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Grand National 2013: Last year"s fatalities put jump racing under the microscope

Grand National faces biggest test with fatalities putting jump racing under the microscope

By
Marcus Townend

PUBLISHED:

21:04 GMT, 3 April 2013

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UPDATED:

21:04 GMT, 3 April 2013

Four Grade One races of rare quality grace today’s opening day of Aintree’s Grand National meeting while tomorrow the clash between steeplechase superstar Sprinter Sacre, Cue Card and Flemenstar is being billed as the race of the season.

But which horses pass the winning line first over the next three days won’t matter a jot if Saturday’s big race turns into another visceral examination of jump racing.

Twelve months ago, when two horses were killed for a second year running, including Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised, the joy was squeezed out of the victory of Neptune Collonges.

Scroll down for Peter Scudamore's inside track on Aintree's new fences

Preparations: Aintree ground staff were tending to the new safer fences ahead of the three-day meeting

Preparations: Aintree ground staff were tending to the new safer fences ahead of the three-day meeting

The deaths of Synchronised and According To Pete raised questions as to whether the race could even survive in its present form.

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant called the deaths ‘totally unacceptable’ while branding the famous Becher’s Brook, where According To Pete was brought down before being hit by another horse, a ‘killer fence’. A nervous calm precedes this year’s race but a major modification to the fences’ construction has been welcomed (see graphic above).

Spokesmen for the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare deny the race is on trial but another body blow would be serious given a sponsor is being sought with John Smiths leaving after Saturday’s race.

Finishing touch: The grass on the Grand National finish line was cut this week before the Aintree showpiece

Finishing touch: The grass on the Grand National finish line was cut this week before the Aintree showpiece

WHW chief executive Roly Owers said: ‘There is still huge support for the race but there also are increasing voices within racing questioning whether the National is doing the sport any good. The warning bells have sounded and Aintree have recognised that.

‘Our biggest issue with the National is the number of fallers. It is five times higher than a normal steeplechase. The fewer fallers, the less chance of injury. The changes to the fence core are a real step forward and we also welcome the improvements in irrigation.

‘We recognise you can’t eliminate risk. The responsibility is to minimise it.’

WHW have repeated a call to reduce the number of starters.Owers said: ‘We believe there should be a trial reduction of three years. We recognise it has to be a great test but you can’t just accept the regular death of horses.’

Scrutiny: Last year's Grand National (above) saw the fatalities of According to Pete and Synchronised

Scrutiny: Last year's Grand National (above) saw the fatalities of According to Pete and Synchronised

RSPCA equine consultant David Muir added: ‘With 40 runners, you have 40 chances of things going wrong. I’d like to see them reduce it to 30 but we don’t run racing.’

Jockeys have been asked to moderate their speed to the first fence and the run-up to it has been shortened by 90 yards by moving the start further away from the unsettling cauldron of noise coming from of the grandstands.

Jamie Stier, BHA director of raceday operations, said: ‘The changes are all designed for horse welfare but at the same time we have maintained the shape, size and character of the fences.

Fences

‘People have to understand the position of the race within the fabric of society. Attendance figures last year were 155,000 at the meeting and more people watch the Grand National on TV than the FA Cup final — more than 11million — with a global audience of 600m in 140 countries.

‘We don’t feel it is on trial. It is down to the BHA and Aintree to find a way forward.’

Still, a lot of people will be holding their breath on Saturday.

Peter Scudamore looks at the major fences at this year's Grand…

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Gavin Rees vows to knock out Adrien Broner

Underdog Rees pledges to KO 'cocky' Broner in Atlantic City showdown

By
Martin Domin

PUBLISHED:

01:07 GMT, 13 February 2013

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UPDATED:

08:18 GMT, 13 February 2013

Gavin Rees has promised to knock 'cocky' Adrien Broner out cold and become a two-weight world champion in Atlantic City on Saturday night.

The Welsh lightweight will be a huge underdog against the 23-year-old hailed as the heir to Floyd Mayweather Jnr's throne.

