Australian Open 2021: Novak Djokovic battles through injury, gets past Milos Raonic

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic battled through injury once again during his fourth-round win over Milos Raonic at the Australian Open, and then made a shock admission in the aftermath.
The 33-year-old defeated the Canadian 7-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night, advancing to a quarterfinal showdown with Alex Zverev in the process.

MORE: Frantic scenes as Open hit by COVID-19 lockdownAfter “tearing a muscle” in his abdomen on Friday night against Taylor Fritz, Djokovic revealed postmatch that he came into the Raonic match with no preparation.”There was no preparation, basically, for this match,” he said. “I used every hour I had since I finished the last match to recover, to try to put myself in a position where I had a possibility to compete.”My physio has done a great job.”Djokovic was in visible pain during the match with Raonic but still managed to get through with relative ease. His serving speed was around his normal mark.But the Serbian revealed that if this weren’t a Grand Slam event, then he would have already withdrawn from the competition, such is the seriousness of his injury.”If it’s any other tournament other than a Grand Slam, I would retire, withdraw from the event, that’s for sure,” he said. “But because it’s a Grand Slam, I want to give my best to try and get on the court and recover.
“I didn’t know before I finished my warmup today, three hours before I entered the court, whether I’m going to play or not.”When it warmed up it was fine; during the match today it was kind of on and off.”Djokovic will take on sixth seed Zverev on Tuesday in a rematch of their ATP Cup match just a couple of weeks ago. 

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Posted on 11:39 pm

Efforia Sublime in Tokyo

Tabbed the 5-1 fourth choice, Efforia (Jpn) (Epiphaneia Jpn) entered the Japanese Classic picture with a bang in the G3 Kyodo News Hai at Tokyo on Sunday.
Rank from the stalls, the bay was full of energy before relaxing into fourth as early pacesetter Deep Rich (Jpn) (Deep Brillante Jpn) was overcome by Heart of a City (Jpn) (Heart’s Cry). Shifted out to the center of the course for the stretch drive, he was given a right-handed reminder and strode away to win by 2 1/2 good-looking lengths. Victipharus (Jpn) (Heart’s Cry Jpn) closed to take second, a head in front of second favourite Shahryar (Jpn) (Deep Impact Jpn).
Efforia donned cap and gown at first asking in a 2000-metre newcomer event last August before claiming another 2000-metre race-this time at Tokyo on Nov. 8.

Pedigree Notes
Young stallion Epiphaneia, sire of last year’s Japanese Fillies’ Triple Crown heroine Daring Tact (Jpn), notched his third group winner and fourth black-type winner with Efforia (Jpn)’s win on Sunday.
The second foal and first winner for his three-time winning dam, Efforia has a juvenile half-brother by Harbinger (GB), and a yearling filly by Maurice (Jpn). Katies Heart was covered by Satono Crown (Jpn) in 2020.
Sunday, Tokyo, JapanKYODO NEWS SERVICE HAI-G3, ¥72,610,000 (US$691,798/£499,732/€570,771), Tokyo, 2-14, 3yo, 1800mT, 1:47.60, fm.1–EFFORIA (JPN), 123, c, 3, Epiphaneia (Jpn)                1st Dam: Katies Heart (Jpn), by Heart’s Cry (Jpn)                2nd Dam: Katies First, by Kris (GB)                3rd Dam: Katies (Ire), by Nonoalco1STBLACK-TYPE WIN. 1ST GROUP WIN. O-Carrot Farm;B-Northern Farm (Jpn); T-Yuichi Shikato; J-Takeshi Yokoyama.¥38,427,000. Lifetime Record: 3-3-0-0. Click for the    eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Werk Nick Rating: A+++.   *Triple Plus*.2–Victipharus (Jpn), 123, c, 3, Heart’s Cry (Jpn)–Virginia (Jpn),by Galileo (Ire). O-G1 Racing; B-Northern Farm (Jpn);¥15,122,000.3–Shahryar (Jpn), 123, c, 3, Deep Impact (Jpn)–Dubai Majesty,by Essence of Dubai. O-Sunday Racing; B-Northern Farm (Jpn);¥9,561,000.Margins: 2HF, HD, NK. Odds: 5.80, 40.90, 3.90.Also Ran: Kingston Boy (Jpn), Stella Veloce (Jpn), Kaiser Nova (Jpn), Platina Treasure (Jpn), Deep Rich (Jpn), Leftovers (Jpn), Heart of a City (Jpn), Dios Valiente (Jpn), Taiso (Jpn).Click for the JRA chart & video or the free catalogue-style pedigree.

