The saga of Neymar’s seemingly inevitable departure from Paris Saint-Germain is proving a long, drawn out affair bringing the curtain down on what will ultimately feel like a fleeting and failed experiment.Having arrived in France in 2017 hoping a world-record transfer to PSG would help him emerge from the shadow of Lionel Messi at Barcelona and win the Ballon d’Or, two years on he looks set to leave with his reputation having taken a serious hit.There is no doubting the 27-year-old forward is a brilliant player, and there is every chance he will get the success he craves — collectively and, chiefly, individually — by returning to Spain, whether with his old club or Real Madrid.However, there is every reason to believe a Kylian Mbappe-led PSG, and football in France in general, will ultimately be better off without him.The French champions’ first Ligue 1 game of the campaign last Sunday, a 3-0 win against Nimes, saw supporters unfurl banners insulting the 222 million-euro ($264 million at the time) man.Neymar himself was not involved in that game, left out amid the uncertainty over his future. He already missed the season-opening Champions Trophy against Rennes in China due to suspension.Since moving to the Parc des Princes, he has played in almost exactly half of his club’s matches.When he has been on the field he has frequently been brilliant, scoring 51 goals in 58 games, but when it has really mattered he has been absent.Foot injuries saw him miss three of the four Champions League knockout matches the Qatar-owned club have played in since his arrival. Without him, they lost in the last 16 to Real Madrid in 2018 and then to Manchester United this year.“I like Neymar, I want to keep playing with him, with Kylian and with everyone,” coach Thomas Tuchel said last weekend.“But the reality is that we must find solutions without ‘Ney’. You can’t lose Neymar and just find someone else who will do the same things.”Mbappe added that “without Neymar, it’s not the same team,” but PSG can still improve by investing in a more balanced squad — summer signings made so far under sporting director Leonardo are a step in the right direction.Center-back Abdou Diallo, midfielders Ander Herrera, Pablo Sarabia and Idrissa Gueye have arrived. With the money recouped from the eventual sale of Neymar, not to mention the saving on his 36 million-euro annual wage, more reinforcements can be brought in.The off-field circus around Neymar has been an unwelcome distraction for too long. On the field, Paris will still have Mbappe.The other side of the coin is what this means for PSG’s brand. After all, Neymar’s following on social media far outstrips that of his current club.Similarly, when the French league (LFP) put their television rights up for auction last year, they capitalized on the Brazilian’s presence. Rights for the four seasons from 2020 were sold to Chinese-owned group Mediapro for 1.15 billion euros a year, a huge increase on previous deals.Television stations could be forgiven for being a little concerned now, but LFP chief Didier Quillot remains bullish.“It’s always better to have several stars in your league. That said, during the Champions Trophy in China, it was Kylian Mbappe who was the star. His popularity is growing around the world,” he told sports daily L’Equipe.In any case, Ligue 1 is in a constant state of renewal, forever prepared to see star players move abroad. Nicolas Pepe, Ferland Mendy, Tanguy Ndombele and Ismaila Sarr have all left this summer.The game in France can move on from Neymar, and everyone will be relieved to let the football on the field do the talking if and when he departs.

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