Tag Archives: nicholls

Alex Ferguson says Rafa Benitez should stand in front of him to shake hand

Rafa wants to shake my hand Well, he should stand in front of me next time! Fergie stokes new row with Chelsea boss

By
Graeme Yorke

PUBLISHED:

13:40 GMT, 15 March 2013

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UPDATED:

09:41 GMT, 16 March 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson has re-opened his feud with Rafael Benitez over their handshake row.

The pair, who have a history of fall-outs, didn't shake hands before their FA Cup clash at Manchester United on Sunday.

Benitez later claimed that Ferguson ignored him prior to kick-off in the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford.

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Clash: Sir Alex Ferguson (right) and Rafa Benitez on the touchline on Sunday

Clash: Sir Alex Ferguson (right) and Rafa Benitez on the touchline on Sunday

Hitting back: Sir Alex Ferguson (right) at the Cheltenham Festival with Paul Nicholls this week

Hitting back: Sir Alex Ferguson (right) at the Cheltenham Festival with Paul Nicholls this week

But Ferguson has now hit back, insisting that he did not refuse – before giving them Chelsea boss some advice.

He said: 'It is nonsense. Why would I refuse to shake his hand

'I was signing autographs and I never saw him. Why he has said that I have no idea.

Pointing the way: Benitez takes charge of Chelsea's training session on Friday

Pointing the way: Benitez takes charge of Chelsea's training session on Friday

'If he wanted to shake hands he could have stood straight in front of me. It is absolute nonsense.'

Ferguson and Benitez have had several run-ins in the Barclays Premier League – dating back to their United v Liverpool clashes.

The Spaniard famously held a press conference in 2009 where he ran down a list of 'facts' attacking Ferguson's record.

VIDEO “I didn't see him.” Fergie denies Benitez handshake claim

Absolute NONSENSE. Fergie rubbishes Benitez handshake claim

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Alex Ferguson on Rio and Reading

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Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had a winning horse at Doncaster

Ferguson's nous extends from the pitch to the racecourse with win in Doncaster

PUBLISHED:

18:39 GMT, 1 March 2013

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UPDATED:

18:39 GMT, 1 March 2013

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was in the winner's enclosure at Doncaster after Empire Levant made a winning start to his career over fences in the 32Red Novices' Chase.

The Paul Nicholls-trained six-year-old was a 4-5 favourite on his first
appearance since failing to complete a hurdle race at Aintree in late October and was sent straight to the lead by Daryl Jacob.

Winners enclosure: Sir Alex Ferguson (left) with Empire Lavant and jockey Daryl Jacob after their victory at Doncaster

Winners enclosure: Sir Alex Ferguson (left) with Empire Lavant and jockey Daryl Jacob after their victory at Doncaster

Largely jumping quickly and accurately, all appeared to be going well for
favourite-backers until the grey made a real mess of the fifth fence from home, bringing him right back to the rest of the field.

However, he was good and neat at the remaining four fences in the home straight and found enough for pressure to hold off the determined Speed Steed by two and a quarter lengths.

Empire Levant is owned by Ferguson and Ged Mason and carries the colours of Grand National contenders What A Friend and Harry The Viking.

Sharing a joke: Ferguson and Jacob chat after the win

Sharing a joke: Ferguson and Jacob chat after the win

Mike Nicholls, former Gloucester captain has died

Flag flies at half mast at Gloucester as club mourns legendary captain Nicholls

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UPDATED:

16:19 GMT, 24 December 2012

Former Gloucester captain Mike Nicholls has died, the club have announced.

Nicholls made 483 first team appearances for the Cherry and Whites in a career that spanned 17 years, lifting the club's first trophy after a 17-6 victory over Moseley in the final of the 1972 national cup.

Following his retirement as a player, Nicholls served the club as a coach and a member of the committee.

Legend: Former Gloucester captain Mike Nicholls has died

Legend: Former Gloucester captain Mike Nicholls has died

Legend: Former Gloucester captain Mike Nicholls has died

A statement on the club website said: 'Everyone at Gloucester Rugby is saddened to hear of the passing of former captain, and one of the true legends of the club, Mike Nicholls.

