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Long Run holds off Captain Chris to win King George chase

Long Run holds off Captain Chris to take victory at King George VI Chase

PUBLISHED:

15:39 GMT, 26 December 2012

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UPDATED:

15:50 GMT, 26 December 2012

Long Run got up in the final strides to collar Captain Chris and regain his crown in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton.

Captain Chris looked like going two better places than last year when he came through to head the winner of two years ago, who was also the runner-up 12 months ago.

However, Long Run, the 15-8 favourite trained by Nicky Henderson, rallied for amateur Sam Waley-Cohen, to get back up and score by a neck.


Jumping to victory: Long Run (right) took first place in the King George Chase

Jumping to victory: Long Run (right) took first place in the King George Chase

The winning rider said: 'He was so brave. I had to keep asking him – I asked him early and maybe I asked too much as he was tired but so brave.

'This is his fifth year of competing at this level and he means an enormous amount to us.
'That was racing at it's best for me. I can't put it into words. It's an honour and a privilege.'

Long Run is owned by Waley-Cohen's father Robert, who added: 'He's come here four times now and won three Grade Ones and been second to Kauto Star.

'I wasn't absolutely sure that we had got back up but as I came down the stairs from the stand, I saw his name go up and that was fantastic.'

Henderson was similarly thrilled to see his former Cheltenham Gold Cup victor return to winning form.

He said: 'It was a brave call to go on when he did and it was the right call to make.

Jumping to victory: Long Run edged Captain Chris to finish first

Jumping to victory: Long Run edged Captain Chris to finish first

'It was a battle out there today and not the best ground for any of them. He's young but has been doing everything right.

'You would have to say last year was a disappointment but he's been running good races all the time.'

Henderson continued: 'We had it in our minds that Bobs Worth would run in the Cheltenham race in January (Argento Chase), leaving Long Run free to run in the Denman (Aon) Chase at Newbury, but we'll have to discuss things with connections.

'I'd love to see Long Run back on better ground and I'm so pleased Sam and the horse have proved a point to people today.'

Jockey Richard Johnson said of the runner-up: 'I thought coming to the last I was going to win, but the other horse is a proven Gold Cup winner and he's just outstayed me.

'It was a great run and I'm just looking forward to riding him on better ground.'

Scudamore said of third-placed Grands Crus: 'He ran a great race and I'm most pleased he looks a lot more like his old self.'

David Pipe’s exciting grey, meanwhile, blew his rivals away to score by an eased-down nine lengths but that doesn’t come close to accurately describing his superiority over his rivals.

Sent of an 8-13 favourite, Tom Scudamore never had a moment’s worry and a soaring leap four-out sent Dynaste to the front before stretching clear in effortless style.

The six-year-old is now unbeaten in three starts over fences and he is following the same route as stablemate Grands Crus who won this race 12 months ago before being sent off a short price favourite for the RSA Chase.

And Darlan is the new Champion Hurdle favourite after sprinting to a four-and-a-half length victory in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton under Tony McCoy.

The John McManus-owned five-year-old had, who was 3-1 for this seasonal reappearance, made it three Christmas Hurdle wins on the bounce for connections after Binocular’s wins in the last two runnings of the two mile contest, and he is now a 4-1 chance for the Cheltenham Festival showpiece.

Darlan finished behind Cinders And Ashes in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle but Nicky Henderson’s charge comfortably revered that form as well as seeing off disappointing favourite Countrywide Flame who was such an impressive winner of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle last time.

Raya Star came home in second while Dodging Bullets finished third.

Andrew Strauss guide: How England can beat India

Pay attention, England! Andrew Strauss' guide on how to handle the heat in India

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 12 November 2012

Andrew Strauss stepped down as England captain in September after 100 Tests as a player and 50 in charge. In his five Tests in India, he scored three hundreds — including two in a game at Chennai — and averaged 54. He tells Lawrence Booth about the challenges facing England in their four-Test series, starting in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

Glory days: Former England captain Andrew Strauss celebrates his century in Chennai in 2008

Glory days: Former England captain Andrew Strauss celebrates his century in Chennai in 2008

Glory days: Former England captain Andrew Strauss hit two centuries in the Chennai Test in 2008

On winning in India

It’s one of the biggest challenges. India’s record at home is outstanding and England haven’t done well there for some time. But I don’t think it’s a challenge that should fill people with trepidation.