But Rees, who was clearly riled during Tuesday's press conference, is confident he can put an end to the hype.

Vow: Gavin Rees (right) is determined to knock out Adrien Broner this weekend

Vow: Gavin Rees (right) is determined to knock out Adrien Broner this weekend

The 32-year-old won the WBA light-welterweight belt in 2007 when he stunned Souleymane M'Baye only to lose in his first defence to Andriy Kotelnik the following year.

Rees then dropped down a division, winning the British and European titles before accepting the clash with Broner.

'I'm looking forward to knocking your head off because you're one cocky f***,' he said, addressing his opponent.

'You'll be lower than me when I knock you out cold. You do all the talking but we'll see if you can back it up on Saturday night.'

Broner, who claimed throughout the conference not to know Rees' name, is renowned for his brash attitude and post-fight antics which include having his dad brush his hair.#

And unsurprisingly, he was confident of recording his 22nd knockout from 26 professional contests.

'I respect him as a fighter because only a boxer knows what we go through when we get in that ring,' he said.

'Cocky': Adrien Broner is widely considered to be favourites for the bout

'Cocky': Adrien Broner is widely considered to be favourite for the bout

'At the end of the day, we're going to have fun. I've never seen him fight but he's been world champion so he's not a lookover.

'He's going to sleep. I'm not going to miss the boulder on his shoulders; it's not going to last long.
'I'm not looking past the fight but I wanted to fight Ricky Burns but he put on his track shoes and ran away from me again.

'We're going to take care of business on Saturday night.'

Rees' promoter Eddie Hearn meanwhile admits he was insulted by the odds being offered on his charge winning with one British bookmaker quoting him at 25/1.

'He's been written off and some of the odds that are flying about are quite abusive,' he said. 'He's a former British, European and world champion. He won't be overawed going into the fight.

'It will be the toughest fight of Adrien Broner's career and Gavin deserves a hell of a lot more respect than he's been getting.

'We believe we will cause a massive upset and make a huge statement for British boxing.'

Adrien Broner to fight Gavin Rees for WBC lightweight world title in February

Rees beats Burns as Welsh lightweight secures world title fight against Broner

PUBLISHED:

10:33 GMT, 28 December 2012

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UPDATED:

10:58 GMT, 28 December 2012

Gavin Rees has beaten fellow Brit Ricky Burns to a fight with American star Adrien Broner.

The Welsh lightweight was due to face John Murray last month but that fell through when the Mancunian failed a fitness test.

Rees will now challenge for Broner's WBC world title on February 16, subject to signing a contract.

He posted on his Twitter account: ' Looks like I'm fighting Adrian broner 16th feb for WBC title massive fight for me an time for me to become 2 weight world champ.'

The Rock: Gavin Rees will fight Adrien Broner in February

Champion: Adrien Broner will defend his WBC world title against Rees

Head-to-head: Rees will take on WBC lightweight world champion Broner (R)

The 32-year-old has won 37 of his 39 contests but has been out of action since beating Derry Matthews in July to add the British belt to his European title.

Rees, a former world champion at light welterweight, has since relinquished his European strap and in Broner faces one of America's brightest prospects.

Waiting game: Ricky Burns hopes to fight Broner later down the line in 2013

Waiting game: WBO world champion Ricky Burns hopes to fight Broner later down the line in 2013

The two-weight world champion enhanced his status as the heir to Floyd Mayweather Jnr's pound-for-pound crown with a stoppage victory over
Antonio DeMarco in November.

Broner, 23, then threw down the gauntlet to Scotland's Burns but he rejected the unification fight in favour of a warm-up bout before potentially meeting Broner in April.

VIDEO: So who is Adrien Broner

London Welsh 16 Bath 9: – match report

London Welsh 16 Bath 9: Super Scott boosts Exiles survival hopes with 70-yard try

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UPDATED:

18:28 GMT, 4 November 2012

A 70-metre try from wing Nick Scott with the last action of the match gave London Welsh an unlikely but crucial win in their battle for Aviva Premiership survival.