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Posted on 11:07 pm

The Lightning’s talent-development assembly line is humming along again

Mikhail SergachevPhoto: Getty ImagesAs we’ve commented in the past, even with most seasons across sports being thrown into upheaval, be it shortened preseasons or odd schedules and lineups that change on a daily basis thanks to COVID protocols, the chalk has remained at the top of the standings.It’s not really any different in the NHL so far, as the Leafs have risen to the top of the North, the Bruins are in first in the East, and the Avalanche, Blues, and Knights are atop the West even though all of then have had their schedules clipped so far with various players testing positive.And the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning have returned to Gallagher-ing everyone in the Central. Last night, the Bolts beat the Panthers, seemingly only one of the other two even-competent teams in the division, 6-1. It was Tampa’s seventh win in eight games, and the fourth time in those seven wins they’d scored five goals or more. Moreover, those seven wins have seen them outscore their opponents 33-10. They currently have a +24 goal-difference, nine better than anyone else in the league (Toronto is in second). They’ve only played 13 games, some two or three less than teams that have had a full schedule. And the kicker is that they’re doing all of this without Nikita Kucherov, who will miss the entire regular season after hip surgery and is only a former Hart Trophy winner. Their win last night came without Steven Stamkos, who is on the protocol list for the moment (though he thinks it’s a false positive). Last night’s win was anchored by Mathieu Joseph with two points, who’s yet another fleet-footed, skilled forward that the Bolts seemingly roll off their own production line every season. Joseph had been a bit-part contributor the past couple seasons, and may return to that role when he gets off this current heater of hitting twine on a third of his shots. Or he might just slot in behind the bevy of talent the Lightning already have, pulverizing other teams’ third and fourth lines. It’s the Lightning way. They just make these guys. G/O Media may get a commissionThe main headline on Tampa’s season so far is goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who’s leading the entire NHL with a .933 save-percentage. Vasilevskiy is a former Vezina winner, so he’s hardly come from nowhere, but he’s also just 26 and given the aging curve of goalies, might just be entering his prime. Which is a dispiriting thought for the rest of the league. Vasilevskiy benefits from playing behind a pretty good defensive team — the Bolts rank in the top-10 in attempts against — but he’s also doing the most clean-up work, as his actual save-percentage is the highest relative to his expected save-percentage, according to So not only does Vasilevskiy make all the saves he should, but he’s making all the ones he shouldn’t as well. Elsewhere on the roster, this might be Mikhail Sergachev’s breakout season. Yet another player on the roster where you can’t believe he’s “only” 22, Sergachev was stolen out of Montreal for the never attainable promise of Jonathan Drouin. Sergachev has been a neat weapon tucked away on the bottom pairings for Tampa the past few seasons, getting heavily sheltered shifts, but this year seems to be emerging to be a real force behind Victor Hedman. He’s already racked up 10 assists, and his expected-goals percentage is the best on the team among the blue line. And he’s done that while mostly either dragging around the corpse of Luke Schenn as a partner or young’un Cal Foote. He’s yet another who could just be scratching the surface. There is some qualifying to be made to this stretch. Six of the games have come against the Red Wings, who intentionally blow chunks, and the Predators, who accidentally do. The next little stretch might tell us more, as they have one more with the Panthers before spending the next two weeks playing only the Stars and Hurricanes (though the Stars haven’t lit the world on fire yet). But the Central is filled with mayonnaise left out in the sun, with the Preds imploding, everyone wanting to leave Columbus as quickly as they can, and the Stars dealing with injuries to their top center and #1 goalie. The Lightning will spend most of the regular season wailing on tomato cans. Same as it ever was… same as it ever was… .