Some of the batting conditions are better than anywhere in the world and the first innings is a great chance to get a big score. But, if you get ahead of India, you have to be ruthless.

On playing spin

In my time playing for England we felt we were pretty good players of spin and that’s why what’s happened in the last 12 months has surprised me. I think we made big strides under the coaching of Duncan Fletcher and some of the guys can be regarded as genuinely good players of spin.

But it’s a confidence game and as soon as people start talking about fallibility against spin, it almost becomes self-perpetuating. All the players need to do is be very clear on their game plan: don’t hesitate but commit. If they do that, they’re as capable of playing spin as anyone.

There is no reason to worry too much about their productivity but what you can’t afford is what we had in the UAE against Pakistan, when all the batsmen had a little fallow period at the same time. If you do that, you ain’t going to win matches.

Risky business: Kevin Pietersen sweeps during England's warm-up match against Haryana last week

Risky business: Kevin Pietersen sweeps during England's warm-up match against Haryana last week

The history of England in India

Tests 51
England 11
India 14
Drawn 26

Series 12
Won 3
Drawn 3
Lost 6

You have to go back to 1984-85 for the last England series triumph, when David Gower led
the side to wins in Delhi and Chennai to seal a 2-1 victory. Since then India have won three out of four home series.

England’s biggest win:
an innings and 25 runs (Delhi, 1976)

Biggest loss:
an innings and 22 runs (Mohali, 2001)

On the sweep shot

The sweep was a big part of my game
against spin, but the rules of engagement have changed with the Decision
Review System and the players must adapt — even when the DRS isn’t in
use, as in this series.

You have to be very careful sweeping the ball that turns away from you because a lot of them are pitching in line and straightening. During the series in the UAE against Pakistan, when the ball was skidding through flat and low, it was an incredibly high-risk shot, especially if you were getting only one run for it.

It is a game of cat and mouse. The bowlers get on top and the batsmen have to adapt — and vice-versa. What you don’t want is to allow the bowlers to get on top of you early in the series because it makes it much harder to come back. If you as a batsman can get runs early in the series, then the pressure’s on the bowler.

On finding a batting tempo

You have to get used to the fact that, at times on the subcontinent, you’re going to play quite slowly. And if you up the tempo, it’s going to be quite high risk.

Against Sri Lanka at Galle in April, Jonathan Trott was great at just ticking away. But everyone’s different. Kevin Pietersen came in at Colombo and just obliterated their bowling, so it just depends on what your best method is. For Trott, it’s slow, steady accumulation. For Alastair Cook it’s similar.

Matt Prior generally takes the game to the opposition a bit more. They just have to commit to those game plans.

Easy does it: England captain Alastair Cook (right) will look to accumulate runs rather than hit big shots

Easy does it: England captain Alastair Cook (right) will look to accumulate runs rather than hit big shots

On bowling in India

It’s a huge challenge for our bowlers to take wickets. Non-subcontinental spinners have always struggled in India and our seamers must find a way of taking wickets when pitches are flat, whether it’s through reverse swing, genuine swing or cutters.

That’s going to be a huge test of their skills. But England’s attack has rightly been touted as one of the best in the world and this is the bowlers’ chance to show that.

On Kevin Pietersen

For it to work out long term, everyone’s genuinely got to want it to work out. Kevin has to want to be part of the team for a long time and the players need to move on from what happened at Headingley and various other things.

Even the likes of Andy Flower genuinely has to want to bridge the gap and move forward. If that is everyone’s attitude, then it can work. If it isn’t, then I think there are going to be challenges.