Scott picked off Stephen Donald's telegraphed pass and had sufficient pace to hold off the cover for the match-winning try, which Gordon Ross converted.

It was the only try in a desperately poor game and a draw would have been a fair result as neither side played well enough to deserve a win.

Charge: Nick Scott piles through the Bath defence

Charge: Nick Scott piles through the Bath defence

Bath had the better scoring opportunities but though they went close on a number of occasions, they failed to take them. They had the more inventive backs but their scrum was continually under pressure.

Welsh were dogged throughout but provide no attacking spark and until Scott's effort, never threatened the try line.

Bath had an early chance for points but Donald was off target with a 40-metre penalty attempt.

Moments later, Welsh had their opportunity which they also failed to take as Gavin Henson was narrowly wide with his 45-metre kick – but with 10 minutes gone, the outside half was successful from 40 metres to put his side ahead.

Despite this reverse, Bath had the better of the first 15 minutes, desperate defence keeping the visitors out as Ben Williams and Michael Claassens made holes in the Welsh defence.

Against the run of play, the hosts broke out to win a penalty for Henson to extend their lead with a simple 25-metre kick.

Leap: Martin Purdy wins a line-out for London Welsh

Leap: Martin Purdy wins a line-out for London Welsh

The second quarter was more evenly contested, with the Welsh pack matching their opponents, but following a sustained drive from the Bath forwards the hosts were penalised and Donald made no mistake from 30 metres out.

The remainder of the half saw an abundance of penalty awards and a procession of aimless kicking, with Donald and Tom Arscott the worst culprits.

With the last movement of the half, Bath lock Dave Attwood did get over the line but he was held up by some stout home defence, allowing Welsh to retain their fortunate 6-3 lead at the interval.

Bath began strongly after the restart. Powerful runs from Williams and Matt Banahan gained them some momentum but the visitors lost a crucial scrum in front of the Welsh posts when they were easily pushed off their own ball.

However they did gain some reward when after 51 minutes Donald kicked his second penalty to tie up the scores.

No trouble: Tyson Keats gets his pass away during the match at the Kassam Stadium, Oxford

No trouble: Tyson Keats gets his pass away during the match at the Kassam Stadium, Oxford

With 20 minutes to go both teams made changes, with Henson and Banahan being the major casualties as they were replaced by Ross and Horacio Agulla respectively.

Exiles lock Kirill Koulemine was penalised for pulling down at the line-out and a well struck penalty from Donald put Bath into the lead for the first time.

With 10 minutes to go, Bath conceded a scrummage penalty. Ross' 45-metre kick was badly struck and fell short but with 90 seconds remaining on the, clock the outside half was successful from 30 metres to bring his side level.

Scott's heroics at the death then sealed the win.

Wasps 29 London Welsh 19: Match report

Wasps 29 London Welsh 19: Wade at the double to deny Exiles

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UPDATED:

18:33 GMT, 28 October 2012

Two superb tries from Christian Wade were the highlights of Wasps win over a dogged but limited London Welsh side at Adams Park.

The visitors had no answer to the pace and elusiveness of the 20-year-old wing, who must surely be in the future thoughts of the national selectors, having been omitted from the recently announced squad for the autumn internationals.

Tom Varndell also impressed with two tries but Wasps should have won by a far greater margin. They were careless at times and it didn't help that Nicky Robinson missed five from his six attempts.

Diving over: Christian Wade goes over for a try against London Welsh

Diving over: Christian Wade goes over for a try against London Welsh

Wasps suffered a blow before the match when England squad member, James Haskell, withdrew with an illness.

The home side made a dream start opening the scoring in the third minute. Welsh wing, Phil Mackenzie, carelessly knocked on allowing the hosts a scrum on the 22 metre line. Wasps won the ball and moved the ball sweetly along the line for Wade to speed past the cover defence for the try.

Robinson missed the conversion but soon afterwards was successful with a 35 metre penalty.

