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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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John Terry and Frank Lampard pelted with coins and hot dogs during Chelsea versus West Ham match at Stamford Bridge

Coins and hot dog thrown at Terry and Lampard by West Ham fans during London derby at Stamford Bridge

By
Sami Mokbel

PUBLISHED:

20:18 GMT, 17 March 2013

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UPDATED:

22:03 GMT, 17 March 2013

Chelsea were embroiled in yet another police probe last night after John Terry was hit by a missile in the win over West Ham.

Hammers fans launched coins and bottles at Blues players as they celebrated Frank Lampard's 200th goal for the Blues.

Metropolitan Police chiefs confirmed they have opened an investigation after receiving an official complaint regarding the incident.

Incident: Police have launched an investigation after coins were thrown at Chelsea's Frank Lampard as he celebrated in front of West Ham fans in Sunday's derby at Stamford Bridge

Incident: Police have launched an investigation after coins were thrown at Chelsea's Frank Lampard as he celebrated in front of West Ham fans in Sunday's derby at Stamford Bridge

Unsavoury: A hot dog (right of shot) was hurled from the West Ham fans at Chelsea captain John Terry as he warmed up near the corner flag

Unsavoury: A hot dog (right of shot) was hurled from the West Ham fans at Chelsea captain John Terry as he warmed up near the corner flag

The FA are will consider this morning whether to begin their own investigation into the ugly scenes.

Tensions between Terry and visiting
supporters were already boiling point as Hammers fans directed torrid
abuse towards the Blues skipper as he warmed up early in the first-half.

In response, Terry mimicked lifting a number of trophies – a reference to the three Premier League titles, five FA Cups, two League Cups and European Cup he has won at Chelsea.

Silverware: John Terry lifts an imaginary trophy in response to West Ham taunts

Silverware: John Terry lifts an imaginary trophy in response to West Ham taunts

John Terry pretends to lift a trophy in front of the West Ham fans

Take that: Terry responds to the West Ham fans while his Chelsea teammates celebrate Frank Lampard's opening goal

Take that: Terry responds to the West Ham fans while his Chelsea teammates celebrate Frank Lampard's opening goal

There were no arrests or ejections
yesterday, but Chelsea security staff will this morning study CCTV
footage to identify the culprits.

A statement from West Ham read: 'West Ham will be working with Chelsea to investigate reports of missile throwing.

'Any individual found to have acted in
an inappropriate way will have to face the consequences of their
actions, including the possibility of a ban from attending future
matches.'

Confrontation: The hot dog appears to land some way from Terry as he limbered up in front of the away end

Confrontation: The hot dog appears to land some way from Terry as he limbered up in front of the away end

Missiles: The West Ham fans also aimed coins at Terry

Missiles: The West Ham fans also aimed coins at Terry

The incident is the fourth police investigation Chelsea have been involved in this season.

Police opened an investigation into
allegations referee Mark Clattenburg racially abused Jon Obi Mikel
during the now infamous clash against Manchester United on October 28.

The same match spawned another police
probe as a steward sustained a knee injury after he was crushed in the
aftermath of Javier Hernandez's winner.

Likewise, South Wales Police
investigated Eden Hazard kick on a ball boy during the Capital One Cup
semi-final second leg clash against Swansea on January 23.

Angry words: Terry was the subject of taunts from the away fans

Angry words: Terry was the subject of taunts from the away fans

Hammers fans were clearly outraged by Lampard's decision to celebrate his milestone moment in front of them yesterday.

But Lampard said: 'I wasn't hit by anything. I went quite close to the West Ham fans but that was the natural curve of my run.'

On the incident, Blues manager Rafa Benitez said: 'When you score 200 goals, you don't think about where you go. You celebrate.

'Afterwards, he realised it would be better to be in another part (of the ground). I don't think he was hit (by a missile).'

Rio Ferdinand will join up with England, says Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson

Rio boost for England after Fergie says Man United defender WILL answer SOS for World Cup qualifiers

PUBLISHED:

19:49 GMT, 16 March 2013

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UPDATED:

20:07 GMT, 16 March 2013

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed on ESPN that defender
Rio Ferdinand will join up with the England squad on Monday.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that defender Rio Ferdinand will join up with the England squad on Monday.

The 34-year-old earned his first England call-up under manager Roy Hodgson for the World Cup qualifiers with San Marino and Montenegro later this month.

Not convinced: Ferguson was caught by surprise that Ferdinand was recalled to Roy Hodgson's England squad

Not convinced: Ferguson was caught by surprise that Ferdinand was recalled to Roy Hodgson's England squad

There were reports this morning that
Ferdinand could yet turn down the chance to represent his country again,
either in response to being left out by Hodgson until now or in order
to prolong his club career.