'Out of respect for Mike, the Gloucester Rugby flag at Kingsholm is flying at half mast today, and will do so until after the funeral, details of which will be communicated in due course.

'A player who led from the front, the long serving hooker captained Gloucester for three seasons, 1970-71, 1971-72 and then again 1973-74.

'Under his captaincy the team were a formidable unit, not always pretty to watch but very effective.

'Under Mike Nicholls' inspiring leadership the team consistently turned on performances on the big occasions.

'Mike's career was at a pinnacle in the club's centenary season of 1973-74 when his team recorded a club record of 39 wins and scored 1000 points. Their 24-14 win against an International XV in the centenary match is remembered by all who were there.

'The Gloucester playing record during the three years of his captaincy speaks for itself: P154 W107 L35 D9. He is regarded as one of the finest captains the club has known.

'Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.'

Martin Skrtel tattoos Liverpool fans to raise money for Hillsborough families

Liverpool defender Skrtel inks Hillsborough tattoo on fan in bid to raise cash for families

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UPDATED:

17:16 GMT, 18 December 2012

Martin Skrtel turned out to be a natural tattoo artist when the Liverpool defender took part in a charity inking session to raise money for the victims’ families of the Hillsborough disaster.

In a show of solidarity, 96 football fans bustled into a tattoo studio in Liverpool to take part in the challenge, and one was even willing to let first-timer Skrtel try his hand at inking his his back.

The event was organised by tattoo artist Will Holmes, but special guest Skrtel wasn’t prepared to leave him in the lurch when it came to inking some of the fans.

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Dab hand: Martin Skrtel coloured in the numbers 96 on Barry Nicholls' back

Dab hand: Martin Skrtel coloured in the numbers 96 on Barry Nicholls' back

The Slovakian defender helped tattoo the back of an employee of the football club, Barry Nicholls, according to the Liverpool Echo.

Barry said: ‘Martin agreed to come and pledge his support, which we were really pleased about.

‘We thought he had done tattooing before, so to find out he hadn’t when he turned up was a little alarming.’

The 28-year-old Skrtel, who has plenty of tattoos himself, seemed pretty competent as he put some colour into an eternal flame on the back of his brave volunteer.

But Barry was in safe hands, as Skrtel was coached through his first-time inking by an expert.

Skrtel said: 'Before I came here I didn't know a lot about Hillsborough but once I got used to being at the club, I started to understand what had happened.'

Brave man: Barry Nicholls volunteered to allow Skrtel to colour a tattoo on his back

Brave man: Barry Nicholls volunteered to allow Skrtel to colour a tattoo on his back

'I think it is great that the Liverpool supporters and the club have stuck together to fight for justice for the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy.'

An impressive 1,000 was raised from tattoos as well as 500 for a shirt signed by Skrtel.

Demand was so high for the tattoos on offer at the Royal Ink Tattoo Studio in Anfield that they had to compile a reserve list for those who wanted to be inked for the cause.

All the money raised on the day will go towards the fight for justice for victims, survivors and families of the Hillsborough tragedy, which claimed 96 lives in 1989.

Former Liverpool players Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hansen, comedian John Bishop, musicians Paul McCartney and Robbie Williams have also joined forces under the moniker of the Justice Collective and released a charity cover of He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother in a bid to top the charts at Christmas to raise money for the worthy cause.

Bouncing back: Skrtel will hope Liverpool can improve after being beaten by Aston Villa at the weekend

Bouncing back: Skrtel will hope Liverpool can improve after being beaten by Aston Villa at the weekend

VIDEO Skrtl is a natural at more than just football!

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Vote for Sanctuaire as big Nicholls hope for Sandown has the X Factor

Vote for Sanctuaire as big Nicholls hope for Sandown has the X Factor

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UPDATED:

20:18 GMT, 7 December 2012

The people at ITV will have you
believe that all this weekend's fireworks are reserved for the X Factor
final but, for National Hunt fans, there are two explosive chasers at
Sandown today for whom that description fits adroitly.

