Tag Archives: territory

Australian Open 2013: Andy Murray ready to step into the unknown

Relaxed Murray ready to step into the unknown in Australia as grand slam champion

Jon Fisher, Press Association


13:00 GMT, 14 January 2013



13:00 GMT, 14 January 2013

Andy Murray will step into the unknown when he takes to the court on Tuesday at the Australian Open as a grand slam champion.

Murray ended his long wait for a maiden major at the US Open in September by beating Novak Djokovic in an epic five-setter.

The Scot has been candid about the fact the success has led to a more relaxed build-up to Melbourne but he admits to having no idea how it will affect him when he meets Dutchman Robin Haase in his opener.

Relaxed: Murray practises with coach Ivan Lendl on Sunday

Relaxed: Murray practises with coach Ivan Lendl on Sunday

Relaxed: Murray practises with coach Ivan Lendl on Sunday

'I have no idea how I'm going to play here,' he said.

'I have no idea how I'm going to feel when I go on the court.

'I said I feel more relaxed but I don't know the day when I play my first match, I could be unbelievably nervous.

'I don't know what effect it will have on me until I'm put in that situation.'

No player in the Open era has ever followed up his first grand slam title by winning the next one and Murray conceded it was a tough ask to go back to back.

He added: 'I know how hard these events are to win.

Unknown territory: Murray heads into the major as a grand slam champion

Unknown territory: Murray heads into the major as a grand slam champion

'If I don't win the Australian Open, I don't think it will be down to having won the US Open. It's down to the level of competition and how tough it is to win these events rather than what happened four or five months ago.'

Murray could have hoped for an easier opening assignment.

Haase may be 53 in the world rankings but his big-hitting style makes him a tricky opponent.

Murray experienced that first hand at the 2011 US Open when he had to come from two sets down to win their second-round encounter.

'He's a very good player, very talented,' said Murray. 'I had a tough match with him at the US Open, he likes playing on big courts.

Tough start: Murray faces big-hitting Dutchman Robin Haase in the first round

Tough start: Murray faces big-hitting Dutchman Robin Haase in the first round

'He tends to come out firing and going for big shots, playing extremely aggressive. So I'll need to be prepared for that.

'When I played him in New York it was a very, very tough match and I expect the same thing here.'

Murray won the warm-up event in Brisbane and appears primed to make another serious challenge in Melbourne after reaching the last four here 12 months ago and the final in both 2010 and 2011.

'I feel good just now,' he said.

'I've been practising well, moving well in practice.'

Freddie Burns is ready to face Leicester at Welford Road

Cool-hand Freddie on song for title tilt as he prepares to face Leicester in hostile territory



22:02 GMT, 28 December 2012

Freddie Burns isn’t easily fazed.

He’ll relish calling the shots for Gloucester on Saturday in hostile territory at Welford Road, just as he felt utterly at ease making his England debut against the All Blacks at Twickenham four weeks ago.

The 22-year-old fly half sensation of the season even took it in his stride when he had to follow up that first international appearance with the traditional solo performance for his team-mates on the bus back to the hotel.

No amount of ridicule from the England squad – celebrating an historic triumph over New Zealand – was going to leave Burns flustered, not when he had endured far worse as a teenage tyro on long trips back to the Forest of Dean, while on loan at Cinderford.

Sensation: 22-year-old fly half Freddie Burns leads the Premiership in points scored this season

Sensation: 22-year-old Gloucester fly half Freddie Burns (right) leads the Premiership in points scored this season

‘I sung American Pie on the bus back to our hotel,’ he said, referring to the aftermath of that epic 38-21 victory on December 1.

‘I thought I would go for an old classic and because all the boys were in a good mood, I got let off lightly. The initiations at Cinderford were far worse. I’d rather sing on that England bus any day than go through that again!’

The precise details are unclear, but that is probably the way it should remain.

‘I spent a year at Cinderford when I was 18,’ he added. ‘At that time we had proper old stalwarts there like Matt Cornwell, Rob Fidler and Andy Deacon, and playing around those guys was a real eye-opener.

Novice: Burns made his England debut in the epic win over New Zealand

Reward: Burns made his England debut in the epic win over New Zealand

'We had some memorable journeys back from places like Tynedale and Redruth, hours and hours on the road, with the old boys in the back row of the bus and everyone having a few beers together.

It was a great experience for me.’ While that was a great experience in his personal development, what happened on his first outing for England was a great experience for the sport in this country.

Burns contributed two late penalties as a second-half replacement, while also showcasing his audacious attacking gifts and the streak of self-belief which serves him so well.

‘The most pleasing thing was that I think I proved that I’m not intimidated by the big stage,’ he said.

‘I wasn’t particularly nervous before the game. I managed to get nine hours’ sleep the night before.

Mercurial: Former All-Black Carlos Spencer (red) was at Gloucester when Burns was still a youngster

Mercurial: Former All-Black Carlos Spencer (red) was at Gloucester when Burns was still a youngster

'I felt a sense of belonging as soon as I got on the pitch and just wanted to show people that I should be there. I’ve always been naturally confident. I have never really doubted myself.’

As a rising talent who came through the academy at Bath, before switching to Gloucester, Burns took inspiration from a free spirit in the All Black ranks, Carlos Spencer.

The English apprentice was treated to first-hand examples of the wizardry he wished to emulate when the mercurial Kiwi moved to Kingsholm.

‘When I was younger, he was the guy,’ he said.

‘The fact that he ended up at Gloucester was such a bonus and he taught me so much. He was always coming out with skills that were unbelievable.

'I remember one day, he put a tractor tyre on its side against a fence, and was bending banana kicks through it from 25 metres away.

'I wasn’t training, but I was watching the boys outside through a window and when I saw that I thought, “That is ridiculous”.

‘I was lucky enough to spend two years playing behind Carlos and two years behind Nicky Robinson, who is more of a pragmatic 10, so I’ve been able to learn both styles of play.

'I’ve taken bits from both of them and tried to develop my own interpretation.’

Burns has one try, 15 conversions, 41 penalties and a drop goal this season

Burns has one try, 15 conversions, 41 penalties and a drop goal this season

The arrival last June of another Welshman, Nigel Davies, as director of rugby, has accelerated the development of Burns into the form No 10 in English rugby this season.

He is the top points-scorer and goal-kicker in the Aviva Premiership and has won two Player of the Month awards.

Such was the positive momentum he had generated that after training with the national team, head coach Stuart Lancaster had no doubts about picking him for that daunting debut which worked out so well.

Burns feels that his performances during the current campaign have shown greater ‘maturity’.