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Posted on 11:00 pm

Fulham net stunning win at Everton, Man U drop points at struggling West Brom

Four more games happened on Valentines Day but there would be no love lost in these encounters for sure, beginning at St Marys as Southampton took on Wolves…
Southampton 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2
These two met in the FA Cup Fifth Round at Molineux during the week and The Saints prospered there, and they say you rarely get the same outcome when you meet so quickly again, so would that mean a Wolves win on the South Coast? The Saints are on a poor run in the league so the visitors could take advantage of that perhaps, Wolves themselves hadn’t lost for two games after a win over Arsenal and then a point against Leicester, so plenty to build on there.
The Saints had the first chance of the game when Nathan Redmond saw a lovely curling effort tipped around the post by Rui Patricio, but there was nothing he could do about the host’s opener after 24 minutes as a lovely run down the right by Stuart Armstrong saw him cross and find Danny Ings produce a wonderful powerfully volley into the far corner, it was wonderful technique, and the hosts were in front. Wolves, who had been poor in the first period, needed a response, and they got one seven minutes into the second period after a very harshly awarded penalty against Ryan Bertrand after a powerful cross from Nelson Semedo hit his arm, and Ruben Neves stepped up to dispatch the penalty, and just like that Wolves were right back in this contest. It was a very harsh decision against Bertrand though, it must be said.
Wolves were a different side this half, much more attacking threat and endeavour, and twenty minutes into the second period Pedro Neto produced a wonderful piece of skill to get past Jannik Vestergaard before firing a brilliant effort beyond Alex McCarthy into the far corner, and The Saints had let another lead slip, and they were the ones now chasing the game, what a turnaround it had been.
Could the Saints respond, well their best chance saw a Redmond effort saved by Patricio, but Wolves saw the game out to take a big three points, and for the second season in succession come from behind to win at St Marys, you could see how much it meant to Nuno Espirito Santo at the final whistle, he was very animated on the sideline and shared hugs with all his staff.  For the hosts, it was a crushing defeat, and for the first time in their history six straight league defeats, it’s a very testing time for them that’s for sure.
Now for the early afternoon showing from The Hawthorns as struggling West Brom welcomed title chasing Manchester United to the Midlands…
West Bromwich Albion 1 Manchester United 1
On paper there looked to be only one winner in this contest, West Brom are second from bottom and are on a poor run of form, whilst United were looking to go back into second spot and five points behind leaders Manchester City with a victory, but football is not played on paper is it, so could West Brom upset the Red Devils here? They certainly needed to as they desperately need the points to try and spark some miracle escape from the bottom three, they were thirteen points from safety at kick-off.
Well, less than two minutes in and West Brom had the lead as a lovely ball in from the right by Conor Gallagher saw Mbaye Diagne wrestle with Victor Lindelof and win the tussle to head past David De Gea and give The Baggies the perfect start to this one, although United need not worry at this stage as they had picked up twenty-one points from losing positions this season, so they were used to going behind in games. United needed a spark though, they had been pretty slow and lethargic for the majority of the first period, and just before half time they got that spark after Luke Shaw’s cross from the left was brilliantly volleyed home by Bruno Fernandes and United had that moment of magic at a crucial time in the contest and certainly went into the break in a better frame of mind had they not found that moment.
Just past the hour mark United thought they had been given the chance to go in front after Semi Ajayi was adjudged to have brought Harry Maguire as the two tanged going for a cross, but after VAR sent Craig Pawson over to the monitor, he overturned his decision and no penalty was forthcoming, Maguire looked offside anyway when the ball came in. but the correct decision had been reached, I thought. Could anyone win this game though? United saw Sam Johnson save from Mason Greenwood before a follow-up effort from Scot McTominay cleared off the line, whilst Diagne missed two golden chances for the hosts, and then right at the death Maguire saw a header brilliantly tipped onto the post by Johnstone, meaning the game did end all square. A point for each side then but a point that does not do either much good at both ends of the table if truth be told.
Now to the North of the Capital, and The Emirates, as Arsenal took on Leeds United in the late afternoon showing on Sunday…
Arsenal 4 Leeds United 2
The Gunners have hit a stumbling block recently after going seven games unbeaten, and they welcome a Leeds side to North London who has won three of their last four outings and have climbed above them in the table now, so this should be a decent game as we all know Leeds only play one way, and that is full-on attack mode, so could this suit Arsenal perhaps with their pace and power going forward? There were starts for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Martin Odegaard in the host’s lineup, whilst Leeds were missing the influential Kalvin Phillips meaning others would be in different positions to compensate, so would this affect the visitors?