Both Sprinter Sacre and SANCTUAIRE
(Sandown, 3.05) boast the star quality that X Factor finalists can only
dream of, although the progression through the series of favourite James
Arthur does in a way mirror that of Sanctuaire.

tale of the tingle tape

Peter Scudamore's view

The Tingle Creek Chase provides the clash between Sanctuaire and Sprinter Sacre that we’ve been waiting for since the Spring and, with both unbeaten over fences, something has to give. My worry is the ground is going to play a part. Jockey Peter Buchanan, who landed the big race yesterday on Bold Sir Brian, described conditions on Sandown’s chase course as ‘hard-work ground’.

The big two have both had breathing operations in the past. You can never be totally confident how they will react in arduous going.
I’d also be concerned that the ground will negate the immense jumping of Sprinter Sacre. He is a horse with natural spring in his legs. His technique last year was outstanding and some of his leaps spectacular.

His defeat of Cue Card at the Cheltenham Festival was a piece of form to drool over. He has already shown the potential to be not only the most exciting steeplechaser in training but also the best pound for pound across the distance spectrum. Despite my concerns I can’t desert the Nicky Henderson-trained favourite.

A troubled soul at the start of the
series, the talented Arthur has prospered due to a strict regime of
rehearsal and training and much the same can be said of the headstrong
Sanctuaire

It is only in the past 12 months that trainer Paul Nicholls and his team has managed to resolve the physical and mental issues that were stopping his charge from ascending the chasing tree.

The result has been three unblemished chasing victories by an aggregate margin of 74 lengths, two of which were achieved at today's venue.

It is those front-running demolitions that Sanctuaire's supporters will put their faith in as he bids to see off the imposing claims of Sprinter Sacre.

Nicky Henderson's hot favourite is yet to taste defeat over fences.

A six-length defeat of Cue Card in the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival looks all the more creditable given the runner-up's subsequent efforts.

However, Sanctuaire's experience of the tricky Sandown fences could prove decisive in springing a mini surprise.

Silviniaco Conti wins Betfair Chase at Haydock

Silviniaco Conti steps into Kauto Star's shoes with easy win in Betfair Chase

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UPDATED:

18:43 GMT, 24 November 2012

Silviniaco Conti proved himself a worthy heir to incredible Kauto Star as he produced a spring-heeled display to win the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls announced last month the legendary steeplechaser had run the last race of a breathtaking career that included five King Georges, a brace of Cheltenham Gold Cups and four wins in this Grade One event on Merseyside.

While it is fanciful to believe Silviniaco Conti can reach those heights, the six-year-old leapt to second-favouritism for the Gold Cup with most firms under a typically well judged front-running ride from Ruby Walsh, to leave Nicholls beaming from ear to ear.

Gold Cup hope: Silviniaco Conti clears the last and could now head for chasing's Blue Riband

Gold Cup hope: Silviniaco Conti clears the last and could now head for chasing's Blue Riband

The runners were led down to the start by the 12-year-old Kauto Star and his faithful head lad Clifford Baker, receiving great applause from the Haydock crowd.

It was clear from when the tapes dropped no-one was overly keen to make the running, so Walsh let his mount set what was a fairly sedate gallop for the first circuit.

The 7-4 chance injected a deal of pace into the race heading down the back straight for the second time, however, and some fast and accurate jumping kept him in charge.

Long Run, the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner who was left chasing Kauto Star's shadow here 12 months ago, travelled with more zest on this occasion and was right on the leader's tail turning in.

But Charlie Hall Chase hero Silviniaco Conti continued to pour it on in front and galloped all the way to the line after the final fence to beat the favourite by two and a half lengths.

The Giant Bolster just held on to third spot from Weird Al.

Conti's knockout blow: Long Run is left trailing by Ruby Walsh's mount

Conti's knockout blow: Long Run is left trailing by Ruby Walsh's mount

Nicholls said: 'He is a really decent horse. He's only six, he jumps, he stays – he jumped brilliantly today.

'We had a chat before the race and I said if they go quick get a lead, if they don't then bowl along. He jumps and gallops.

'There's no better man to ride in front than Ruby.'

Nicholls revealed he may not even run again between now and next March.

'I said if he won today we'd go for the Gold Cup and that is the plan. You couldn't leave him in his box on Gold Cup day after that performance,' he said.

'I'm not going to rush him and I might go straight to the Gold Cup with him.