The same could be said for Gloucester collectively and after being thrashed 36-3 at Welford Road last season, their rookie conductor is expecting so much more this time, as he prepares to go head-to-head with Toby Flood again.

Freddie Burns

‘Comparing how we were last season to how we are now is like comparing night and day,’ he said. ‘

We have a real mental edge now and that will stand us in good stead at Leicester, because if we’re not on our game there they could beat us heavily again.

'We have come together so well and I’m confident we can end up in the top four, then challenge for the title.’

That’s the revised club target, but on a personal level Burns hopes to be included in the England squad for the Six Nations.

The trouble is, while striving to be considered the best fly half in the country, he faces a grave threat to his status as the best in his family.

Burns' younger brother Billy, just 18, is a rising star in the Gloucester ranks

Burns' younger brother Billy, just 18, is a rising star in the Gloucester ranks

His younger brother, 18-year-old Billy Burns, has emerged in the Gloucester first team this season to set the scene for a long-term sibling scrap for one coveted place.

‘Billy is doing well and I’m sure he’ll be putting pressure on me for my shirt sooner rather than later,’ said Freddie.

‘I’ve told him he would make a great full back, but he just comes straight back with, “So would you!”.’

Joking aside, the older brother will surely welcome the competition. It won’t faze him. Aside from long bus journeys to Cinderford, nothing does.

Ricky Ponting retires from Test cricket

Former Australia captain Ponting announces retirement from Test cricket on eve of third Test against South Africa



07:06 GMT, 29 November 2012

Ricky Ponting has set his sights on a fairytale finish to his Australia career after announcing he will retire at the end of the third Test against South Africa.

Ponting, 37, will call time on a storied international career as the second highest run-scorer in Test history and the most successful captain of all time with 48 Test wins.

He cited recent struggles with the bat as the reason for his dramatic eve-of-Test announcement but holds out hope of a fitting final chapter against the Proteas in Perth.

Legend: Ponting is Australia's most successful captain

Legend: Ponting is Australia's most successful captain

Victory for the hosts would see them move back to first place in the ICC rankings and Ponting is fully focused on bowing out on familiar territory – on top of the world.

Ponting declined to offer a lengthy retrospective of his Baggy Green career – though he promised that would follow later – and instead outlined his burning desire to secure one last win.

'A few hours ago I let the team know my decision to make this Test my last. It’s a decision I thought long and hard about but at the end of the day it’s based on my results and my output in this series so far,' he said, after scoring nought and four in his last two knocks.

'It hasn’t been what I expect of myself or to the level I feel is required for batsmen in the Australia team.

World class: 'Punter' will go down as one of the best batsmen in Test history

World class: 'Punter' will go down as one of the best batsmen in Test history

World class: 'Punter' will go down as one of the best batsmen in Test history

'I continued to play as long as I felt I could contribute to wins but over the last couple of weeks I felt my level of performance has not been good enough to do that.

'My passion and love of the game has not changed one bit over the last 12-18 months, where things haven’t been as I’d have liked or pictured them.

'But as far as I’m concerned my immediate focus – and the focus of the team – is on what we’re presented with tomorrow. It’s an unbelievable opportunity in what is almost a grand final situation.

'I’ve prepared this week and I’m hungrier than ever. I want this win more than any game I’ve ever played in.

Old foe: Ponting and Andrew Flintoff face-off during the 2006-07 Ashes series

Old foe: Ponting and Andrew Flintoff face-off during the 2006-07 Ashes series

'If that happensd to lead to a win for the team and we get back to the top of the tree and No 1 in the world then there’s no better time to finish.'

The Perth Test will be Ponting’s 168th, meaning he will finish his career level with former captain Steve Waugh as Australia’s most-capped Test player.

Heading into his final match the Tasmanian, who will turn 38 next month, has scored an Australian-record 13,366 runs at an average of 52.21, including 41 centuries and a highest score of 257.

Ponting’s retirement comes nine months after he quit the one-day international arena and just under two years after he relinquished the captaincy of the Test squad following the 2010/11 Ashes loss.

Best ever: Ponting has more Test wins than any other Australia captain

Best ever: Ponting has more Test wins than any other Australia captain

His 41 Test wins as captain was another Australian record, although his leadership will also be remembered for three Ashes defeats, the first of them in 2005 coming after his country had held the famous urn for 16 years.

After making his debut in 1995/96 against Sri Lanka, scoring 96 before being given out LBW to a delivery that appeared set to bounce over the top of the stumps, Ponting became Australia’s most prolific batsman.

His international career will now wind down at the same ground where it began against Sri Lanka.

Bowing out: Ponting will play his last Test against South Africa

Bowing out: Ponting will play his last Test against South Africa

Ponting was named ICC Player of the Year twice, in 2006 and ‘07, the international body’s Test player of the year three times – in 2003, ‘04 and ‘06 – won the Allan Border Medal in 2004, ‘06, ‘07 and ‘09 and as well as being the Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2006 was also CricInfo’s Player of the Decade for 2000-09.

He will play out the remainder of the summer with Tasmania and confirmed he will still play in the Big Bash with Hobart Hurricanes.