On the charge: Christian Wade beats the London Welsh defence to break for the line

On the charge: Christian Wade beats the London Welsh defence to break for the line

Gavin Henson had Welsh's first opportunity for points with a 45 metre penalty attempt but he lost his footing as he made contact resulting in his kick falling short.

However he made amends with his next effort, this time from 20 metres out, to leave Welsh 8-3 behind.

Wasps dominated the first half hour in terms of possession and territory and they deservedly extended their lead when Lee Thomas and Wade worked Varndell in the clear on half-way.

The wing took his chance by outflanking the cover for an excellent individual try.

High jump: Marco Wentzel wins the line out

High jump: Marco Wentzel wins the line out

Henson attempted an ambitious 60 metre penalty but his kick fell comfortably short but when Marco Wentzel was offside, the outside half fired over a 50 metre kick.

On the stroke of half-time an alert Lee Thomas dropped a wide-angled goal in impressive style to give Wasps a 16-6 lead but that success was tempered when the influential Joe Simpson was stretchered off with a leg injury after the players had left the field for the break.

Early in the second half Welsh missed a chance to reduce the arrears when Henson was off target with a 45 metre penalty and they were made to pay when Wade scored a breathtaking second try.

Offload: Andrea Masi gets the ball away before he is tackled

Offload: Andrea Masi gets the ball away before he is tackled

Robinson fielded a clearance kick just inside his own half and fed Wade. The wing's brilliant footwork evaded two defenders before accelerating away from Tyson Keats for a stunning score. Robinson missed his third conversion attempt.

From their first attack of note, the Welsh collected their first try when following a quick dart from Keats and a neat pass from Alfie To'oala, Mckenzie was able to force his way over in the corner.

Henson and Robinson both missed penalties so Wasps held a 21-11 advantage going into the final quarter but it wasn't long before Wasps sealed victory with their bonus point try when Varndell was presented with an easy run in.

The spirited Welsh responded with their second try when prop Franck Montanella drove over from close range and two minutes from the end, a penalty from Gordon Ross gave them hope of a bonus point but that was almost immediately extinguished when Lee Thomas responded with a 30 metre effort.

Arjun Atwal leads McGladrey Classic

Atwal heads up McGladrey Classic at halfway point with Love and Furyk closing

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UPDATED:

00:14 GMT, 20 October 2012

India's Arjun Atwal holds a narrow lead at the halfway stage of The McGladrey Classic after a second round of 63 at Sea Island.

Atwal carded eight birdies and one bogey to finish 10 under par, one shot ahead of tournament host Davis Love (66) and Jim Furyk (65).

Atwal is currently 175th on the PGA Tour money list and needs a high finish this week to move into the top 125 and secure his card for 2013.

Small lead: Arjun Atwal is in pole position - but only just

Small lead: Arjun Atwal is in pole position – but only just

Leaderboard

Keep up with the score here

'Yeah, I'm in a desperate situation,' Atwal said. 'I got no choice to either win or finish in the top two, I think my caddie figured out. So I just gotta grind it out.'

Furyk is playing his first tournament since the Ryder Cup at Medinah, where the United States – captained by Love – squandered a 10-6 lead in Sunday's singles.

The former US Open champion has had seven top-10 finishes this season, but badly wants a first victory since 2010 after several near misses.

Hit: Jim Furyk watches his drive off the 10th tee

Hit: Jim Furyk watches his drive off the 10th tee

'I have a lot of confidence in my ball striking right now, but when you don't play a lot sometimes it's (about) the course management, making the good decisions,' Furyk told www.pgatour.com.

'And so far that's all kind of coming back to me slowly and I've kind of gained momentum as the last two rounds have gone on.'

Overnight joint leader Bud Cauley added a 70 to his opening 62 to lie two shots off the pace on eight under alongside David Toms (67) and Gavin Coles (65).