Thirteen minutes in and the returning Aubameyang gave Arsenal the lead after a couple of stepovers cut inside and fired an effort between two defenders and despite keeper Illan Meslier getting a hand on it he could not keep the ball out and it found the net, Leeds could have done better defensively and the keeper probably should have done better too, but it was good play by the Gunners forward, and Leeds poor form in the capital looked to be continuing.
After 33 minutes Arsenal thought they had a penalty when Stuart Attwell pointed to the spot after Bukayo Saka burst into the box and appeared to be tripped by Liam Cooper, but on replay, this wasn’t the case and the penalty was overturned after VAR asked Attwell to go over and look at it on the monitor, much to the dismay of Mikel Arteta, it was probably the right decision though so could Leeds take advantage of this? Unfortunately for Leeds, their keeper decided to give the hosts a penalty not long after as he dilly-dallied on clearing a ball and Saka nipped in to take it off him and the Leeds keeper brought him down trying to get the ball back, and Aubameyang stepped up to send him the wrong way and The Gunners had a two-goal lead five minutes before the break. Not a good moment for the Leeds keeper and the visitors had a mountain to climb here.
And just before half time Arsenal made it three when lovely close control inside the box by the Gunners ended with Hector Bellerin being laid into fire past Meslier at his near post for his first goal at home for two years, and the hosts were ripping the visitors to shreds. Meslier, in particular, wasn’t helping his side in this one, the young Leeds keeper had not had the best of half’s that was for sure, it seems with Leeds it’s feast or famine these days, and they certainly needed to find something drastic in the second period to get themselves back into this contest, a contest the hosts were now in total control of.
Two minutes into the second period and Arsenal looked to have put the result beyond all doubt as Aubameyang marked his return to the starting eleven with a hat-trick as he stooped to head home what looked like a mishit cross from Emile Smith-Rowe, what a return for the Arsenal striker who had been through some tough times personally, so this was just the boost he and the Gunners needed.
Leeds though as we know will continue to play the way they do, and they pulled a goal back just before the hour mark when Pascal Struijk powered home a header from a Raphinha corner, and then with just over twenty minutes remaining Leeds pulled another one back after a cut back from Tyler Roberts found Helder Costa, both of whom had come on as second-half subs, to side foot home, and suddenly the hosts looked shaky and Leeds sniffed a remarkable comeback at The Emirates. Arsenal though managed to hold on and avert a disaster and could have added further goals had Aubameyang and then Saka not struck the woodwork, but a good day for the Gunners and it takes them back above Leeds into the top ten. It was a thoroughly entertaining watch between two sides who produced superb attacking football.
The final game of the day saw us up to the North West and Goodison Park as Everton took on struggling Fulham…
Everton 0 Fulham 2
The Toffees have only one defeat in their last five, although we would find out how much Thursday’s energy-sapping FA Cup thriller against Spurs has taken out of them, they took on a Fulham side who were in a precarious position, sitting third bottom and ten points from safety at kick-off, but it would be hard to get any points against an Everton side who could go level on points with Merseyside rivals Liverpool in fourth with a win.
Dom Calvert-Lewin was absent though after picking up a hamstring injury in that midweek cup game, which was a blow for the hosts, although Fulham had never won a league match at Goodison in twenty-seven attempts, and they would have to try and end that run without Aleksandar Mitrovic who had come down with Covid.
The opening half-hour though saw the Cottagers utterly dominate and saw plenty of openings pass them by, and it took the Toffees 33 minutes before they had a real effort on goal, which saw Seamus Coleman drive forward and fire an effort off the outside of the post, but the hosts had looked flat and lethargic in the opening forty-five minutes, and Fulham had been the better side, sadly though, for all their neat play, the strugglers had nothing to show for it, a reason why they are in the position they are, they cannot score goals.
But three minutes after the break Fulham had the goal they deserved as a lovely play between Ola Aina and Ademola Lookman saw the former lay a ball across for Josh Maja to net his first-ever Premier League goal by converting from close range, and The Cottagers now had a lead to show for all their wonderful play thus far. And twenty minutes into the second period Fulham increased their lead after a shot from Harrison Reed had been tipped onto the post by Robin Olsen, Maja was on hand to follow in and tap home for his second of the night, and Fulham looked well on their way to a huge three points, Everton had been woeful so far in this one and needed a big last twenty-five minutes to get anything from this contest.
The closest The Toffees came to getting themselves back into the contest came when Josh King, on as a sub for the hosts, poked home an Andre Gomes cross, but he was offside, so it didn’t count, and Fulham comfortably saw out the game to record a first-ever league win at Goodison and grab a massive three points in the process.  Maybe their survival charge starts here? For Everton it was a very poor showing and they fall to a very disappointing loss here.
Let’s have a look at the table after Sunday’s results…