1974: Born December 19 in Launceston, Tasmania.
1986: At the age of 12 he signs a bat contract with Kookaburra.
1992: Scores 56 against South Australia in his first-class debut for Tasmania, aged 17.
1995: February – Makes one-day international debut for Australia against South Africa aged 20, but is bowled by Eric Simons for one.
December – Makes Test debut against Sri Lanka, scoring 96.
1996: January – Makes his first ODI century with 123 against Sri Lanka.
March – At 21, becomes youngest batsman to score a World Cup century with 102 against the West Indies.
1997: Records his first Test century with 127 against England at Headingley in his first Ashes innings. However, he was in and out of the Test team for the next two years.
1999: A fight outside a pub in Kings Cross, Sydney earns him a suspension, but later in the year a century against the West Indies sees him cement his place.
2002: When Steve Waugh is dropped, Ponting vaults over vice-captain Adam Gilchrist to become Australia's ODI captain.
2003: Leads the team undefeated through the 2003 World Cup and makes an unbeaten 140 in the final.
2004: Steve Waugh's retirement opens the door for Ponting to assume the Test captaincy, and he wins his debut match against Sri Lanka in Galle in March.
2005: September – Becomes first Australia captain since Allan Border to experience Ashes defeat as England win a thrilling series 2-1.
Ponting scores 1,544 runs in the calendar year, an Australian record.
2006: January – Becomes the only player to mark his 100th Test with a century in each innings, scoring 120 and 143no against South Africa in Sydney.
March – Scores 164 from only 105 balls in the fifth ODI against South Africa in Johannesburg, but sees the Proteas make 438 for nine in reply to Australia's 434 for four.
December – Leads Australia to a 5-0 whitewash of England with his two centuries seeing him pass Waugh's record of 32 Test tons for Australia.
2007: April – In a World Cup match against South Africa in St Kitts, Ponting passes the 10,000-run mark in ODIs, the first Australian to reach the mark and seventh man in the world. Australia win the World Cup undefeated.
2008: January – Victory in the second Test against India makes it 16 in a row for Ponting's Australia, tying a record. India win the next Test in Perth to end the run.
May – Scores his 10,000th Test run against the West Indies in Antigua. Border and Steve Waugh are the only other Australians to reach the mark.
2009: August – Having scored 150 in the first Test in Cardiff, Ponting's team lose another Ashes series in England. 2-1 win.
September – Retires from Twenty20 internationals.
October – Australia win the ICC Champions Trophy with Ponting the tournament's leading run-scorer. He becomes the third man to pass 12,000 ODI runs.
2010: January – Named by an elite panel as the world player of the decade.
December – Ashes series sees Ponting lose the urn to England for a third time, this time in front of Australian crowds. He struggles for runs as England win the series 3-1.
2011: February/March – After missing a 6-1 one-day series win over England through injury, Ponting returns to lead Australia in the World Cup but his century is not enough to stop them losing to India in the quarter-finals.
March 29 – Resigns as captain of Australia but says he wants to play on for the team.
2012: January – Scores 134 and 221 against India in a return to form, passing 13,000 Test runs in the process.
February 20 – Dropped from the one-day side for matches against Sri Lanka and India.
February 21 – Announces his retirement from one-day internationals, but vows to play on in Test cricket.
November 29 – Announces the third Test against South Africa will be his last before retiring from Test cricket after scores of four, seven, 23, zero and four in his last five innings.

Fabricio Coloccini played like Bobby Moore – Alan Pardew

Watching Coloccini was like seeing Bobby Moore! Pardew enthuses over Toon skipper



17:58 GMT, 21 October 2012

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew likened Fabricio Coloccini to Bobby Moore after seeing his captain turn in a superb display in a hard-fought derby draw at Sunderland.

The Argentinian had guided the 10-man Magpies to within 10 minutes of a second successive victory on Wearside when cramp forced his departure, and the Black Cats took full advantage to snatch a point at the death through Demba Ba's 85th-minute own goal.

But if Sunderland emerged with a face-saving point, it was the visitors who returned to Tyneside with a moral victory after playing for 65 minutes with a man down following Cheick Tiote's dismissal – the first for a Newcastle player in a competitive derby – for a foul on Steven Fletcher.

High praise: Fabricio Coloccini was hailed by Alan Pardew

High praise: Fabricio Coloccini was hailed by Alan Pardew

Pardew said: 'Maybe if Coloccini had stayed on, he would have seen that out. He was absolutely phenomenal today.

'If you want an example of a centre-half playing where you have got to head it, kick it, cover people, get in the right position and then have the calmness to play, that was your example.

'I come from a famous football club, West Ham, and that was like watching Bobby Moore today. He was terrific.

'You have also got to understand – and it sometimes goes a little bit under the radar – at the Premier League level, what is asked of you physically.

'If we had had 11, I think he could have made the game, but because we went down to 10, there was just too much work for him and both calves tightened up.

'But what a performance, seriously, one of the best he has given for me, for sure.'

Newcastle came within five minutes of claiming a second successive victory in enemy territory after Yohan Cabaye had given them a third-minute lead with a well-struck shot.

However, Tiote's premature departure for a reckless challenge on Steven Fletcher changed the game and although the Magpies defended manfully, they were undone at the death when John O'Shea's header hit the unwitting Ba and flew past Krul.

World Cup winner: Bobby Moore with the trophy

World Cup winner: Bobby Moore with the trophy

Really, Alan Pardew's comparison may be over the mark

Really, Alan Pardew's comparison may be over the mark

Pardew had no complaints about the sending-off which left his side facing an uphill task.

He said: 'I have kind of accepted in my mind to accept it. There is absolutely no doubt – and I know Cheick – that he has not tried to do the player, he is just late, if I am honest, and the referee has deemed that a red.'

Sunderland have now won just one of the last 16 derbies, but perhaps more worryingly, have tasted victory only once in the 15 Barclays Premier League matches they have played since March.

However, manager Martin O'Neill was relieved to have come away with a point after a performance which for too long caused the 10 men too few problems.

He said: 'Do you know what When we equalised, it was one of the best moments, it really was, and to be accompanied by that noise…

Impressive: Coloccini kept Steven Fletcher quiet all day

Impressive: Coloccini kept Steven Fletcher quiet all day

'There's an element of relief, but every derby game I have ever been involved in either here or in Scotland, there has always been an element of relief.

'In the second half, sheer pressure alone probably yielded us the goal rather than anything flamboyantly brilliant.

'We got the goal and maybe had enough time them to go on and win it, but in the circumstances with Newcastle being down to 10 men and having defended so strongly, that would have been harsh.'

Zebre 10 Connacht 19: John Muldoon gets Italian job done for wasteful Connacht

Zebre 10 Connacht 19: Muldoon gets Italian job done for wasteful Connacht



16:23 GMT, 13 October 2012

Connacht got their Heineken Cup
campaign off to a winning start with a scrappy victory away to
tournament newcomers Zebre in Parma.

John Muldoon's 62nd-minute try proved
vital for the visitors who had dominated the third quarter but were
starting to look like they would rue a series of missed opportunities in
the home 22.

Connacht's former Scotland fly-half Dan Parks added the remainder of his side's points from four penalties and a conversion.

At last: John Muldoon scores the crucial try for Connacht

At last: John Muldoon scores the crucial try for Connacht

Connacht started the match well, retaining possession and stretching the Italian outfit's defence at every opportunity.

Their early endeavour was rewarded with a fourth-minute penalty from Parks but that proved to be a rare venture in Zebre territory.

For the remainder of the half most of the play belonged to the home side as they used their solid line-out platform to build pressure.

Quintin Geldenhuys and Mauro Bergamasco carried to great effect but basic errors proved costly as four visits to the Connacht 22 yielded just one Daniel Halangahu penalty.

The Zebre full-back missed two other kicks at goal during the first half and after 17 minutes, Connacht turned a brief foray into home territory into three more points from the boot of Parks to restore their lead.

A key turning point came right on the stroke of half-time when the vastly experienced Bergamasco was penalised for a tackle on Tiernan O'Halloran that was somewhat harshly deemed to be a 'tip tackle'.

Referee Leighton Hodges sin-binned the 93-times capped Italy international and Parks kicked a brilliant penalty from the halfway line for a six-point buffer at the break.