However, Ferguson – asked tonight if the defender would be joining up with England on Monday – told ESPN: 'Yes.'

Hodgson cited 'footballing reasons' for Ferdinand's exclusion in his squad for the Euro 2012 finals and he has remained out of his plans until now.

Ferdinand impressed in the Barclays Premier League match against Reading, setting up the only goal of United's 1-0 Old Trafford win for Wayne Rooney.

Worries: Ferguson will consult United's medical staff before Ferdinand decides whether to accept the call-up

Worries: Ferguson will consult United's medical staff before Ferdinand decides whether to accept the call-up

Ferguson, who reported no casualties
following a win which extends his team's lead at the top of the table to
15 points, was pleased with Ferdinand's contribution.

He said: 'Rio has always had the ability to break into midfield. He
doesn't do it as much as he used to but he did today and got us a goal.

'Most of the time this season we've played well. The performance today doesn't reflect the 15 points ahead we are.

Club and country: Ferdinand, right, will make his decision known to Roy Hodgson on Saturday

Club and country: Ferdinand, right, will make his decision known to Roy Hodgson on Saturday

'I thought some of Reading's football was quite good but they didn't
really make any chances. I expected danger from set-piece play but we
did defend quite well.'

Ferguson acknowledged the deflection which Rooney's shot got off Reading defender Alex Pearce helped his team.

He added on ESPN: 'I don't know if the goalkeeper would have saved it or
not but it was a bad deflection and went over his head.'

Leading the way: Ferdinand prepares for games with special methods to overcome injury worries, including yoga

Leading the way: Ferdinand prepares for games with special methods to overcome injury worries, including yoga

Manchester City"s Edin Dzeko plays around in the club"s boot room

What is Dzeko doing fooling around in the Manchester City boot room

By
Graeme Yorke

PUBLISHED:

11:26 GMT, 15 March 2013

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UPDATED:

09:41 GMT, 16 March 2013

On the face of it, Edin Dzeko seems to have taken his eye off the ball.

Following on from the club's attempt at a Harlem Shake, Dzeko has embarked on a solo career in the world of wacky internet posts and is taking time out from City's attempt to gurn, sorry turn, around their season.

The Bosnia striker, who has just racked up his 100th appearance for City, put up a photo of himself messing around with back-room staff in front of rows a of extravagantly coloured designer boots.

Cross-eyed: Edin Dzeko pulls a pose with his Manchester City back-room staff

Cross-eyed: Edin Dzeko pulls a pose with his Manchester City back-room staff

It is not known if Dzeko is claiming every pair in the room as he looks to find a way to kick-start City's title charge.

With Sergio Aguero still out injured, Dzeko is likely to feature against Everton at Goodison Park in the Saturday lunchtime game.

Here's hoping he picks the right pair of shoes for the occasion.

Everton sign John Stones from Barnsley on transfer deadline day

Everton beat host of Premier League rivals to signature of Barnsley defender Stones

By
Andy James

PUBLISHED:

22:35 GMT, 31 January 2013

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UPDATED:

00:03 GMT, 1 February 2013

Everton have signed defender John Stones from Barnsley on a five-and-a-half-year contract for an undisclosed fee.

Sportsmail revealed last month that relegation-threatened Wigan had joined Chelsea, Aston Villa Sunderland, Manchester City and Everton in the race for the 3million-rated prospect.

Stones is one of the most coveted young defenders in the country and is a real coup for manager David Moyes.

On the move: John Stones (left) has left Barnsley for Goodison Park

On the move: John Stones (left) has left Barnsley for Goodison Park

He told Everton's official website: 'I am very excited to be joining Everton. I've been very impressed with everything I have seen at Finch Farm already. Now the hard work begins.'

The 6ft 2in England Under 19 international made his Tykes debut last March after progressing through the youth ranks at Oakwell.

He featured 28 times for the npower Championship club, netting his first goal in the 4-3 Capital One Cup triumph over Rochdale in August.

In demand: Stones had attracted the attention of several big clubs

In demand: Stones had attracted the attention of several big clubs

Stones added: 'I would like to take this opportunity of thanking everybody at Barnsley for helping me in my development.

'They include Ronnie Branson and all the academy staff; Keith Hill and David Flitcroft for giving me the chance to play first-team football. Also all the backroom staff such as Guy Proctor, John Lucas and Craig Sedgwick.

'They are just some of the people who I owe a debt of gratitude to and I wish Barnsley every success for the future.'