Wolves go up to 12th after a come from behind win at Southampton, who fall below them into 13th after sixth straight loss, whilst United do go back into second on goal difference despite a disappointing draw at West Brom, the host’s point doesn’t really do them any good either and remain twelve points from safety. Arsenal leapfrog Leeds into tenth after their win over Marcelo Bielsa’s men at The Emirates, and Fulham will believe they can get out of trouble after their first-ever win at Goodison Park means they are just seven points from safety now, Everton remain seventh after a disappointing evening.
Two more games to end the weekend take place tomorrow, which are below…
Monday February 15
West Ham United v Sheffield United (6pm)
Chelsea v Newcastle United (8pm)
Hammers go fourth if they win, Blades need points as they are now fourteen points from safety with only fifteen games to go, Chelsea will end the weekend fourth though if they win, Newcastle need points to ease the pressure, especially after Fulham’s win Sunday evening.  Liverpool will be hoping that West Ham and Chelsea fail to win as a win for either sees last season’s Champions out of the top four.

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Posted on 10:22 pm

Liverpool record unwanted first under Klopp & hit seven-year low in Leicester defeat

Liverpool’s struggles show no sign of abating, with the Reds hitting a seven-year low in a 3-1 defeat at Leicester while recording an unwanted Premier League first under Jurgen Klopp.
The reigning Premier League champions continue to see a title that they waited 30 years to claim slip from their grasp in 2020-21.

Injury setbacks and struggles for consistency have been doing their cause few favours, with another serious wobble endured at the King Power Stadium despite seeing Mohamed Salah fire them in front.What does defeat mean for Liverpool?The Reds have suffered three successive top-flight defeats under Klopp for the first time since a German tactician inherited the reins at Anfield from Brendan Rodgers in October 2015.The last time they became stuck in such a rut was back in 2014, when the current Leicester boss was calling the shots on Merseyside.
3 – Liverpool have lost three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since November 2014, when managed by current Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers. Regressed.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 13, 2021Liverpool have now collected no points from consecutive outings against Brighton, Manchester City and Leicester.They remain fourth in the Premier League table, but are now casting anxious glances over their shoulder.Chelsea and West Ham are just a point behind the Reds, while Everton are three adrift of their arch-rivals and Tottenham four off the Champions League-chasing pace.A top-four finish could now represent the height of Liverpool’s ambition, with a 10-point gap still separating them from leaders City while taking in two more fixtures than the Blues.What happened against Leicester?James Milner was forced off inside 17 minutes to hand Liverpool another untimely injury headache.The Reds appeared to have overcome that setback when taking the lead in the 67th minute, with Salah collecting a clever flick from Roberto Firmino to curl home.
James Maddison levelled matters, though, after a VAR review determined that his low free-kick should not be ruled out despite an offside flag being raised.Jamie Vardy then benefited from another moment of madness from Alisson to put the Foxes in front, with Liverpool’s usually reliable No.1 racing out of his box and slicing the ball off debutant Ozan Kabak and into the path of Leicester’s top marksman.Harvey Barnes raced clear five minutes from time to compound the Reds’ misery, with Klopp being forced back to the drawing board in a bid to try and ensure that a season which promised so much does not implode.Further reading

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Posted on 10:06 pm

Daniel Negreanu Reacts to Hellmuth’s Criticism, Challenges Poker Brat to HU Duel

The recently concluded grudge match between Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk created a lot of stir in the poker community and gave everyone hours’ worth of great, high stakes entertainment.
Polk came into the match as the favorite and walked away the winner after 25,000 hands, banking $1.2 million for his victory.
In the days following the conclusion of the HU challenge, many players shared their views of the match, among others Phil Hellmuth.
Hellmuth was supporting Negreanu from the get-go, but he wasn’t too happy about the final result and in a recent interview, the Poker Brat openly stated he was disappointed by the Canadian’s performance.

The short, two-minute segment, didn’t go unnoticed by Negreanu, who responded by challenging Hellmuth to a heads up match under his terms.
DNegs Quick to Respond to Phil’s Jab
Helllmuth’s short statement about Negreanu’s play also included not so thinly veiled brag about his own poker skills.
The way Phil explains it, Negreanu’s coaching team was recommended by him as he recognized them as very good and capable players.

However, Phil sent them Daniel’s way because they didn’t have much to teach him?

It seems Hellmuth is trying to suggest that he already knows everything Negreanu has spent months trying to learn and Polk spent years studying.
Daniel wasted no time responding to Phil, challenging him to a heads up match under any terms he wanted: live or online and for whatever number of hands he wanted to play.

It goes without saying that the poker community was thrilled to see the Canadian’s reaction, but will Hellmuth go for it?
Will There Be a Hellmuth vs. Negreanu HU Match?
Phil Hellmuth is known as an outspoken player who holds his own skills in very high regard. The whole Poker Brat attitude has been a part of his persona for years and helped him build a brand around his name.
But, facing an open challenge by Negreanu, what are the odds of Phil actually accepting?

Personally, I don’t think they are very high at all.

While Hellmuth loves to talk the talk, he’s not very likely to walk the walk in the situation where he must know he’s a big underdog. Even if the two had equal skills before the Negreanu – Polk challenge, Daniel has put in countless hours studying HU play and GTO.
DNegs was going into the grudge match against the odds and for that alone, he earned some respect from the community and from Polk himself.
At this moment in time, the skill gap in the particular format between Negreanu and Hellmuth could be even wider than it was between DNegs and Polk when the grudge match was announced.