'He wants to be fresh and I'm not going to run him through the winter in the mud.

'He definitely won't run in the King George, I don't think Kempton is his track. He won't run anywhere over Christmas.

Star turn: Kauto Star looks at his statue with his trainer Paul Nicholls and Head lad Clifford Baker as it is unveiled at Haydock Park

Star turn: Kauto Star looks at his statue with his trainer Paul Nicholls and Head lad Clifford Baker as it is unveiled at Haydock Park

'We could give him a run in something like the Aon but I certainly wouldn't be worried about going straight there with him.

'He could be really interesting, come Cheltenham.

'I thought he didn't get the credit he deserved at Wetherby (winning Charlie Hall).

'Long Run is a very good horse but for a six-year-old it was a good performance (today).

Legends: Kauto Star and his trainer Paul Nicholls

Legends: Kauto Star and his trainer Paul Nicholls

'Kauto won this as a six-year-old and went on to win the Gold Cup in the same season, and this horse is very, very exciting. He jumps, he has speed and he stays very well.

'Being by Dom Alco he can only improve and it's fantastic to have a young horse like this in the yard.

'I had tears in my eyes watching Kauto go in front of the stands today.

'He and the other old boys have moved on and it's so exciting to see the younger horses come through. It really is a dream come true.'

Walsh, who partnered Kauto Star to both of his Gold Cup victories, is hopeful this horse can give him the hat-trick.

Walsh said: 'The Gold Cup looks the
logical step. You win the Charlie Hall, you win the Betfair, it's the
obvious target for him. “He's a good stayer, he's not slow. I'd love to ride another Gold Cup winner.'

Despite
coming off second best to the Nicholls-Walsh team yet again, Long Run
was not disgraced in finishing second and trainer Nicky Henderson was
far from despondent.

Speaking
from Ascot, he said: 'I haven't spoken to Robert or Sam (Waley-Cohen,
owner and rider), but the boys seem very happy. We didn't want to get
into a battle today.

'He had a desperately hard race last year and he's finished off his race nicely today.

'Hopefully it's onwards and upwards and the King George is where we'll go.'

The
rider said: 'He's run his race but we've been beaten fair and square.
The ground was a bit soft for him but it was the same for all the others
and we've got no excuses.'

Waley Cohen senior said: 'It's always disappointing to be beaten when you're favourite and maybe the pace of the race was to blame.

'His jumping was a bit sticky to begin with, but when the pace picked up so did his jumping.

'He should come on for the run and will now head straight for the King George.'

The Giant Bolster's trainer, David Bridgwater, said: 'He's bound to come on for that and it was a good run.

'There's the King George and the Lexus at Leopardstown so we'll see what happens.'

Al Ferof lands Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham

Al Ferof King George date after strolling to Paddy Power Cup victory at Cheltenham

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UPDATED:

18:04 GMT, 17 November 2012

Al Ferof is set for a crack at the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day after giving Paul Nicholls a first Paddy Power Gold Cup with a brilliant round of jumping at Cheltenham.

Nicholls, owner John Hales and jockey Ruby Walsh have suffered heartache in this race before with the ill-fated Granit Jack, but the 8-1 chance went a long way to exorcising those demons.

Grey's day: Al Ferof and Ruby Walsh jump the last

Grey's day: Al Ferof and Ruby Walsh jump the last

Still under a tight hold at the top of the hill, where first Hunt Ball and shortly afterwards Grands Crus had run their races, Walsh was joined by another grey, Walkon, and held just a slight advantage two out.

He stamped his class on proceedings from there, defying a huge weight burden, and hard as the Alan King runner tried he could not reel him in up the gruelling hill, finishing three lengths adrift.

Nadiya de la Vega was third with long-time leader Casey Top running a gallant race in fourth.

Nicholls said: 'He came in late because he cut himself in the field, but he had a gallop at Wincanton last weekend and went really well.

'We'll have to think about Kempton (King George) I suppose, he stayed well there and I think we'll have to look at it.

Foot perfect: Al Ferof exhibited a faultless round of jumping

Foot perfect: Al Ferof exhibited a faultless round of jumping

'The second-season chasers of ours like him are improving, I don't think the horses were right last year.