West Ham defender Daniel Potts leaves hospital after frightening head injury at Arsenal

West Ham defender Potts leaves hospital after frightening head injury at Arsenal

By
Jim Van Wijk, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

10:39 GMT, 24 January 2013

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UPDATED:

20:10 GMT, 24 January 2013

West Ham defender Daniel Potts has left hospital and returned home following the head injury he suffered in his side's 5-1 defeat at Arsenal last night.

Potts had replaced Jack Collison just after the hour mark at the Emirates Stadium, but suffered a nasty concussion following a heavy fall after an accidental aerial collision with Bacary Sagna.

The 18-year-old spent last night in hospital and underwent further scans and tests today, which came back positively.

Flat out: Daniel Potts was knocked unconcious following a clash of heads with Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna

Flat out: Daniel Potts was knocked unconcious following a clash of heads with Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna

Potts has expressed his gratitude for
the messages of support he has received and will undergo a period of
rest before being allowed to resume light training in the gym.

Potts received lengthy treatment from
medical staff, eventually being taken from the field on a stretcher, in a
neck brace, receiving gas and covered in an emergency blanket before
being transferred to a nearby hospital for observation.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter expressed backing for Potts, writing on Twitter: 'Best wishes & quick recovery to @DanPotts03. Concussion in football is a big issue that FIFA is taking very seriously.'

Unconscious: There were 12 minutes of injury time at the Emirates following the collision

Unconscious: There were 12 minutes of injury time at the Emirates following the collision

Danny Potts

Speaking after the match last night, Sam Allardyce
said: 'Potts was unable to give the correct answers to the questions the
doctor asked, which shows a concussion to the brain.

'They put him on the oxygen and strapped him, just to make sure there was no damage to the spine or the neck.

'He was out for a few seconds, maybe a minute, and was not fully conscious when he came off.

'We were concerned at how long it
took. They have to make sure they protect the spine the right way,
getting them on the stretcher – that is why it took the time it did.'

Out: Potts was released from hospital on Thursday

Out: Potts was released from hospital on Thursday

He added: 'Hopefully he will make a speedy
recovery. As he lost consciousness it is a minimum of two weeks, I
think, before he can play again.'

Jack Collison, who scored his first
goal since returning from lengthy injury, said losing
Potts would be a big blow.

'It's disappointing,' the midfielder
said. 'He's been magnificent for us these past few weeks. To get a
chance tonight at a place like this is what he's worked so hard for.

'We wish him a speedy recovery. I
think there was a clash, these things happen. You've got to say well
done to the medical team, they got in there and he's in the best hands.'

Lance Armstrong "admits" to drug abuse to win Tour de France during Oprah Winfrey interview

Armstrong 'admits' to drug abuse to win Tour de France during Oprah Winfrey interview

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

00:42 GMT, 15 January 2013

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UPDATED:

00:46 GMT, 15 January 2013

Lance Armstrong last night reportedly admitted using performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France.

The disgraced cyclist is said to have confessed in an interview with American TV chat show queen Oprah Winfrey which is scheduled to be broadcast on Thursday.

Armstrong earlier visited the staff of his charity at the Texas offices to apologise for putting their work at risk.

Banned: Disgraced cyclist Armstrong conducted his first interview since being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles with Oprah Winfrey

Banned: Disgraced cyclist Armstrong conducted his first interview since being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles with Oprah Winfrey

Banned: Disgraced cyclist Armstrong conducted his first interview since being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles with Oprah Winfrey

Several employees cried when he told them: ‘I’m sorry.’ He promised he would try to restore the foundation’s reputation – before meeting his legal team to prepare for the Oprah interview.

Armstrong reportedly spoke to a room
full of about 100 staff members for about 20 minutes, expressing regret
for everything the controversy has put them through.

He told them how much the foundation
means to him and that he considers the people who work there to be like
members of his family. None of the people in the room challenged
Armstrong over his long denials of doping.

After the interview, Winfrey tweeted: 'Just wrapped with @lancearmstrong More than 2 1/2 hours. He came READY!'

Winfrey and her crew planned on filming Monday's session at Armstrong's home. As a result, local and international news crews were camped near the cyclist's Spanish-style villa before dawn.

Armstrong still managed to slip away for a run despite the crowds outside his home. He returned by cutting through a neighbour's yard and hopping a fence.

Miguel Angel Jimenez breaks leg and be out for at least three months

Jimenez breaks leg in accident and will miss at least three months of new golfing year

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UPDATED:

17:12 GMT, 30 December 2012

Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez will be out of action for at least three months after a skiing accident during the festive season.