In the grind: Tim Bresnan (left) and England's bowlers will need to work hard for wickets on flat pitches

In the grind: Tim Bresnan (left) and England's bowlers will need to work hard for wickets on flat pitches

On mutual respect

The question of actually liking each other is not an issue. It’s about respect. Not everyone’s going to be best mates. In a dressing-room environment, especially when you’re away from home so much, it becomes your second family.

I noticed when I was writing to the players saying I was retiring how emotional I was because I realised how attached I was to them. For that kind of environment to work, everyone has to have huge trust in each other, huge respect for each other and everyone’s got to know that everyone’s working for the same cause.

On dysfunctional dressing rooms

If people start doubting that, it becomes a dysfunctional dressing room very quickly. I’ve been in good, functional dressing rooms and I’ve been in dysfunctional ones. In a dysfunctional one, it doesn’t matter how good the players are, it never has success consistently.

People will always be judged on their actions. Over the next few months — for Kevin and the rest of the guys — it will be apparent whether it’s going to work or not.

Andrew Strauss is an ambassador for pensions and investment group MetLife (www.metlife.co.uk), who have been his bat sponsor since 2008.

Steve Bruce: All right-minded fans want rid of this abuse from the beautiful game

Steve Bruce: All right-minded fans want rid of this abuse from our beautiful game

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UPDATED:

00:41 GMT, 6 November 2012

As a player, I was called ‘Elephant man’ at Manchester City, ‘Fat head’ by Liverpool supporters and ‘Potato head,’ by West Brom fans.

At Sunderland, I was called a ‘Fat Geordie b*****d’ and told to get out of the club. I wouldn’t mind, but I was managing them at the time! So, I think it’s fair to say I’ve suffered a fair amount of flak during my time in the game.

While some of it hasn’t been nice, I never had to put up with the vile stuff that has been chanted at some of my colleagues, such as Arsene Wenger and Dave Jones. They have had to suffer quite sickening abuse and it’s about time we cleaned up our act.

Abuse: Steve Bruce says he has been the subject of chants from fans

Abuse: Steve Bruce says he has been the subject of chants from fans

We are tackling racism. It’s not been eradicated but we have made great strides since I started in the game in the late Seventies. I would like to see the same now with some of the horrible stuff which I think crosses the boundaries and can, in no way, be described as ‘banter.’

Everyone chuckles at a clever chant, but there’s nothing clever about the songs being sung at Arsene, or those that have been directed towards Dave, either.

Suffering: Bruce was called various names during his playing days

Suffering: Bruce was called various names during his playing days

It’s sick, really, that sort of chanting — and particularly disrespectful given what Arsene has given to the game here. There may be people out there who don’t like him but does he deserve that I’m sure every right-minded football fan would answer: ‘No.’

Having said all of that, I’m not sure how to stop it, particularly if it is a chant that thousands of people are caught up in.

No laughing matter: Bruce and Dave Jones share a joke but the Hull boss has sympathy for what he has to put up

No laughing matter: Bruce and Dave Jones share a joke but the Hull boss has sympathy for what he has to put up

I suppose you could just ask everyone to think how they would like it if they were subjected to that kind of abuse before they opened their mouths in the stand — to think about how they would feel if their dad, brother or son was the subject of those songs.

So, I would like to see the hateful chanting stopped but not at the expense of genuine ‘banter’ and gentle leg-pulling. If we could omit the other stuff, I’m sure the game would be better for it.

Stamford Bridge was "hotbed of racism" in the 80s – Ken Bates

Stamford Bridge was 'hotbed of racism' in the 80s… but not now, says Bates

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UPDATED:

20:48 GMT, 30 October 2012

Ken Bates has saluted the strides made towards multi-cultural harmony in football and described how Stamford Bridge was once a 'hotbed of racism'.

Writing in Leeds United’s match programme, ahead of their Capital One Cup tie with Southampton, the former Chelsea chairman welcomed the way racism has come under the spotlight and insisted the problem bears no relation to 30 years ago, when it was the scourge of football.

Revealing how the National Front used to set up camp at Stamford Bridge on matchdays, the Leeds chairman wrote: ‘The ongoing debate about racism is good, because the issue is being raised and discussed, but I think it is fair to look back and see how much progress has been made during, in historical terms, a relatively short time.