Even Polk said after the match that he wouldn’t be as thrilled to play Negreanu again as he felt Daniel has improved a lot over the months of the challenge.
The Canadian would probably jump at the opportunity to play some one-on-one poker with the Poker Brat and put his newly found skills (that he paid dearly to acquire) to good use. Plus, the skirmish would likely be just as popular (if not more) as the original grudge match.
One Is Allowed to Dream
In the same video included earlier, Hellmuth boasted his heads-up skills, claiming he’d won 29 of his last 30 HU matches.
This is technically right, but these were all short battles, featuring no more than a few hundred poker hands.

In a prolonged match that would last 10,000+ hands, DNegs would have to be a clear favorite, just like Polk was against the Canadian.

And, to be completely honest, it seems really farfetched that the Poker Brat would accept to play Negreanu in this format. If anything, he might be up for a few hundred poker hands, which is far too small of a sample size to determine who the better player is.
One is allowed to hope, though.
If Hellmuth and Negreanu were somehow to come to an agreement for an actual, proper heads up match that would include the kind of coverage that we saw in the earlier challenge, it would be a real treat for the fans.
Both DNegs and Phil are in the group of the most popular poker players alive and their “grudge” match would attract hundreds of thousands of eyeballs.
Is it likely to happen? No, absolutely not – but we sure as hell root for it! And, if the match were to happen, who would you bet on and what odds do you think would be fair?

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Posted on 9:44 pm

Week in Review: More Clairiere vs. Travel Column Rivalries, Please

By T. D. ThorntonTurn the clock back a dozen years and recall when a fledgling filly parlayed a November win in the GII Golden Rod S. into a torrid nine-stakes win streak that culminated in Horse of the Year honors.
That filly, of course, was Rachel Alexandra.
Now it’s 2021, and the Fair Grounds annually honors Rachel Alexandra’s brief (one win, one second) tenure in New Orleans with a Grade II stakes race in mid-February. Saturday’s edition just so happened to feature the one-two fillies from the Nov. 28 Golden Rod S. at Churchill Downs, a race that stood out as the most visually impressive two-turn stakes of 2020 in the juvenile fillies division.

Three months ago, ‘TDN Rising Star’ Travel Column (Frosted) overcame a slow start and multiple logjams in the stretch to bull past fast-finishing Clairiere (Curlin) in the shadow of the wire. The final clocking of that 1 1/16 miles stakes was .54 seconds faster than Triple Crown-aspiring males ran one race later in the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., signaling both fillies (separated by only a length) might be worth watching down the road.
Not surprisingly, Travel Column was backed to even-money favoritism in the 3-year-old debut for both rivals in the Rachel Alexandra, while Clairiere went off as the 2-1 second choice. Travel Column, a poised speedstress, broke running from her outside stall and asserted herself near the head of the field with a three-wide bid into the clubhouse turn. Clairiere, comfortable rating from a touch farther off the pace than in previous starts, broke inward from the one hole and hit the gate, so jockey Joe Talamo allowed the bay to settle into stride by her lonesome, eighth and last at the fence.
Travel Column led the main body of the pack while sitting second down the backstretch, six lengths behind a 25-1 breakaway pacemaker who would eventually fade to last. The favorite appeared primed to pounce while getting a gift of a trip, but nemesis Clairiere more arrestingly caught the eye as she began building a wave of momentum five furlongs out with a well-measured uncoiling from the back of the pack that belied her two races of experience.
Rail-running Clairiere inhaled half the field by the time the pack tightened up at the half-mile pole, but Talamo had to tap the brakes a touch over the next furlong because she was momentarily hemmed in. When he cued Clairiere to quicken three-eighths out, her response was instant, and the two shot up the reopened rail on the prowl after Travel Column, who by the midway point on the turn had seized first run on the wilting speed and was obviously the filly to beat.
Turning for home, Talamo expertly vacated the rail and split foes to avoid getting trapped behind the caving pacemaker, then switched back to the fence in upper stretch to keep from running up on the heels of Travel Column. Initially, the body language of the two fillies and the actions of their riders appeared to favor Travel Column, because the even-striding gray had yet to be fully set down by Florent Geroux while Talamo was already imploring Clairiere for more after she had already given plenty.
In fact, Talamo’s decision to switch to Clairiere to the outside of Travel Column at the eighth pole initially had a “one lateral move too many” look to it. But when Clairiere clearly saw her target and took off in determined pursuit, it amounted to a fourth distinct move over the course of a prolonged five-furlong drive, a remarkable in-race tactical progression that is unusual for a newly turned 3-year-old filly to accomplish so deftly. And it wasn’t like Clairiere was reeling in a tired filly, either. Both finished well, but Clairiere finished better. Her winning margin of a neck was augmented by a confident gallop-out that kept her rival at bay well past the wire.
Clairiere’s final time for 1 1/16 miles was 1:45.34. She was initially assigned a provisional 83 Beyer Speed Figure (same number as her Golden Rod second), but by Sunday that Beyer got adjusted upward to an 85. Interestingly, the final eighth for the Rachel Alexandra clocked in at 6.28 seconds, slightly faster than the 6.36 final furlong that undefeated older male Maxfield (Street Sense) ran in the same-distance GIII Mineshaft S. two races earlier on the card.
Clairiere is owned and bred by Stonestreet Stables and trained by Steve Asmussen, the same connections who acquired Rachel Alexandra after her 20 1/4-length dismantling of the 2009 GI Kentucky Oaks field. She then, in succession, won the GI Preakness S., GI Mother Goose S., GI Haskell Invitational S. and GI Woodward S.
Clairiere is now on a path that could very well lead to an Oaks berth. She’s certainly bred to cover a distance of ground–both her sire, Curlin, and damsire, Bernardini, were Preakness  victors (among other multiple Grade I stakes they won up to 10 furlongs), and her dam, Cavorting, was a MGISW up to nine furlongs for Stonestreet.
Clairiere shouldn’t be saddled with expectations of turning into another Rachel Alexandra. But right now she and Travel Column are supplying the sport with something sorely lacking across almost every division–a competitive, evenly matched rivalry that is fun to watch play out from race to race. The 1-2-3 finishers from last November’s GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies have yet to start as 3-year-olds, but these two have already hooked up twice in that interim, delivering a spectacular show on both occasions. Here’s rooting for another rematch in the near future.