Connacht then dominated the first 20 minutes of the second half but failed to score during the sin-bin period despite some incisive back-line play from the likes of Heineken Cup debutant Robbie Henshaw, Tiernan O'Halloran and Fetu'u Vainikolo.

Handling errors and poor decision-making underlined a tension in their play as they tried to add to their only previous win in the tournament – a hard-fought defeat of Harlequins in the Galway wind and rain last January.

On the hour mark, Eric Elwood's men earned a penalty from a five-metre scrum and opted to stretch the lead to two scores through the boot of Parks.

That settled nerves and barely two minutes later a turnover in their own 22, forced by the excellent Denis Buckley, led to the game's first try.

Kieran Marmion hacked downfield, Mike McCarthy's chase was tremendous and he forced a penalty from Luciano Orquera.

The quick-thinking Muldoon took a quick tap and went in from 10 metres out, scoring under the posts with Parks converting.

That score should have settled Connacht but the final 20 minutes were error strewn and the visitors were unable to relax as Zebre scored a converted try from replacement flanker Filippo Ferranini in the 72nd minute, although the hosts could not get any closer in the remaining time.

Paul Lambert at Aston Villa: No laptops and phones at training

Life under Lambert: Strict times for Villa players with no laptops and no phones at training



21:30 GMT, 23 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

There are reminders of former Aston Villa boss Ron Saunders in Paul Lambert’s actions. The hard-line Merseysider, who won the First Division title 31 years ago, revelled in the role of tough guy. His chosen sport was boxing and he instilled a barrack-room mentality into the club.

But times have changed. Players have become all powerful. Managers have to fear where they tread.

However, Lambert has clearly defined his own territory. And that, basically, means the club’s luxurious 9million training base.

My rules: Paul Lambert has defined his territory at Aston Villa

My rules: Paul Lambert has defined his territory at Aston Villa

The latest intelligence from Villa’s Bodymoor Heath training base is that the Scot has banned his players from taking their mobile phones and laptops into work.

‘If you are a professional footballer, then it’s not your hobby, it’s your job,’ he told a fans’ meeting this week. ‘I think it’s important. You are at the training ground to work.

‘If you train the way you play, then I don’t have a problem with it. But iPhones and iPads are a distraction.

‘I’m here to win football matches not to play on a phone or computer.’

It is not as if those who have found themselves surplus to Villa — or Lambert — have little idea of his focus.

Emile Heskey and Carlos Cuellar were out of contract and due to leave as Randy Lerner chopped a wage bill that was close to spiralling out of control.

But James Collins has quit for West Ham and others are under no illusions as to their future roles.

Left back Stephen Warnock was taken to one side on Monday and told by the manager that he would have to train with Villa’s development squad. Alan Hutton has not been used at all since the first pre-season friendly at Burton Albion.

It appears harsh, but such is the current financial climate that such decisions have to be taken.

Of course, this should come as no surprise to many who have been involved with the Glaswegian before.

Strict: Lambert says training is the footballer's work-place and as such there should be no distractions

Strict: Lambert says training is the footballer's work-place and as such there should be no distractions

The erstwhile Champions League winner has marked himself down as a one-off from the days when he was one of the first to take advantage of the Bosman rule and win himself a contract at Borussia Dortmund, playing under legendary coach Ottmar Hitzfeld.

Lambert kept a pad at his side during those training sessions and made notes.

Indeed, he was so impressed by the Teutonic approach that he eventually snubbed the opportunity to take his coaching badges in this country and returned to Germany.

But there can be no doubt also of the influence of another former Villa boss, Martin O’Neill, upon Lambert’s thinking.

The Northern Irishman comes to life on match days. He is still referred to as ‘the gaffer’ by his successor at Villa Park and similarly courts a strong team ethic in all of his sides.

That trait runs through O’Neill’s teams and it was almost like stepping back in time for seasoned observers of the club when Lambert said: ‘Team spirit is absolutely vital.

No talking: Lambert has banned players from speaking to the media too close to a game

No talking: Lambert has banned players from speaking to the media too close to a game

‘It’s about 90 per cent of your game because, if you know the guy next to you is going for it for you, then you will do exactly the same and it will transmit to everyone else in the dressing room.’

But it is the idea of stamping his own identity on the club which has been a hallmark of his reign so far.

At Norwich City, the training ground was out of bounds to outsiders. Those not directly involved with the players were actively discouraged from entering the manager’s place of work.

It is similar here. He has banned any player interviews taking place within 48 hours of a match.

At Villa Park, the most outward sign of his authority has been moving the dug-out over the halfway line to be nearer the club’s core support in the Holte End.

And it was noticeable before kick-off at Upton Park last week that Lambert has also cherry-picked another idea from one of his former clubs. The pre-match ‘huddle’ was used at Celtic Park while Villa’s boss was a player under O’Neill and Darren Bent performed his captaincy duties by addressing his charges prior to kick off.

Not, in the end, that it made much difference. But the point is that Lambert is providing his players with the focus and environment in which to perform.

Whether they are up to the job in hand is another matter.

Clare Balding and Francesca Cumani in frame to host C4 racing coverage – Marcus Townend

Olympics darling Balding and Cumani in frame to host C4 racing coverage



15:08 GMT, 5 August 2012

Everyone is assuming, probably correctly, that Clare Balding will be crowned the first lady of C4’s new racing package when it takes over all the terrestrial coverage of the sport next year.

But what would be another new female face to the channel is also rumoured to have been included in the presentations among the production company’s vying for the role of delivering the station’s coverage of the sport next year.

Step forward Francesca Cumani, daughter of Newmarket trainer Luca who rode in the charity race at Goodwood on Thursday and whose broadcasting work includes CNN and Channel 7 in Australia.

TV times: Balding looks set to face C4's racing coverage

TV times: Balding looks set to face C4's racing coverage

More from Marcus Townend…

The Captain's Log: Pop goes Jade's chances of glory at Goodwood

Captain's Log: Equine hepatitis explains Tassel's loss of form

Captain's Log: Power of TV! Irish bookie on the box in Undercover Boss

The Captain's Log: Shamed Fairley back to winning ways with 'flying dismount'

Captain's Log at Royal Ascot: Betting booth consigned to TV history…

The Captain's Log: (This week unashamedly dedicated to Aussie superstar Black Caviar)

The Captain's Log: The message is clear: Balding can name her price to stay on TV

The Captain's Log: Radio role puts Batchelor in virgin territory at Epsom


Whether Francesca makes it to our screen depends firstly on which company is handed the C4 gig. Then, broadcast insiders say, the station will also have a major input on who is on the screens no matter what the production companies proposed.