Not his day: Bud Cauley reacts after missing a birdie putt on the 17th green

Not his day: Bud Cauley reacts after missing a birdie putt on the 17th green

'I just kind of didn't have it today,' Cauley said. 'I would have loved to have shot under par, but even is not too bad. So I'm going to go on the range and work on it and hopefully play better on the weekend.'

Fellow co-leader Marco Dawson could only manage a five-over 75 to slide into a tie for 40th.

England's Greg Owen is three off the lead on seven under after adding a 69 to his opening 64.

London Welsh 23 Saracens 28: Gavin Henson debut ends in defeat

London Welsh 23 Saracens 28: Henson debut ends in defeat but Exiles pick up bonus point

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UPDATED:

16:33 GMT, 7 October 2012

Sticking the boot in: Hodgson scored 28 points

Sticking the boot in: Hodgson scored 28 points

Gavin Henson was denied a winning debut for London Welsh by former England fly-half Charlie Hodgson who scored all 28 points for Saracens.

Hodgson grabbed a first-half try, added the conversion and landed seven penalties from eight attempts in this Aviva Premiership encounter at the Kassam Stadium.

Despite soaking up Saracens pressure for most of the match, Welsh had Sarries hanging on at the end after producing two breakaway tries from Canada wing Phil MacKenzie and full-back Tom Arscott.

Henson's boot contributed their other 13 points as they collected a losing bonus point.

The
30-year-old double Grand Slam-winning Welshman's first Premiership
appearance for the newly-promoted Exiles had been delayed after he
fractured his cheekbone in a pre-season match against former club
Scarlets.

But Henson,
called up in place of former Scotland international Gordon Ross, made
his mark with an assured performance for Welsh.

They were dealt an early blow when
lock Matt Corker was yellow-carded in the fourth minute as their pack
desperately tried to disrupt a series of forward drives by Saracens.

But, three minutes later, they broke out of defence to take the lead, totally against the run of the early play.

Just
inside the opposing half, MacKenzie kicked a loose ball deep into
Saracens territory and won the race to collect and cross the line,
leaving Henson a simple first conversion for his new club.

Debut: Henson appeared in a London Welsh shirt for the first time

Debut: Henson appeared in a London Welsh shirt for the first time

Debut: Henson appeared in a London Welsh shirt for the first time

The fly-half attempted to capitalise with a penalty kick from inside his own half but his effort fell just short.

Welsh were conceding a serious number of penalties and Hodgson, after striking the post from 50 metres in the 10th minute, pulled back three points with a straightforward kick from the 22-metre line five minutes later.

The almost constant pressure of the visitors finally forced the hard-pressed Welsh defence to crack in the 18th minute when Hodgson took a short pass from scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, stepped inside and raced over between the posts before adding the conversion.

Hodgson stretched the lead with a penalty from 48 metres but, within two minutes, Henson cancelled it out when Sarries strayed offside 40 metres from their posts.

Bonus point: Welsh moved nine points clear of bottom-placed side Sale

Bonus point: Welsh moved nine points clear of bottom-placed side Sale

Bonus point: Welsh moved nine points clear of bottom-placed side Sale

But Hodgson struck two more penalties before half-time, with Henson pulling another back to restrict the visitors to a 19-13 lead at the interval.

Another burst through the Welsh defence by Hodgson should have resulted in a second try for Saracens but Andy Saull let the ball slip from his grasp as he stretched for the line.

Two more penalties from Hodgson increased Saracens' lead to 25-13 before Henson kicked his third penalty in the 60th minute.

But Welsh never gave up and they scored a second try when left-wing Nick Scott made a superb break from the halfway line before passing inside to full-back Arscott, who raced clear of the Saracens defence, cut inside and touched down behind the posts to leave Henson a simple conversion.

Kicking on: Saracens occupy the fourth play-off place

Kicking on: Saracens occupy the fourth play-off place

Kicking on: Saracens occupy the fourth play-off place

Hodgson landed his seventh penalty four minutes from time but it was not enough to deny the Exiles the hard-fought consolation point they deserved for their never-say-die efforts.