'The main thing is to have horses for all the big races. Everyone thinks we want to win the trainers' championship but it's honestly not true, days like this and bringing young horses through are what makes it all worth it.'

Hales, owner of the great One Man, said: 'That was a stunning performance, as good as from any horse I have owned.

'The rain concerned me today, but I thought it was an outstanding run.

Cheers for the champ: Ruby Walsh celebrates

Cheers for the champ: Ruby Walsh celebrates

'I wasn't as confident when I started looking at the race yesterday – I thought it was going to be difficult to give weight away to horses like Grands Crus.

'I think we have decided we will go to the King George now, and he is a horse that we are going to have look after.'

Walsh said: 'You need a bit of class in this race, which is why we were keen to take chance. In fairness to him we were forcing him at two (miles). Stepping up in trip is probably what we should be doing.'

David Pipe could offer no explanation to the stewards for the run of 7-4 favourite Grands Crus, while Keiran Burke, trainer of Hunt Ball, said he was unsuited by the ground.

Pipe said of Grands Crus: 'Tom (Scudamore) just said he wasn't really ever that happy with him, he lost a near-fore plate but no excuses, we'll get him home and see.

'He had his heart checked afterwards and that was fine, he's in one piece and far worse things happen.

'I don't think so (ground to blame), he's handled very soft ground before.'

Jeremy Kyle has Wincanton winner and Zarkandar stakes Champion Hurdle claim

Jeremy Kyle has Wincanton winner and Zarkandar stakes Champion claim

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UPDATED:

16:02 GMT, 10 November 2012

Zarkandar (100-30) fuelled his claims for the Champion Hurdle and surprised trainer Paul Nicholls when outpointing stablemate Prospect Wells in the totepool.com Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

Fifth in last season's Champion and a faller when previously seen in action at Aintree, the diminutive Zarkandar showed with a determined display under Daryl Jacob that, in a tight situation, class will out.

Champion Hurdle prospect: Zarkandar and Daryl Jacob (right) clear the last flight with Prospect Wells

Champion Hurdle prospect: Zarkandar and Daryl Jacob (right) clear the last flight with Prospect Wells

It was a perfect start to the campaign for Jacob, who because Ruby Walsh is expected to ride Hurricane Fly throughout the season is set to be aboard Zarkandar for all his races.

Despite giving his rival 17lb, Zarkandar cruised up to join Prospect Wells still on the bridle two flights from home, and buckled down on the run-in to resist the latter's final thrust under Walsh by a neck.

It was seven lengths back to Balder Succes. Nicholls was all praise for the winner, who William Hill cut to 10-1 from 12s for the Champion.

He said: 'He's done well, real well, and I never had him looking as good as this for the whole of last season.

'For him he looks big and well, and in the last fortnight he's just suddenly picked up. Ruby thought the 17lb would swing it and I told the owners that win, lose or draw he would come on for the run.

'Zarkandar will now go for the Bula (International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December) )and we're right back where we want to be with him. The Bula is the race we've been training him for.

'Then we'll look to bring him back here for the Kingwell in the new year. Prospect Wells is a rattling good handicapper and will win a nice race.

Winning owners: Jeremy Kyle with his wife, former model Carla Germaine, were on the mark at Wincanton

Winning owners: Jeremy Kyle with his wife, former model Carla Germaine, were on the mark at Wincanton

'Today there hardly deserved to be a loser. Prospect Wells lost nothing in defeat, I always hate beating a stablemate but he will win a nice race. Both have run well and I am chuffed for both of them.'

Fairy Rath was gameness personified in making every yard of the running in the totepool Mobile Text Tote To 89660 Handicap Chase.

The Nick Gifford-trained six-year-old
ran virtually to the pound with Henry San as he turned round recent
Chepstow placings with that rival.

Denis O'Regan did not intend to lead
on the 5-1 shot, but was encouraged to do so when there was a sedate
early pace and his mount winged the first.

Fairy Rath had fought off all bar
Henry San when that rival joined him two out, and survived an awkward
jump at the last before going away again to score by a length and a
quarter.

It was a further 21 lengths back to the third, Sum Laff.