Controversial: Ken Bates was chairman and owner of Chelsea from 1982 until 2003

Controversial: Ken Bates was chairman and owner of Chelsea from 1982 till 2003

Moved on: Bates now owns Leeds United

Moved on: Bates now owns Leeds United

‘In the 1980s, Stamford Bridge was a hotbed of racism. The National Front sold their magazines in the Fulham Road and used to wait in the pub opposite to learn the team selection. If they (the Chelsea players) were all-white, the National Fronters used to walk across and buy their tickets.

‘Our technical director Gwyn Williams introduced the first black kid, one Paul Canoville, a pacey young winger. His first experience was when Chelsea played at Selhurst Park. As a sub, he was warming up and had bananas thrown at him.

‘The following week, he made his debut at Stamford Bridge and got a lot of abuse. At the end of the game, I went on the pitch and walked off with my arm round his shoulder.

‘It is a lot different today, though it has been a long tortuous journey. Slowly, things started to change. Thirty years on, it is a different world. Today the furore is of a black verbal abuse – not to be condoned or tolerated in the least – but meanwhile let us appreciate the progress that has been made.’

Gareth Southgate says players must be sent off for backchat

EXCLUSIVE: We must send off players for any backchat, says Southgate

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UPDATED:

22:13 GMT, 27 October 2012

In the three months since Gareth Southgate turned down one of the most important jobs in football, he has not just been filling his time helping Roy Keane analyse international and Champions League games for ITV.

Away from the glare of publicity, Southgate, who rejected the chance to be technical director of the Football Association – to the disappointment of those who regarded the 42-year-old as one of the sport’s most credible ambassadors – has had a far less glamorous but equally challenging and important job nearly every Saturday morning.

He has helped coach and referee an Under 10s team at his son’s club near his home in Harrogate and the results have been as shocking as they have been rewarding, even for someone who thought he had seen it all by winning 57 England caps, spending three years as a Premier League manager and sharing a studio with Keane.

Show respect: Referee Kevin Friend is abused after sending off Liverpool's Jay Spearing last season

Show respect: Referee Kevin Friend is abused after sending off Liverpool's Jay Spearing last season

Southgate on racism…

Emile Heskey was abused in an England game we played in Italy. It was disgusting. And at Palace, players such as Ian Wright would say after some away games how bad the racism had been. Things aren’t perfect here now but the strides made have been enormous. People realise racist behaviour is wrong; that might not have been so 20 years ago.

The experience has helped him recognise the influence of Premier League players and managers on the behaviour of impressionable youngsters.

‘Yes, the boys do copy what they have seen on television, some of the diving, some of the backchat,’ said Southgate, until recently the FA’s head of elite development. ‘They try it on because that’s what they see. I think the professional players need to be aware that is the case.

‘We’ve an opportunity to correct it as parents, or as coaches or referees at junior level. As coaches, we haul players off if we see something unacceptable during the game.

‘I’ve had a kid dive in training and pulled him over at the right time and said, “Don’t think for one minute, you will get a free-kick for that”.’

Dissent is a major bugbear. ‘As a parent, I have an even worse problem with that than diving. The message to society is people in official positions aren’t respected.

‘At a recent game, a boy on the other team said at the end, “That was rubbish, referee”. To be fair to his coach, he tore him off a strip.

Pointing the finger: Wolves players surround Stuart Attwell last season

Pointing the finger: Wolves players surround Stuart Attwell last season

Southgate on leaving the FA…

The key was whether I was capable of doing the technical director’s job and if I wanted it for three years. I’d have been made accountable for results at youth level but I didn’t feel I could control those results if the clubs refused to loan us players. I enjoyed the FA but it was more office-based and political than managing a club or TV.

‘But kids get that example from players and probably managers after the game. If you analysed all the post-match interviews, I think people tire of hearing comments about officials. The reality is we could all pick out incidents that could have been officiated differently. But refs see it once and they don’t have a lot of angles. And referees do their job honestly.