The 48-year-old, who became the oldest winner in European Tour history when he won in Hong Kong last month, was skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountain region yesterday when he broke his right leg in a fall.

Blow: Jimenez will be out for at least three months

Blow: Jimenez will be out for at least three months

Jimenez, one of Jose Maria Olazabal's vice-captains at the Ryder Cup in Medinah, was taken to the mountain medical centre for an X-ray before being transferred to a hospital in nearby Malaga, where he was operated on that evening.

'I was going down a hill and lost control briefly and when I fell it was very sore,” Jimenez was quoted as saying on the European Tour's website. 'I knew immediately I had broken something.

Victorious: Jimenez won the Hong Kong Open in November

Victorious: Jimenez won the Hong Kong Open in November

'The medical staff at Sierra Nevada took me for an X-ray straight away and I am very thankful to them, as well as all of the staff at the hospital, for their quick and professional response.

'I was playing very well at the end of the season so it is obviously not a good time for me to get injured. When I took up skiing I knew the risks that I was taking but I love it so much I could not stop.'

MATCHES OFF: Manchester United v West Brom survives late inspection

MATCHES OFF: Football League and Conference games fall foul of the weather

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UPDATED:

14:15 GMT, 29 December 2012

A number of Saturday's fixtures have been postponed due to waterlogged pitches but Manchester United's home clash with West Brom was given the go-ahead after a 1.15pm pitch inspection.

In the Championship, there was doubt over Alex McLeish's first game in charge at Nottingham Forest but the City Ground test against Crystal Palace was given the green light after a second inspection at lunchtime.

In League 1, Stevenage Borough's match with Notts County at Broadhall Way has been called off.

Colchester United's match with Swindon Town was postponed on Friday evening after match official Adam Crysell deemed the playing surface unfit.

Wet and wild: Ground staff get to work at Old Trafford on Saturday morning

Wet and wild: Ground staff get to work at Old Trafford on Saturday morning

WHAT'S OFF…

npower League 1
Stevenage v Notts County

npower League 2
Aldershot v Torquay – Postponed due to waterlogged pitch – no new date
Gillingham v Northampton – Postponed due to waterlogged pitch – no new date
Cheltenham v Bristol Rovers – Postponed due to waterlogged pitch – no new date

Blue Square Bet Premier
Hereford v Newport County
Braintree Town v Woking
Mansfield v Grimsby

Nuneaton v Alfreton

SPL
Ross County v Hearts

In League 2, three matches – Aldershot v Torquay, Gillingham v Northampton and Cheltenham v Bristol Rovers – have been cancelled.

Macclesfield's FA Cup second round replay with Barrow is going ahead after a pitch inspection.

North of the border, the SPL encounter at Dingwall between Ross County and Hearts has been postponed.

In the Conference, the matches at Hereford United, Nuneaton, Braintree Town and Mansfield Town have also fallen victim to heavy overnight rain.

Stockport's match with Telford is going ahead after a 1pm pitch inspection.

The programme in the Conference North and South has also been badly affected.

In the North, the matches at FC Halifax Town, Guiseley, Histon, Vauxhall Motors and Worcester are OFF.

In the South, the games at Bath City, Eastleigh, Hayes and Sutton United are OFF.

Harry Redknapp plans QPR shake-up as Mike Rigg leaves

Redknapp hopes to add Ferdinand to backroom staff as Rigg leaves QPR

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UPDATED:

10:44 GMT, 21 December 2012

Harry Redknapp is stepping-up a shake-up of his backroom team after technical director Mike Rigg was on the brink of leaving the club yesterday.

Rigg arrived at Queens Park Rangers shortly after Mark Hughes' appointment as manager in January, but he is set to be the latest member of the sacked Welshman's staff to depart Loftus Road.

Shake up: QPR boss Harry Redknapp is planning to change his back-room staff

QPR boss Harry Redknapp is planning to change his back-room staff

And Redknapp, who replaced Hughes in November, will now look to install trusted aide Ian Broomfield as his new chief scout.

The 65-year-old is also closing in on former QPR striker Les Ferdinand, who he wants to join his coaching team.

Sportsmail exclusively revealed Redknapp's interest in both Ferdinand and Broomfield.

Redknapp (right) with trusted assisstant Kevin Bond, is looking to add les Ferdinand and Ian Broomfield to his staff

Redknapp (right) with trusted assisstant Kevin Bond, who has been with Redknapp at several clubs, is looking to add ex-QPR striker Les Ferdinand and Ian Broomfield to his staff