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Posted on 9:27 pm

Delhi Capitals appoints Colonel Vinod Bisht as interim CEO

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JSW and GMR co-owned Delhi Capitals today announced the appointment of Colonel Vinod Bisht as Interim Chief Executive Officer for the franchise, as Dhiraj Malhotra, who held the position for the last two years, has decided to move on.

Colonel Vinod Bisht is a Paratrooper with over two decades in the Indian Army. The IIM-A alumni has been a part of the Delhi IPL franchise from its inception. He will take charge as Interim CEO of Delhi Capitals with immediate effect.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dhiraj for his time and efforts for our franchise,” Delhi Capitals Chairman Kiran Kumar Grandhi said on the occasion.

“It has been a remarkable last two seasons for Delhi Capitals, and Dhiraj has been a crucial part of it. All of us at the franchise would like to wish him the very best for his future endeavours,” he added.

“Dhiraj will always remain a part of the DC family. I would like to thank him for his tremendous role in getting DC to where it is off the field,” team co-owner Parth Jindal said.

“I wish him all the very best. Delhi Capitals will now put its best foot forward to take the team’s performance to the next level under the able guidance of Colonel Bisht,” he said.

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Posted on 8:47 pm
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NBA Roundup #8: Contenders to the Throne

It was yet another exciting week in the NBA with more high scores and heart-stopping moments. There were also a few teams on the rise in the Western Conference. All this, plus the rise of the Utah Jazz. Without further adieu, here are some highlights in this week’s NBA Roundup.
On Monday, LaMelo Ball and the Charlotte Hornets defeated the Houston Rockets in a 119 to 94 victory. Ball had 24 points and 10 assists, followed Miles Bridges’ 19 points and 10 rebounds. The Toronto/Tampa Bay Raptors defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in a 128 to 113 contest that saw Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet with 32 points, Norman Powell with 29 points, and Chris Boucher with 12 points and 10 rebounds. The Dallas Mavericks won in a close game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, in which Luka Doncic had 26 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. with 24 points, and Kristaps Porzingis with 27 points and 13 rebounds.
The San Antonio Spurs pulled an upset over the Golden State Warriors as Dejounte Murray had 27 points and 10 rebounds, DeMar DeRozan had 21 points and 10 assists, and Jakob Poeltl made 14 points and 11 rebounds. Stephen Curry had 32 points for the Dubs, while Draymond Green had a near triple-double with 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and 7 points. The Phoenix Suns prevailed against the Cleveland Cavaliers 119 to 113 as Devin Booker made 36 points, Mikal Bridges with 22 points, E’Twaun Moore with 17 points, and DeAndre Ayton with 15 points and 16 rebounds.
The Miami Heat hosted  Derrick Rose and the New York Knicks on Tuesday, winning in a close 98 to 96 contest that saw Jimmy Butler with a near triple-double of 26 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds, followed by Bam Adebayo’s 19 points and Kelly Olynyk’s 20 points. The Portland Trail Blazers won over the Orlando Magic, with Damian Lillard leading the way with 36 points, followed by Carmelo Anthony with 23 points. Nikola Vucevic had 27 points and 15 rebounds for the Magic, followed by 22 points from Terrence Ross, and 16 points from James Ennis III.
On Wednesday, the Raptors defeated the Washington Wizards 137 to 115, as Norman Powell led the way with 28 points, followed by Pascal Siakam’s 26 points, and Kyle Lowry’s 21 points. For the Wizards, Bradley Beal had 24 points, followed by Russell Westbrook’s 23 points, 15 points from Rui Hachimura, 13 points from Robin Lopez, and 11 points from Alex Len. The Phoenix Suns won a close game over the Milwaukee Bucks 125 to 124 as Devin Booker made 30 points for the Suns, while Giannis Antetokounmpo had 47 points and 11 rebounds for the Bucks, followed by Khris Middleton’s 18 points and 11 assists.