Fairy Rath is owned by talk show host Jeremy Kyle's wife, Carla.

The couple are in the Caribbean with Andy Stewart and are not believed to have seen the race.

O'Regan said: 'He was very game. He picked up again after the last and then just idled.'

Houblon Des Obeaux made all the running for Venetia Williams and Aidan Coleman in the totepool Rising Stars Novices' Chase.

In what looked on paper to be a red-hot renewal, Houblon Des Obeaux was preferred in the market by several rivals and went off at 9-1, in spite of having been impressive when scoring on his debut over fences at Worcester.

Measuring his fences with accuracy, the five-year-old benefited from the jumping deficiencies of Aegean Dawn (unseated rider second) and Court In Motion (bad mistake middle fences down back) to come home four and a half lengths clear of Poungach, who rallied to catch Court In Motion for second.

Coleman said: 'That was super. We were a bit worried that there wasn't going to be a lot of pace and he wants further, so I had to pop out and make it. He jumped for fun and will do even better over a longer trip. If he carries on along this path he could be an RSA Chase type.'

Coral gave the winner a 25-1 quote for the RSA.

Miss Milborne took the spoils in a Bet totequadpot Test Tote To 89660 Mares' Handicap Hurdle in which five of the 10-strong field were line-abreast approaching the final flight.

You could have thrown a blanket over the protagonists, but on the run-in Jamie Snowden's mare showed the best resolve to forge two lengths and three clear of Prima Porta and Tempest River under Harry Skelton.

It is the dream of the winner's part-owner Adrian Brown to land the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, as he is CEO (UK) for the same company.

Snowden observed: 'She is as tough as nails and had a good blow on her comeback at Chepstow. The trip was too short and we knew that had put her spot on for today.

'She can be the first off the bridle, as she was at Towcester, but she's a mare with plenty of guts and that counts for so much.

'All being well she'll run next in a mares' Listed race at Kempton in a fortnight.'

Kings Lad helped make it a red-letter week for Colin and Joe Tizzard when he floored 2-7 favourite Mr Mole in the Bet totescoop6 Text Tote To 89660 EBF 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle.

Fresh from their Haldon Gold Cup triumph with Cue Card at Exeter, the father and son trainer/jockey combo can do little wrong and Kings Lad (5-1) defied connections' belief that he would improve for the outing.

In charge after the penultimate flight, he never looked like being reeled-in and came home with a seven-length cushion over the disappointing market leader.

Owner Graham Gingell, related to Tizzard as his son married the trainer's daughter, said: 'Colin thought he would need the run so we didn't get carried away. It was his first run since May and we are over the moon.'

Gingell spotted and purchased Kings Lad at Doncaster Sales as a three-year-old. He and wife, Sylvia Musgrove, live just a mile from Wincanton.

Kauto Star retires tribute

Farewell super Star: Sportsmail's tribute as Kauto Star retires

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UPDATED:

12:38 GMT, 31 October 2012

Kauto Star, one of the best
steeplechasers, of all time has been retired.

A massive question mark had hung
over the future of the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, who won the King George
VI Chase a remarkable five times, since he was pulled up when going for his
third Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March.

Trainer Paul Nicholls In his Betfair
column: ‘We have had nine superb years
with the horse but, after seeing him in his work these past few weeks, myself,
(Head Lad) Clifford Baker and (assistant trainer) Dan Skelton were of the
opinion that the time had arrived to retire him.

Kauto Star, ridden by Ruby Walsh wins the Stan James King George VI Chase in 2008

Kauto Star, ridden by Ruby Walsh wins the Stan James King George VI Chase in 2008

‘Of course, as owner, the final
decision rested with Clive, but he agreed that the horse had done enough.

‘Don't get me wrong, Kauto looks
and feels as vibrant as ever, as those who saw him at our owners' Open Day last
month would testify to. He was mad fresh that day and continues to be as alert
as ever and very, very well in himself.

‘But I suspect Kauto will be like
that when he is 20-years-old.

‘Kauto is signing off in full
health and after a season in which he proved so many people wrong by winning a
fifth King George and a fourth Betfair Chase, to add to his two Cheltenham Gold
Cups and Tingle Creeks.