‘It makes you wonder. If managers question referees all the time, maybe that filters through. I bet there will be six or seven games in the Premier League every weekend when one or other manager will have a go.’

Southgate has one solution. ‘I think it would be easy to clamp down on dissent to referees. Why refs don’t just book players or send them off, I don’t understand. I went to the rugby league Grand Final – any dissent and it was straight into the sinbin. I know people worry it would end up eight-a-side. It wouldn’t. Once a couple of players went off, others would wise up and not speak to the referee in that manner. It would be a massive message for kids watching.’

Southgate progressed from the youth ranks at Crystal Palace, where he was captain at 20, to becoming an FA Cup finalist at Aston Villa and Europa League finalist at Middlesbrough. His international career high and low occurred at the same time, helping England reach the semi-finals of Euro 96 before missing a penalty in the semi-final shoot-out.

Low point: Southgate after his missed penalty at Euro 96

Low point: Southgate after his missed penalty at Euro 96

Southgate on Roy Keane…

For years, I was asked about the penalty at Euro 96. Now the first question is: ‘What’s it like working with Roy’ If that’s progress then so be it! When he says something, it is reported and thrown at managers at their next press conference. I usually say I think we got on very well but you’ll have to ask him! I wouldn’t take it for granted.

As a rookie Premier League manager at Middlesbrough, he finished a creditable 13th and 12th in his first two seasons but was then relegated. Strangely, he was dismissed after a promising start to the next Championship campaign, sacked within minutes of a 2-0 win over Derby that took his team to within a point of the top.

The past three years with the FA have seen Southgate’s knowledge, diplomacy and passion for the game play a major part in the governing body revamping their image under new chairman David Bernstein. They wanted Southgate to take the most senior role at their new centre of excellence at Burton but he decided in July to sign a one-year deal with ITV and make himself available for the right managerial job should it come along. It also means he can speak independently.

He believes it is time for the FA to make it compulsory for clubs to release players for important under-age tournaments such as the Under-20 World Cup, which took place in Colombia last year. ‘The manager, Brian Eastick, had 30 players he couldn’t pick. And that was without him looking at the likes of Jack Wilshere,’ said Southgate.

‘A lot of those guys were wanted by their clubs for pre-season tours. It was incredible really – and bad for the English national team.

Old acquaintances: Keane stamps on Southgate during an FA Cup semi-final replay in 1995

Old acquaintances: Keane stamps on Southgate during an FA Cup semi-final replay in 1995

‘If England were able to play our best players at junior levels, we’d be very competitive. And if the players got in the habit of winning, it becomes a healthy habit. It breeds confidence and the players then look forward to going away with the international teams, right up to senior level.

‘And if you beat Spain, Argentina, Brazil at junior level, there is every chance you will face those guys later as you all step up. I definitely think it would have a positive effect.

‘I’m not naive, I realise managers are making decisions that are right for their club. I accept that and if I was a club manager I could find reasons to take my best young players on a pre-season tour. But it doesn’t help England and it’s why the FA should introduce mandatory [player] release for the good of the national team.

‘I’ve seen what a positive experience the Under 20 World Cup was for people like Birmingham keeper Jack Butland. He now has a full cap. All the guys who went on the trip would say it was fantastic to face Argentina in front of 40,000. But it stops English football’s development if other countries have their best players representing the shirt and we don’t.’

Steven Gerrard demands UEFA take action over racists

Gerrard demands UEFA take action over racist thugs who abused English youngsters

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UPDATED:

22:59 GMT, 17 October 2012

England skipper Steven Gerrard believes football's battle to overcome racism is 'back to square one' after the scenes surrounding the Under-21 clash in Serbia.

England Under 21 player Danny Rose complained of being racially abused and enduring monkey chants before violent scenes broke out at the end of the Euro 2013 play-off game in Krusevac.

Tottenham's Rose, on loan at Sunderland, was sent off for his reaction to what he clearly felt was racist abuse, something the Serbian FA have denied.

Demands: Steven Gerrard (right) wants action taken against racists

Demands: Steven Gerrard (right) wants action taken against racists

UEFA announced charges against both the Serbian FA and the English, for improper conduct of their players, and against the Serbs for 'alleged racist chanting' by fans.