A decent squad will be needed with Balding, winning plaudits for her contribution to the BBC’s Olympic coverage, likely to insist on combining her racing role with her other extensive broadcasting commitments.

Spaced out

Members of the racing fraternity, including Charlie Johnston, son of Middleham trainer Mark, staying at Glorious Goodwood had a chance to mix with Hollywood royalty on Tuesday night when Acadamy-award – winning actor Kevin Spacey dropped into their hotel and was apparently happy to pose for pictures with his new chums.

Drugged up

With group race winning brothers Bullet Train, Noble Mission and the peerless Frankel, the next offspring of dam Kind and addition to the talented family racing is probably on a hiding to nothing.

And two-year-old Morpheus may be a slightly different temporarily from his relatives.

Frankel and Noble Mission, both sons of Galileo, have been highly-strung individuals but Morpheus is more ‘chilled out’ according to Lady Cecil, wife of trainer Sir Henry Cecil.

He is also well named. His sire is Oasis Dream. Morpheus was the God of Dreams who lends his name to the drug Morphine.

Glorious: Frankel romps home at Goodwood

Glorious: Frankel romps home at Goodwood

Frankel facts for bookies.

There are plenty of winners when Frankel runs – not least the host racecourse with 5,000 being put on the Glorious Goodwood gate for his Sussex Stakes run.

The bookmakers are also delighted with the glow of publicity the best horse in the world attracts to the sport but they have to grin through gritted teeth when it comes to his effect on their business.

Coral reported turnover on the Sussex was a whopping 90 per cent down on the 2011 figures for the group one race with Frankel’s 1-20 odds making the one-sided four-runner contest an unattractive betting medium.

Dutch courage for Holland

History might have been made at Glorious Goodwood when a race was won by a horse whose name was not listed in the racecard.

Thursday’s charity Magnolia Stakes, a ladies race where the competitors included DJ Sara Cox and model Edie Campbell, was won by the horse carrying the No 5 number cloth.

The mount of Philippa Holland, was listed as Beat The Bell but, with after it was scratched after being lame in the morning, it was Russian Bullet who ran in the race at 5-1.

The whole thing episode proved highly confusing with the commentator’s call not corresponding with the runners in front of racegoers.

However, naming of horses in the Magnolia Stakes was quite a financial issue. Other runners had their names changed to reflect sponsorship deals with companies including Harrods.

The phenomenal six-figure sum being raised went to charities Spinal Research and Winston’s Wish.

Olympic struggle

OLBG.com, the online sports betting community which backs the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, have been unable to capitalise on their backing of GB’s table tennis player Kelly Sibley because the strict sponsorship rules surrounding the Olympics.

But they should be able to bask in the huge reflected attention being focussed on Ladbroke St Leger day next month after signing up to sponsor at Doncaster that day.

Andy Murray beats Roger Federer to win gold – London 2012 Olympics

28 days later! Murray avenges for Wimbledon final as British star claims another gold for Team GB after dominant win over Federer



16:04 GMT, 5 August 2012

Andy Murray followed one of the greatest days in British Olympic history with one of the best performances British tennis has ever seen as he crushed Roger Federer to win London 2012 gold.

Murray exacted the sweetest revenge possible for his tear-jerking Wimbledon final loss by inflicting Federer's heaviest ever defeat at the All England Club and winning his country's first men's singles title since 1908.

Flying the flag: The British No 1 parades his gold medal to the delight of the home support

Flying the flag: The British No 1 parades his gold medal to the delight of the home support

Net gains: Murray looks to he heavens after beating Federer 6-2, 61, 6-4 on Sunday afternoon

Net gains: Murray looks to he heavens after beating Federer 6-2, 61, 6-4 on Sunday afternoon

The 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory margin was
scarcely believable against the man who stopped him becoming the
country's first men's Wimbledon singles champion for 76 years just 28
days ago, who was desperate to enhance his claim to be the greatest
player of all time by clinching a career golden slam.

Murray had little time to celebrate the win as he prepared to go for another gold in the mixed doubles.

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

What a difference 28 days makes: Murray stormed to victory at Wimbledon after turning in a fine display

Murray was in uncharted territory in a
five-set contest against Federer. He had lost every one of their grand
slam matches, despite their overall 8-8 head-to-head record.

The Swiss had also won more than once
from two sets down at Wimbledon but, after two comfortable holds at the
start of the third, he was pummelled into submission again by Murray's
crosscourt backhand.

You can't hurry a Murray (or so they say): The British No 1 put Federer to the sword on Centre Court with a dominant display

You can't hurry a Murray (or so they say): The British No 1 put Federer to the sword on Centre Court with a dominant display

Everything Murray touched was
turning to gold, while Federer's game continued to disintegrate in a
manner never before seen on Centre Court.

Murray had come out firing four weeks ago, breaking Federer in the first game, but today it was the Scot who found himself under pressure as he gave away two break points.

Andy Murray

Roger Federer

Contrasting fortunes: Murray was on another
level compared to Federer as the British ace turned in one of the best
displays of his career

He saved them both, though, and that was to prove vital as he went on to win the first set.

Federer was making a lot of unforced errors while Murray gradually raised his level and, after missing a chance to break in the fourth game, moved ahead in the sixth when the world No 1 could not handle a fizzing backhand.

Centre Court was rocking, and the noise level increased again when Murray broke to take the set, nailing a backhand pass just inside the line.

Home support: The Wimbledon crowd roared Murray on to glory as they helped create a Davis Cup atmosphere on Centre Court

Home support: The Wimbledon crowd roared Murray on to glory as they helped create a Davis Cup atmosphere on Centre Court

Murray had talked in the build-up about the rarity of Federer treading new ground and how that levelled the playing field, and he was certainly not showing the same form he did at Wimbledon.

There was a lot on the line for the Swiss player, who is unlikely to have another chance to win a singles gold medal, the only major honour missing from his trophy cabinet.

Tension had crackled around Centre Court in the Wimbledon final but today it seemed to have homed in on Federer's racquet. Even the net was on Murray's side as two bits of luck helped him break for the third time in a row to lead 2-0 in the second set.

In the stands: Andy Murray's girlfriend Kim Sears assumes her position on Centre Court to cheer on her partner

In the stands: Andy Murray's girlfriend Kim Sears assumes her position on Centre Court to cheer on her partner

The key game of the match followed as
Federer threw everything at Murray in an effort to get back on terms,
forcing six break points, but every time he was repelled.

The crowd sensed it was vital he held
on, and remarkably he won an eighth straight game when Federer
double-faulted, and then a ninth before the Wimbledon champion finally
stopped the rot.