‘Who wouldn't want to train a
horse of this quality any more He is a once-in-a-lifetime horse, after all.

‘Ever since he won on his debut
for me at Newbury on December 29, 2004, the horse has consistently proved
himself a class apart.

'But sometimes, you have to listen
to your head and your heart, and both told me that retirement was the only
option.’

TRIBUTE BY MARCUS TOWNEND, RACING CORRESPONDENT

THE scale of the affection that the public held for Kauto Star was portrayed in the emotional seconds after he was pulled up in his fifth Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

The remainder of his rivals were still scrapping over the most prestigious prize in steeplechasing, millions of pounds were riding on the outcome, but the Festival crowd rose as one to applaud a steeplechaser who had earned the right to be named in the same list as the greats of the sport.
Some would argue at the top of that list.

Ruby Walsh riding Kauto Star after winning The William Hill King George VI Steeple Chase at Kempton racecourse in 2006

Ruby Walsh riding Kauto Star after winning The William Hill King George VI Steeple Chase at Kempton racecourse in 2006

The cheers that echoed around jump racing’s most famous amphitheatre were in part fuelled by a feeling one of the icons of the game was leaving the stage.

Confirmation came from owner Clive Smith and trainer Paul Nicholls yesterday.

It is the right call. The risk to reward ratio was too unbalanced. With a shot at another Gold Cup ruled out, winning another Betfair Chase was hardly an incentive to carry on.

A sixth King George Tempting, maybe, but best, and safer, to remember the chaser that dominated Kempton on Boxing Day with that resurgent defeat of Long Run last year.

Quite simply, Kauto Star has gone out at the top, even if his last run did not have a fairytale end.
With him go a welter of memories – highs and lows, thrills and some spills and, never to be forgotten moments.

The grey beards might tell you Irish legends Arkle and has no peers in the staying chaser division.

Their sons will marvel at the achievements of Desert Orchid and the emotional connections triple Grand National winner Red Rum made with the wider public.

But, in 87 years time, when racing historians start compiling their pecking order of 21st century steeplechasing greats, Kauto Star’s name will be prominent in that debate.

There may be just over a 10th of the century gone but few will be willing to bet the remarkable record of Kauto Star will be matched, let alone superseded.

Twenty three wins from 41 races. Earnings of 2,375,883, the most ever for a jumper. A unique five King George VI Chases, two Gold Cups and two Tingle Creek Chase. Wins from two miles to three and a quarter.

Another glorious ride at Kempton for the great Star of the show

Another glorious ride at Kempton for the great Star of the show

Like Desert Orchid, whose four-time King George record he beat, Kauto Star was both versatile and durable. Few horses can claim to compete at seven successive Cheltenham Festivals, let alone in the biggest races of the demanding meeting.

But Kauto Star always looked something special, being nicknamed ‘The Extraterrestrial’ by his original trainer in France, Serge Foucher, where he had his first 10 races.

It took an eyewatering bid of 400,000 euros from owner Clive Smith to prize him across The Channel and, even then, Foucher, was a reluctant seller.

He disappeared when bloodstock agent Anthony Bromley arrived with a vet to carry out an inspection, vital with such a high-risk purchase.

So fractious was Kauto Star that it was impossible to carry out a scope test to make sure he had no breathing issues. Smith took the gamble to press on with his purchase and it was a decision he would never regret.

The Nicholls team knew they had a special talent on their hands when Kauto Star made an exhilarating British debut, brushing aside Foreman, a horse good enough to finish fourth in the Champion Hurdle, by an easy nine lengths in a Newbury novice chase on December 29, 2004.

It was performance that made him a leading Arkle Chase but he would never make it to that season’s Festival, picking up an injury when being beaten a short-head by Mistral De la Cour at Exeter in a controversial run when re-mounted by Walsh after falling two out when clear.

Kauto Star pulls away from the first fence at Kempton in 2006

Kauto Star pulls away from the first fence at Kempton in 2006

When he miraculously escaped serious injury when being trampled on in the following season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, a pattern seemed to be emerging of a brilliant horse, liable to catastrophic lapses in concentration.

That reputation only seemed to be emphasised when he successfully stepped up in distance, captured his first King George in 2006 but committed a series of last-fence errors.