It was a doubleheader on Thursday night as the Miami Heat won big on the road against the Houston Rockets in a 101 to 94 victory. Jimmy Butler propelled the Heat with a triple-double performance of 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, followed by Adebayo’s 10 points and 13 rebounds. For the Rockets, DeMarcus Cousins had 16 points and 11 rebounds, followed by 17 points from both John Wall and Eric Gordon, and rookie Ja’Sean Tate with 16 points.
Later on in that doubleheader, the Portland Trail Blazers hosted and defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in a wild 118 to 114 win. Dame knocked down 30 points for the Blazers, followed by 24 points from Carmelo Anthony. For the Sixers, Joel Embiid led the scoring with 35 points, followed by Ben Simmons with a near triple-double performance of 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists, 17 points from Tobias Harris, and 15 points from Seth Curry.
On Friday, the Utah Jazz pulled a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks in a 129 to 115 contest that saw Rudy Gobert with 27 points and 12 rebounds, Joe Ingles with 27 points, Donovan Mitchell registering 26 points, and Jordan Clarkson with 25 points. For the Bucks, Giannis made 29 points, followed by Brook Lopez with 23 points, and 18 points from Khris Middleton. The Los Angeles Lakers dominated over the Grizzlies in a 115 to 105 win as Anthony made 35 points and 9 rebounds, LeBron James with 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists, Montrezl Harrell with 14 points, and Kyle Kuzma with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

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Posted on 8:44 pm

Daytona 500 live updates, results, highlights from NASCAR’s 2021 season-opening race

Will Mother Nature let NASCAR Cup Series drivers kick off a new season?
The threat of inclement weather will loom over the 2021 Daytona 500 on Sunday, as there is rain on the radar in Daytona Beach, Fla. The big question is whether the precipitation will fall over Daytona International Speedway and lead to delays. NASCAR fans are certainly keeping their fingers crossed for a clean race.

Sporting News is tracking live updates and lap-by-lap highlights from the Daytona 500. Follow below for complete results from NASCAR’s 2021 season-opening race.MORE: Watch the Daytona 500 live with fuboTV (7-day free trial)Daytona 500 live updates, highlights from 2021 race(All times Eastern)3:25 p.m. — Whoa. We’ve got huge crash involving at least a dozen cars.3:10 p.m. — The caution flag goes up after Derrike Cope hits the wall on Lap 3. He’s done for the day.3 p.m. — A new season. Daytona 500. Pitbull. Here we go.2:40 p.m. — Let’s hope those rain clouds float right on by the track.
What time does the Daytona 500 start?The Daytona 500 broadcast will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 14, but the race itself may not start until closer to 3 p.m. ET. It will be held at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.MORE: Remembering Dale Earnhardt’s deadly crash at Daytona 20 years laterDaytona 500 starting lineup 2021Wednesday’s pole qualifying set the front row for the Daytona 500 with Alex Bowman earning the nod and William Byron recording the second-fastest lap. The results of Thursday’s Duels races won by Aric Almirola and Austin Dillon set the remainder of the field. Starting pos.
Alex Bowman
William Byron
Aric Almirola
Austin Dillon
Christopher Bell
Bubba Wallace
Ryan Newman
Kevin Harvick
Joey Logano
Kyle Busch
Ryan Preece
Chase Elliott
Kyle Larson
David Ragan
Daniel Suarez
Corey LaJoie
Michael McDowell
David Regan
Jamie McMurray
Kurt Busch
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Chris Buescher
Matt DiBenedetto
Brad Keselowski
Denny Hamlin
Martin Truex Jr.
Cole Custer
Joey Gase
Tyler Reddick
Chase Briscoe
Erik Jones
Derrike Cope
Quin Houff
Ross Chastain
Cody Ware
Anthony Alfredo
Josh Bilicki
BJ McLeod
Austin Cindric
Kaz Grala

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Posted on 8:29 pm