There was an air of disbelief on
Centre Court, could this really be happening Federer had a chance to
pull one break back but again Murray held firm to move into a two-set

Team Murray: Andy made his way into the stands to celebrate his straight-sets victory over Federer

Team Murray: Andy made his way into the stands to celebrate his straight-sets victory over Federer


Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro won the bronze medal in the men's singles after upsetting second seed Novak Djokovic 7-5 6-4 on Wimbledon's Court One.

Del Potro lost a marathon semi-final encounter to Roger Federer on Friday and left the court in tears, but he roused himself physically and mentally to earn his place on the podium.

Djokovic, beaten by Andy Murray in the last four, was the bronze medallist in Beijing four years ago but he ceded first blood when his serve was broken in the 11th game.

He had two chances to break back and force a tie-break but Del Potro held on, and the Argentinian broke again to lead 2-1 in the second set.

Djokovic tried to respond but there was no way back and for the Serb there was only the agony of finishing fourth.

Federer had played for almost four
and a half hours on Friday in beating Juan Martin Del Potro in a titanic
semi-final and his movement was certainly not up to his usual standard.

But that was to take nothing away
from Murray, who was pinning the great man back with the ferocity of his
groundstrokes, particularly his cross-court backhand.

A two-set lead was still far from
victory of course, with Federer having come back from two sets to love
down to win on many occasions, including against Julien Benneteau at

Often Murray has a dip at such
moments but not today, he simply maintained the same excellent level and
broke again with another superb backhand. Federer prevented the Scot
moving 5-2 ahead and then forced him to serve it out.

The nerves must have been coursing
through Murray's body but he did not show it, two big serves bringing up
match point before the final coup de grace.

The world No 4 celebrated the finest
win of his life by climbing up to the players' box to celebrate with
friends and family, and it could yet be double gold with the mixed
doubles final still to come.

Murray hailed the biggest win of his
career. 'It's No 1 for me,' he told BBC1. 'The biggest win of my life.
This week's been incredible so far.

'I've had a lot of fun, the support's been amazing. One more match to go, but it's been unbelievable.'

Murray said he was inspired both by
the performances of his Great Britain team-mates and the crowd, who were
unusually boisterous for SW19.

'They're unbelievable,' he said.
'It's not just here but all of the events I've watched. I watched the
athletics last night it was amazing.

'The way Mo Farah won… I do 400m
repetitions in my training and when I'm completely fresh I can run it in
57 seconds and his last lap after 9,600m was 53 seconds. It's just
unbelievable fitness.

Centre of attention: Murray provided the Wimbledon crowd with some exhibition celebrating

Centre of attention: Murray provided the Wimbledon crowd with some exhibition celebrating

'It gave me a boost coming into today. The momentum the team's had the last couple of days has been so good.'

Murray admitted the achievement had surprised even him. 'I didn't expect that at the start of the week,' he said.

'I had a chance of going deep into
the tournament [but] I was a little bit tired after Wimbledon, and
playing the mixed as well.

'But I felt so fresh. On the court today I didn't really feel nervous at all apart from at the beginning of the match.'

Murray felt his victory was the
perfect way to recover from his Wimbledon disappointment. 'It's worth
it,' he said. 'I've had a lot of tough losses in my career. This is the
best way to come back. I'll never forget it.'


Bradley Wiggins is Britain"s best athlete ever Martin Samuel

Bradley is simply our best… EVER!



01:06 GMT, 23 July 2012

Ever. It certainly is a big word.
Just the two syllables but huge in sport. Hugely misused, too. The best
ever, the first ever. That last word is superfluous. We mean the best,
we mean the first. Yet when Bradley Wiggins made his way up the
Champs-Elysees, each pumping limb its own little revolution,
ever has never sounded more appropriate.

Bradley Wiggins is the first British
winner of the Tour de France. Ever. Bradley Wiggins is the greatest
British cyclist. Ever. Bradley Wiggins may well be the finest British
sportsman. Ever.

These are incredibly unlikely words to
be writing. The sentences feel as if they should end, not with mundane
little full stops or even a bold exclamation mark, but punctuation of
their own. A symbol that expresses our collective surprise, pronounced
with the same breathy wonder as an open-mouthed WOW.

Champagne moment: Bradley Wiggins tastes victory on the Champs-Elysees

Champagne moment: Bradley Wiggins tastes victory on the Champs-Elysees

We get so used to the tumbling of
records, the shifting of milestones in sport, that when a genuine
jaw-dropping accomplishment comes along, we are by comparison strangely
unmoved. We are so used to Super Sundays and matches of the century and
casual hyperbole — ‘Could this be another Duel in the Sun’ asked a
quivering voice on 5 Live on Friday night, comparing the epic meeting of
Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson at Turnberry, in 1977, with Brandt
Snedeker versus Adam Scott — that when Wiggins scorches through virgin
territory for a British rider, words almost fail us.

This is the 99th edition of the Tour de France, yet there has been no winner quite like Le Gentleman.

Cynics snipe that this is not a
vintage year for the Tour but Wiggins is most certainly a rider of
vintage potential. He is a three-time Olympic champion in the
velodrome who has converted that excellence to mountainous, cross-country terrains, road racing and explosive time trials.

The greats of the sport such as
Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx and Wiggins’s boyhood poster hero Miguel
Indurain were all outstanding track cyclists, too, but none emulated
Wiggins’s success in, for instance, the individual pursuit. This is
renaissance work, a movement across cycling’s cultures. Wiggins needs
multiple Tour wins to be placed among the greatest names of the event,
but is he among the greats of the sport For sure.

Fans' favourite: Supporters clamber to offer their best wishes to Wiggins

Fans' favourite: Supporters clamber to offer their best wishes to Wiggins

His is an achievement that spans
centuries and cannot be attributed to mere advances in training or
technology. The first Tour de France was held in 1903 and the first
British entrants rode in 1937. Since 1956, there have been only two
Tours that have not contained a British presence. Some were lone riders,
operating without the protection of a team, but it is not as if
Wiggins is the first winner from these shores because no other blighter
was interested.

Nor is he winning an event in its
infancy. This is not like football where the Premier League and
Champions League have become so powerful, it is as if history started
just 20 years ago.

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Standards in other sports have been
skewed by advances in travel and technology. Cricketers play more
matches and therefore amass more runs, science — legal and not — has
invaded the running track and swimming pool. And the velodrome,

Nobody would claim Wiggins’s triumph
comes without technical support and team orders, or that professional
cycling in the 21st century is not vastly different to the sport pursued
by Maurice Garin, winner of the first Tour in 1903. Yet there remains
purity in Wiggins’s achievement. There have been 99 editions of the Tour
and 56 of them have contained British riders, and he is the first to
the podium.