Gerrard, speaking after England's 1-1 draw in Poland, is calling for the footballing authorities to act and hand out severe punishments.

He said: 'The disappointing thing with what happened last night is it means you are back to square one.

'We seemed to be making great strides forward to get it (racism) out of our game.

Turning ugly: Violent scenes broke out during England's game in Serbia

Turning ugly: Violent scenes broke out during England's game in Serbia

'With a situation like last night, it brings it back to square one.

'It is very disappointing but a lot of people above me need to take control of the situation.

'The authorities have to get tough. It is the only solution. No-one else can do anything about it.

'They are the people in control, who can give out massive huge fines and ban people. Why wait Do it now.'

Disgraceful scenes: Players of both Serbia and England clash on the pitch

Disgraceful scenes: Players of both Serbia and England clash on the pitch

England striker Jermain Defoe echoed Gerrard's sentiments.

He said: 'I've had a few texts and, from what I understand, it was tough out there for the boys.

'Under 21s and seniors are such big games to play in and all you want to do is to be equal to everyone else.

'If you are getting those sort of chants, it is not nice. It is not nice to experience anything like that.'

Wales boss Chris Coleman told to deliver points against Scotland and Croatia

Coleman told to deliver points against Scotland and Croatia as Wales boss searches for first win

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UPDATED:

20:47 GMT, 10 October 2012

Chris Coleman has received a bizarre vote of confidence from his bosses at the Football Association of Wales as he bids to avoid becoming the worst manager in the country’s history.

Jonathan Ford, the governing body’s chief executive, has assured the Red Dragons’ coach of his ‘100 per cent support’ while at the same time suggesting that securing points against Scotland and Croatia in the next week is ‘a must.’

Coleman has so far lost all four of his matches in charge – five if the game against Costa Rica in memory of Gary Speed is included – and Wales were on the end of a humiliating six-goal drubbing in Serbia last month.

Backing: Chris Coleman (second right)

Backing: Chris Coleman (second right)

Further reversals would almost
certainly bring his position into sharper focus. There is disquiet among
senior officials that the team has not progressed after taking strides
forward under Speed.

If Wales were to lose the up-coming
double-header, it would leave Coleman with the worst record since the
country’s first manager Walley Barnes who lost his opening four games in
1954. Prior to that, the team was selected by committee.

Ford said: 'We back Chris, 100 per
cent. We sat down with him after the shock in Serbia. No-one wanted to
come away from that match the way we did and Chris took some time to
reflect on what he saw and what he was trying to do with the legacy that
Gary had left us.

Thrashing: Gareth Bale looks furious as Serbia celebrate another goal

Thrashing: Gareth Bale looks furious as Serbia celebrate another goal

'Chris has made some fundamental
changes and we support him and wish our team all of the best success for
the two matches coming up.'

Coleman felt he had to act in the
wake of the disaster in Novi Sad, Wales third heaviest defeat since the
Second World War, axing Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey from his position as
skipper, replacing him with Swansea City stopper Ashley Williams.

However, Ford was then asked if Wales
needed an improved showing, and replied: 'Absolutely. Away to Croatia
will be a very difficult and challenging task. Putting some points on
the board is a must.'

Racing: Solemia wins Prix de l"Arc de Triomphe

Camelot misses out as Solemia beats favourite Orfevre in thrilling Arc finish

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UPDATED:

15:06 GMT, 7 October 2012

Solemia denied Japan a first victory in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe as the filly got up in the last strides to beat Orfevre in a thrilling renewal at Longchamp.

Camelot, Aidan O'Brien's 2000 Guineas and dual Derby winner, was given every chance by Frankie Dettori and briefly threatened but emptied out close home.

Everything appeared to have gone to plan for Orfevre, who carried the weight of a nation's hopes.