They finished the match driving the Saracens pack back towards their own line to force a penalty.

They elected to pack down and scrum-half Tyson Keats tried a burst down the short side but was dragged down just short of the line.

Saracens were forced to defend desperately but, despite conceding three penalties, they survived a series of late drives by the home forwards to hang on to their lead.

Gavin Henson will have tests after cheekbone injury

Henson set for hospital tests after cheekbone injury against Scarlets

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UPDATED:

14:08 GMT, 26 August 2012

Gavin Henson will undergo further tests on Sunday to confirm if he fractured a cheekbone in London Welsh's friendly defeat against Llanelli Scarlets.

Henson was taken to hospital and given X-rays and tests after he was tackled by Deacon Manu in the first minute in the 23-17 loss, and although he played on until the 33rd, he had to be replaced and could now miss the start of the season with Welsh facing Leicester on September 2.

A club spokesman said: 'Gavin underwent X-rays yesterday and will have further tests today and there has been no confirmation if his cheekbone has been fractured.

Treated: Gavin Henson is given medical attention

Treated: Gavin Henson is given medical attention

'Until we know the extent of the damage we will not know if he will miss the game against Leicester and there is not much more we can say at this point.'

London head coach Lyn Jones is trying to remain positive about the prognosis of the former Wales three-quarter.

'We're hoping for the best, but if it's the worst he's not the first player to get injured and we'll just have to be patient and deal with it,” Jones said, in quotes carried on the club website.

'These are things you've got to deal with in rugby. You've got to deal with thunderbolts all the time.

'No player wants to get injured in a pre-season friendly because it's hugely frustrating because of all the hard work that's been done leading up to the start of the season.'

Reading promoted to Premier League after beating Nottingham Forest

Reading 1 Nottingham Forest 0: Promotion party for Royals as Leigertwood strikes late

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UPDATED:

20:55 GMT, 17 April 2012

Reading won promotion back to the Barclays Premier League thanks to a late strike by Mikele Leigertwood at the Madejski Stadium and West Ham's failure to beat Bristol City at Ashton Gate.

With Reading on the brink of a return to the Premier League, Steve Cotterill’s side frustrated them for long periods.

But the Royals held their nerve to nick the win after midfielder Leigertwood prodded home from close range as Forest failed to clear Ian Harte's free-kick.

More to follow.

Tussle: Paul Anderson of Nottingham Forest tackles Reading Jimmy Kebe (right)

Tussle: Paul Anderson of Nottingham Forest tackles Reading Jimmy Kebe (right)

MATCH FACTS

Reading: Federici, Cummings, Pearce, Gorkss, Harte, Kebe, Leigertwood, Mullins, McAnuff, Roberts, Hunt (Le Fondre 58).

Subs not used: McCarthy, Gunnarsson, Church, Afobe.

Goals: Leigertwood 82

Booked: Kebe

Nottm Forest: Camp, Wootton (Reid 84), Chambers, Lynch, Elokobi, Gunter, Guedioura, McGugan (Greening 84), Anderson, Majewski (Tudgay 84), Blackstock.

Subs not used: Smith, Cunningham.

Booked: Wooton, Lynch

Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey)

Click here for the latest Championship table, fixtures and results

Gavin Henson apologises for incident on plane

Henson is 'truly embarrassed' as suspended Cardiff star issues apology after incident on flight

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UPDATED:

15:05 GMT, 1 April 2012

Gavin Henson has apologised for drinking and 'behaving inappropriately' on a flight from Glasgow to Cardiff and admits he is 'truly embarrassed' by the incident.

The 30-year-old Cardiff Blues player was suspended after an incident on a flight from Glasgow back to the Welsh capital on Friday night.

Henson issued a statement today and said: 'I would like to publicly apologise for drinking on that flight, which is inappropriate behaviour.'

More to follow…

In the dock: Gavin Henson has been suspended by Cardiff Blues

In the dock: Gavin Henson has been suspended by Cardiff Blues