The questions over his jumping irritated Nicholls and were brushed aside by Walsh but only served to augment his story.

He was no seat-of-the-pants performer but he kept his fans on the edge of their seats, knowing that his spectacular leaps carried with them a degree of difficulty that left little room for error.

But both questions over his jumping and his stamina, were brushed aside when he beat Exotic Dancer two and a half lengths to land his first Gold Cup three months later.

But, just when it looked like nothing could stop topple him, a challenge emerged from the next-door box in Nicholls’ Somerset stable – Denman.

...and another win at Kempton in 2007

…and another win at Kempton in 2007

Racing suddenly had a rivalry to match other sports, the public lapped it up and the reputation of both horses benefited.

The bundle of muscle that was Denman came out on top in 12 months later in the 2008 Gold Cup with Kauto Star below par only for the placings to be reversed in 2009 as Denman, his season disrupted by a heart problem, could not live with his stablemate.

The 2010 Gold Cup became the War of the Wolds but Kauto Star took a hideous fall and Denman couldn’t live with Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Imperial Commander.

A year on we had a battle to live up to that billing. The feeling was both of Nicholls’ chasers were up against – especially Kauto who had lost his King George crown to Nicky Henderson’s Long Run.

It was the latter who crossed the line in front at Cheltenham, seven lengths in front of Denman and 11 ahead of Kauto Star but only after one of the great Gold Cup battles.

Kauto may not have won but he had picked himself up of the deck and proved his racing heart beat as loud as ever.

It was that quality that characterised his last season and further endeared him to his fans.

Pulled up after a listless performance at Punchestown in May 2011, the pressure was on as Nicholls and Smith resisted call to retire Kauto Star and brought him back to win his fourth Betfair Chase in November.

The subsequent outpouring of emotion has seldom been seen on a British racecourse but it was repeated when he land his sixth King George at Kempton on Boxing Day, avenging his 2010 defeat by Long Run.

Kauto Star in his stable at Manor Farm, Ditcheat, Somerset.

Kauto Star in his stable at Manor Farm, Ditcheat, Somerset.

It set up a potential Gold Cup showdown, only for a training ground fall to disrupt his preparation and, ultimately, lead to his failure to finish.

Kauto Star will now enjoy his retirement but still be in demand for public appearances. Regal gallop-pasts will no doubt be demanded at both Cheltenham and Kempton, where he boasts a record of five wins and a third from six starts.

A horse who helped take the supporters’ scarf from the football ground to the racetrack, and whose name and his performances crossed the normal boundaries of the sport can hardly be expected to slip away quietly.

He’ll be a hard act to follow.

London 2012 Olympics: Lawrence Okoye breaks British discus record to finish third in warm up event

Okoye breaks British discus record to finish third in warm up for London Games

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UPDATED:

18:05 GMT, 19 May 2012

Lawrence Okoye broke his own British record in the discus at the Halle Throws International in Germany on Saturday.

The 20-year-old, who is the reigning European under-23 champion, held the previous national best with a throw of 67.63 metres in London last July.

But he produced an effort of 68.24m in the fourth round of throws to finish third and provide the British highlight of the event, showing the form which could take him a long way at London 2012.

Peaking: Lawrence Okoye beat his own record in Germany to finish third in Germany

Peaking: Lawrence Okoye beat his own record in Germany to finish third in Germany

Germany's two-time world champion Robert Harting took first place with a throw of 70.31m, ahead of Poland's Olympic silver medallist Piotr Malachowski who had four throws of 68 metres, including a best of 68.94m.

Okoye's British team-mates Abdul Buhari and Brett Morse finished in ninth and 11th place, after respective best efforts of 61.22m and 59.72m, both well below their personal bests.

Scottish hammer thrower Mark Dry, who has already achieved the Olympic B qualification standard, fell just short of his personal best in finishing fifth in his event with a best of 73.88m.

Fellow British thrower Alex Smith was 10th with 71.68m.

Sophie Hitchon, who has already set the A Olympic standard, finished fourth in the women's hammer with 70.09m, while Jade Nicholls and Eden Francis were 11th and 12th in the discus with throws of 56.93m and 56.54m.