Thrilling finale: Olivier Peslier steers Solemia (R) past pre-race favourite Orfevre (L) to win the Qatar Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp

Thrilling finale: Olivier Peslier steers Solemia (R) past pre-race favourite Orfevre (L) to win the Qatar Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp

Edged out: Olivier Peslier and Solemia (R) catch Orfevre and Christophe Soumillon (L)

Edged out: Olivier Peslier and Solemia (R) catch Orfevre and Christophe Soumillon (L)

Christophe Soumillon dropped the Far East challenger right out at the back, but he came cruising through in the straight and went at least two lengths clear of Solemia, even trading at 1-100 at one stage on the betting exchanges.

However, Carlos Laffon-Parias' four-year-old showed incredible guts under Olivier Peslier to give the rider his fourth win in the race. Masterstroke was third.

Neck and neck: Solemia makes up the ground on Orfevre to celebrate victory

Neck and neck: Solemia makes up the ground on Orfevre to celebrate victory

Solemia was last seen finishing third behind Shareta in the Prix Vermeille but that one never showed up at all in the testing ground.

Orfevre had broken from stall 18 and made up a tremendous amount of ground but became yet another agonising defeat for Japanese racing after El Condor Pasa, Deep Impact and Nakayama Festa.

Hat's something special: Female punters at Longchamp racecourse show off their costumes

Hat's something special: Female punters at Longchamp racecourse show off their costumes

Stunning setting: Racegoers enjoy the day at Longchamp racecourse in Paris

Stunning setting: Racegoers enjoy the day at Longchamp racecourse in Paris

Roberto Mancini backs Manchester City to win Champions League

Mancini: We can win Champions League… if we can get out of tricky group first

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UPDATED:

14:41 GMT, 2 October 2012

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini feels his team must improve quickly if they are to qualify for the Champions League knockout rounds – but believes they do have it in them to go on and win the competition.

City, beaten 3-2 by Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in their Group D opener on September 18, are looking to get their European season kick-started on Wednesday when they take on German champions Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad Stadium.

With Dortmund having begun with a 1-0 win over Ajax, the pressure is on the Blues to secure all three points if they are to avoid a repeat of their maiden Champions League campaign last term, which ended in failure to qualify from another difficult group.

Training day: Edin Dzeko, Samir Nasri, Aleksander Kolarov and Mario Balotelli prepare for the visit of German champions Dortmund

Training day: Edin Dzeko, Samir Nasri, Aleksander Kolarov and Mario Balotelli prepare for the visit of German champions Dortmund

On the ball: David Silva get to work at Carrington ahead of City's next Champions League clash

On the ball: David Silva get to work at Carrington ahead of City's next Champions League clash

While acknowledging the club are
relatively inexperienced at this level, Mancini accepts there is a
considerable weight of expectation on big-spending City to make major
strides on the European stage, and he has stressed the importance of his
players swiftly cutting out the kind of mistakes he felt allowed Real
to come from behind to snatch victory against them.

The Italian is optimistic, though,
that if City do manage to up their game and make it beyond the group
stage, there is no reason why they cannot then go all the way.

'This is the second year for us in the Champions League and the second year that we got the worst group,' Mancini said.

'Like we have improved (over the
years) in the Premier League, we need time to improve in the Champions
League, but we don't have a lot of time – only five more games, and we
need to improve quickly.

'We need to not concede easy goals to
drop points like we did against Real Madrid. If we want to go through,
we need to improve very quickly.'

Asked if he felt he was still
learning about Champions League football on a personal level, Mancini –
who guided City to the Barclays Premier League title last season and won
Serie A three times as Inter Milan boss but is yet to claim a trophy in
Europe as a manager – said: 'I don't need to learn.

'The Champions League is a difficult
competition, but football is the same. It doesn't change – it is still
11 players against 11.

Welcome to Manchester: City manager Roberto Mancini braves the elements at training

Welcome to Manchester: City manager Roberto Mancini braves the elements at training

Feeling the cold: Mancni wraps up as he watches his side go through their paces

Feeling the cold: Mancni wraps up as he watches his side go through their paces

'The problem is that you are always playing against the best team from another country and every game is difficult.

'I hope I can improve my record in
the Champions League, and I think we have arrived at the time where we
can win the Champions League.'