And purity is not a word that has been greatly associated with road cycling for several decades now. Yet as much as one can ever know with complete certainty, Wiggins is straight. More than this, in a sport tainted by nefarious instincts, he has earned the nickname Le Gentleman because of his courteous conduct in letting the riders reassemble before starting again, when the race was disrupted by tacks thrown in the road.

So, taking it all into consideration, this is one of the greatest achievements in British sport, if not its summit. Its uniqueness, the making of history, the sheer physicality of the challenge, the decency of the champion, puts Wiggins up there.

Head and shoulders above: Wiggins is hoisted aloft by fellow Team Sky members

Head and shoulders above: Wiggins is hoisted aloft by fellow Team Sky members

Sir Chris Hoy placed him higher even than Sir Steve Redgrave, and he may have a case. Put it like this: if Danny Boyle was reshooting his finale for the Olympic ceremony right now, so that Wiggins rode up a ramp to light the flame, it would not be his worst day’s work.

All eyes were on Andy Murray at Wimbledon on July 8 but even had he beaten Roger Federer in the men’s singles final, it could be argued that this landmark would be eclipsed by Wiggins now. Even British tennis has Fred Perry as a distant male role model.

Wiggins has no-one. No inspirational figure, no individual to emulate, not even his cyclist father considering their fractured relationship. He was part of a team on Tour, yet has very much travelled alone: and his journey did not start in Liege, Belgium, on June 30. It began in Kilburn.

Wiggins was born in Ghent, Belgium, but raised in north London. This is where he has much in common with Murray. For just as a man does not rally his way to Centre Court from Dunblane, Scotland, he does not cycle to the Champs-Elysees from London W9 at the point where Kilburn High Road becomes Maida Vale.

Like Murray, Wiggins must have been phenomenally driven, brutally single-minded and self-sacrificing. There are nine mountain stages in the 2012 Tour. For those that are unfamiliar with Kilburn High Road, crampons are not required.

A moment to savour: Wiggins stands top of the podium, ahead of team-mate Chris Froome (left) and Vincenzo Nibali

A moment to savour: Wiggins stands top of the podium, ahead of team-mate Chris Froome (left) and Vincenzo Nibali

Wiggins’s acceptance as a Tour cyclist of substance finds its truest expression in the ‘Wiggo le Froggy’ headline to be found in L’Equipe this weekend. They have adopted him, just as Ellen MacArthur was a household name across La Manche long before she was lauded in Britain.

The French, steeped in cycling history in a way we simply are not, know the journey Wiggins has undertaken to this point. They see beyond the Tour’s darkness. It is still too new for us. To the average bloke from Kilburn — one that did not idolise Indurain as his mates did Gary Lineker — the Tour means drugs and dishonour. On the continent, they understand that beyond the scandal are some quite outstanding individuals — and that Britain has one; more than one, in fact, considering Wiggins’s team-mates at Team Sky include Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome. So set aside the cynical caveats. The Tour has not been 98 years of sheer brilliance and then that time the British bloke won it. ‘I’m not some s*** rider who has come from nowhere,’ snapped Wiggins in response to a question about his pedigree.

He is not on stabilisers here. There will have been stronger fields, but weaker too, in almost a century of competition. Maybe this is not a peak Tour but it was not the greatest Australian cricket team that failed to regain the Ashes on home soil in 2011, and the Brazilian football team of 1970 were considerably superior to the Brazil of 1966. A man can only beat that day’s opponent. Even if it was just Wiggins versus Froome versus Cavendish it would still be some race to win.

As for drugs, Wiggins cannot be held responsible for the fact others have cheated. Dave Brailsford, Team Sky’s general manager, acknowledged there is a reputational risk in his team’s continued employment of Geert Leinders, the doctor used by Rabobank when the Dutch team were embroiled in a doping scandal between 2007 and 2009.

Well-oiled machine: Wiggins spearheaded Team Sky's ruthless assault on the Tour title

Well-oiled machine: Wiggins spearheaded Team Sky's ruthless assault on the Tour title

Yet he also said he would stake his life on Team Sky being honest. So would the majority of people. Leinders’s future with the team requires examination, but it is Wiggins’s misfortune to be clean in a dirty sport. Considering cycling’s recent history the questions are understandable, but so is Wiggins’s frustration that he cannot enjoy his moment without them.

Still, as he powered along the Champs-Elysees yesterday, he had every right to embrace a unique outpouring of goodwill and admiration for a British rider in what has remained, until now, a resolutely foreign environment. Wiggins was the best road cyclist of 2012 and in one corner of the globe, at least, he was simply the best ever.

And if that is tautological, who cares For once it was also, without need for hyperbole or exaggeration, a pure truth.

FA mystery over Terry
FA court: John Terry

FA court: John Terry

No direction to a jury has been clearer than all the instruction given
to the Football Association since John Terry was found not guilty of a
racially aggravated public order offence at Westminster Magistrates
Court 10 days ago.

It is not enough for Terry to be charged. He must be
found guilty. And no doubt he will, because here is the good news: an FA
court does not require the same pesky burden of proof as a chief

To brand a man a racist requires only a balance of
probability, according to the FA. So Garth Crooks, Lord Ouseley, the
sages of Twitter, the opinion formers, the pressure groups, all will be
highly hopeful of securing the justice so cruelly denied by Howard
Riddle and his outdated ideas about a case needing to be proven.

Terry did not swing in a proper court, so now he will be tried in one
with less exacting standards. This is considered a positive
development in many liberal quarters, although heaven knows why.

Why Carroll must go

Andy Carroll should leave Liverpool. If he had made a quicker or more significant impression following his 35million transfer from Newcastle United, the manager who signed him, Kenny Dalglish, might still be in a job.

But he didn’t, and he isn’t.

In Dalglish’s place is Brendan Rodgers, who has made it plain that Carroll is for sale. Rejecting loan moves is no sign of faith: that simply means Rodgers wants the money to fund team building, rather than just a wage off the roster. Carroll should now take the hint. His big move failed. The new manager no longer plays to his strengths and if he stays he will be a bit-part presence, a battering ram brought on for emergencies only. It is no way to spend his peak years as a player — or further his infant career with England.

And Carroll has good options. If he says he is open to a permanent move, there will be significant competition, in England and abroad. Carroll may not wish to give up on Anfield this easily, but he is only delaying the inevitable if Rodgers remains in charge. In a year, he may be begging to leave: go now and make a fresh start.