City midfielder Jack Rodwell is fit
for tomorrow's contest after missing two games with a groin problem, but
full-backs Maicon (heel) and Micah Richards (ankle) are not yet ready
to return to action, while centre-back Kolo Toure has not been
registered for the competition.

It remains to be seen whether Joleon
Lescott will be selected after he was dropped for the Real clash and
once again did not feature in Saturday's 2-1 league win at Fulham.

Hat's off: Yaya Toure pinches team-mate Carlos Tevez's hat

Leave your hat on: Tevez recovers his hat as he laughs alongside compatriot Sergio Aguero

Hat's off: Yaya Toure pinches Carlos Tevez's hat but the Argentine, next to Sergio Aguero (R), later recovered it

Tough test: Mancini expects a difficult game against Dortmund at the Etihad Stadium

Tough test: Mancini expects a difficult game against Dortmund at the Etihad Stadium

The England centre-half played a key role in City's title success last season, but is now in a more uncertain situation.

He has vowed not to 'rock the boat'
over the matter, though, and Mancini today emphasised that Lescott is
still very much a part of his plans.

Asked if he had lost faith in Lescott, Mancini said: 'He is one of the best defenders.

'But I have six or seven defenders and I made a different choice last week and in Madrid.

'Tomorrow I will decide again, but Joleon is an important player for us.'

Manchester City players catch the train to London

The Day We Caught the Train: City stars made to wait on the platform as they head down to London for Fulham match

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UPDATED:

16:25 GMT, 28 September 2012

The life of a professional footballer – especially one at wealthy Manchester City – is usually a succession of trips in private helicopters, personal jets and luxury sports cars.

But sometimes they just have to slum it with the rest of us.

City's squad took the train down to London for their Barclays Premier League match with Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday, which meant a wait on the chilly platform at Stockport station.

And some of these pampered superstars didn't look too happy to be there – huddling against the cold in woolly hats and playing on their phones.

Going loco: The City players wait to board their train to London at Stockport station, with something on Carlos Tevez's phone offering a welcome distraction

Going Loco: The City players wait to board their train to London at Stockport station, with something on Carlos Tevez's phone offering a welcome distraction

Long haul: Led by Pablo Zabaleta, the players make their way to the train with their luggage

Long haul: Led by Pablo Zabaleta, the players make their way to the train with their luggage

Time to kill: David Silva is deep in conversation as City head down to London for their match with Fulham

Time to kill: David Silva is deep in conversation as City prepare to head down to London for their match with Fulham

But David Silva seemed to enjoy the
alternative mode of transport, laughing and joking to pass the time,
while something on Carlos Tevez's phone screen seemed to amuse his
teammates.

City head to the capital hoping for a
comfortable win to kick-start their season, which sees them unbeaten in
the league but nowhere near their form from last season.

Train spotting: City's players wait for the service to London, where they will hope to improve their indifferent form by beating Fulham

Train spotting: City's players wait for the service to London, where they will hope to improve their indifferent form by beating Fulham

Something for the journey: Joe Hart grabs some reading material before getting on the train

Yaya Toure waiting for a train at Stockport station

Seasoned travellers: Joe Hart looks prepared for the journey as he strides along the platform (left), but Yaya Toure doesn't look so pleased to be there

They let their concentration slip to
hand victory to Real Madrid in the Champions League last week, having
twice led in the game, were pegged back by Arsenal at the weekend and
then were dumped out of the League Cup by Aston Villa.

But despite their indifferent start, manager Roberto Mancini is convinced his side can retain their title.

He said: 'We need to stay calm and work hard. We will win the title (but) I agree it is more difficult the second year.'

Bit nippy! Sergio Aguero zips up against the Stockport cold, while James Milner is kept entertained by Tevez

Bit nippy! Sergio Aguero zips up against the Stockport cold, while James Milner is kept entertained by Tevez

No way! Tevez can't believe what's on his screen, while Scott Sinclair is similarly engaged

No way! Tevez can't believe what's on his screen, while Scott Sinclair is similarly engaged