Heed the signs: Andy Carroll must move on from Liverpool - or stagnate

Heed the signs: Andy Carroll must move on from Liverpool – or stagnate

Stop doctoring the Plastic Brit debate

Each week, writers at The Guardian must clasp their hands in thanks for the Plastic Brit debate. What else would they have to put in Yamile Aldama’s column otherwise Five weeks of shoulder injury updates That wouldn’t sell many papers (not that much of what appears in its pages does, mind you).

Anyway, last week Aldama — who has competed for Cuba, via Sudan, and now Great Britain handily in time for a home Olympics — devoted an entire piece to the issue of nationality. And this is how she challenged her critics.

Stating her case: Yamile Aldama

Stating her case: Yamile Aldama

‘Imagine if I was one of the top 10 heart surgeons in the world — better than anyone in Britain — would these same people be happy for me to operate on their children Or would they insist on a British surgeon who is not as good’

Well, I can certainly answer that one. The doctor that identified the heart defect in my son Robert was, I believe, British-Asian. We didn’t discuss his specific ancestry because when they think a three-day-old boy has been born with his four chambers reversed, where we all come from is less important than where this baby may be going. The paediatric specialist who then identified the condition correctly as acute pulmonary stenosis — the pulmonary valve that transfers blood to the lungs was more than 90 per cent closed — was Dr Hla. Top man Dr Hla. I think he is from the Far East, but again we have never pinpointed locations as it doesn’t seem vital.

As for the surgeon who performed a balloon dilation on Robert’s valve at five days old — and then again after three months allowing him to live a healthy, happy and sporty life — that was Professor Andrew Redington. He is British but works in Toronto now. I doubt if they call him a Plastic Canadian, though: because heart surgery is not a competitive international sport.

Once Professor Redington had finished operating on Robert, he did not wrap himself in a Union Flag and do a lap of the theatre for patriotic onlookers. He probably doesn’t do that with the Maple Leaf at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto, either. He did not get a newspaper column on the back of competing for Britain and his public profile has never been defined by representing his country at surgery. One might say his nationality, like that of Dr Hla, is entirely irrelevant to his job. This makes him different to international athletes and to even draw the comparison is, frankly, ludicrous.

The Plastic Brit debate is sport specific. Aldama needs to get that shoulder fixed before glibly appropriating the complex world of paediatric cardiology.

RVP to fly the nest

Arsenal want 30million for Robin van Persie but will no doubt sell
anyway if they do not get it.

The moment RVP stayed home from the club
tour of Asia, he was as good as gone; it now only depends on whether
Arsenal can persuade the Manchester clubs to enter a bidding war.

if they do not, Van Persie will depart: a club do not remove a player
from their pre-season preparations if they believe there is any chance
he will kick a ball for them on August 18.

Captain"s Log: Paddy Power on Undercover Boss

Power of TV! Irish bookie on the box in Undercover Boss



09:48 GMT, 13 July 2012

Racing is back in the spotlight in the C4 documentary Undercover Boss.

Back in 2010 it was Jockey Club chief operating officer Paul Fisher, who anonymously worked in various roles at Carlisle, Huntingdon and Sandown to get an insight into the gripes and frustrations of his workforce.

In Monday's show (July 16), it is the turn of colourful Irish bookmaking firm Paddy Power as their soon-to-be head of operations William Reeves goes behind the scenes.

TV stars: Paddy Power will be the subject of C4's Undercover Boss

TV stars: Paddy Power will be the subject of C4's Undercover Boss

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It will be the first time the popular television programme has chosen a company outside the UK to feature in their award-winning series.

Paddy Power is following where senior executives from companies also including Carlsberg, npower, Domino's Pizza, and, most entertainingly, Anne Summers have led.

Reeves works in various parts of the betting firm's Irish and UK operations including its high street betting shops, e-gaming division, phone betting and customer services department.

Filming for the episode took place in May during the busy build-up to Euro 2012.

However, it would surely have been even more interesting if Reeves could have been placed in the Paddy Power department responsible for their outrageous adverts and guerrilla marketing.

They thought up the Hollywood style Paddy Power lettering on Cleeve Hill during the 2010 Cheltenham Festival and the lucky underpants bearing their name which Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner showed off during the Euros. The bookie paid his 80,000 fine.

Those same lucky pants – though hopefully not the same pair – were also worn by heavyweight boxer Dereck Chisora at the weigh-in to this weekend's acrimonious fight with David Haye.

Racing UK boost Haye v Chisora

Talking of a racing link with boxing, Racing UK, one of the two dedicated channels in Britain, has also played a part in the build-up to Saturday's controversial scrap between Haye and Chisora.

Box clever: David Haye (left) takes on Dereck Chisora at Upton Park

Box clever: David Haye (left) takes on Dereck Chisora at Upton Park

With Racing UK currently shown in 4,000 pubs and clubs, the fledgling BoxNation channel, which will show the fight being staged at West Ham's Upton Park, has enlisted Racing UK to promote its subscription service.

With just over a day to go, Racing UK's efforts are understood to have signed up around 700 new customers for BoxNation on the back of the colourful dust-up.

The Chisora-Haye fight is the biggest so far shown on BoxNation, which was set up by Frank Warren Promotions.

Balding back on track

Trainer Andrew Balding may have suffered disappointment with the recent running of his Dante Stakes winner Bonfire, who followed up an unplaced Derby effort with a sixth in the Eclipse after which the colt was found to be lame.

However, his recent form has been out of the top drawer with two more successes on Thursday including Stature at Newmarket's July Meeting.

Big winner: Stature triumphed for Andrew Balding at Newmarket

Big winner: Stature triumphed for Andrew Balding at Newmarket

One horse Balding has not been successful with is Dollar Bill, owned by TV personality Jeremy Kyle and his wife Carla.

A third at Sandown in May is the best the 50,000gn son of Medicean has managed and The Captain understands the gelding is currently with Sussex jumps trainer Nick Gifford to be schooled ahead of a possible switch to juvenile hurdling.

Cartmel could cook up a storm

Racecourses and racegoers have had a miserable summer with the weather but Lake District track Cartmel has even more reason to hope the rain can stay away from their meeting on July 21.

If wet weather is bad for jumps racing, it is even worse for barbecues and Cartmel will be hosting an international BBQ challenge – yes, you did read that right – along side the sports.

Cartmel claim taking part will be some of Britain's top exponents of this form of cooking, or Pit Teams, with a prize of representing the nation at an international ompetition in the United States.

'Some of the best Pit teams are taking part in the 'Frenchs Pit Master series' to discover which team will head to the Jack Daniels Invitational at Lynchburg, Tennessee in October to represent the UK,' said Toby Shea, director of the International BBQ Network.

Among the challenges will be to create a dish from mystery ingredients in 45 minutes – a task The Captain is familiar with from his student days.