Flat Out in Front

3 minute read

Just as Venus and Serena Williams have aced women’s tennis and Michael Schumacher is way out in front of the Formula One championship, a quiet 32-year-old Irishman is riding roughshod over British Isles flat racing. Aidan O’Brien’s horses have such a record of winning big races that other trainers are now almost reluctant to put their charges up against them. When O’Brien entered his colt Hawk Wing in the prestigious Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, England, a week ago, with stablemate Sholokhov as his pacemaker, they faced only three other horses. Hawk Wing and Sholokhov duly romped home. That success came only weeks after one of O’Brien’s outstanding colts, High Chaparral, led a one-two in the English Derby and a sweep of the first three places in the Irish Derby. Both High Chaparral and Hawk Wing were sired by champion stallion, Sadler’s Wells. The connection between O’Brien, his horses and Sadler’s Wells is the Coolmore Stud. Sadler’s Wells is one of 19 stallions standing at Coolmore’s Ballydoyle estate, where O’Brien trains, in County Tipperary, Ireland. Owned by John Magnier and former London bookmaker Michael Tabor, Coolmore is a hugely successful operation in Ireland, backed up by equally impressive studs in Kentucky and Australia, which together produce annual revenue of around $50 million.

O’Brien had a record year in 2001, when he produced 23 Group One race winners, and looks set to build on that this year. As a trainer he could be limited only by the horses he has to work with. With an endless supply of Coolmore stars, he can rule racing for years.

Numbers Game
Next year’s world cup in South Africa faced disruption from the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League, after the country’s United Cricket Board (UCB) said it would abandon quotas for the selection of black players in national and senior provincial cricket teams. Previously, the inclusion of four black players on each team was mandatory, but early this month the ucb said that changes within the sport had made such quotas redundant-an idea supported by several of South Africa’s black players. But the anc Youth League called the move “sad and shameful” and vowed to disrupt the 2003 tournament. By midweek, however, after a tense meeting between cricket and government officials, the ucb appeared to make a conciliatory U-turn, declaring that the country’s 14-man squad for the World Cup would have at least five black players.

No Day in The Country
Think cycling isn’t a dangerous sport? Try telling that to those riders injured last week in the grueling Tour de France cycling race, a three-week event where spectacular pile-ups are as common as spectacular scenery. During Thursday’s fifth stage, for example, almost two dozen riders were caught in a massive crash about 20 km from the finish. Eight riders were hurt, including Italy’s Marco Pinotti, who was rushed to hospital unconscious, with cuts, abrasions and a broken nose. (He required 11 stitches.) Despite having suffered a broken collarbone in the same incident, Belgian Rik Verbrugghe remounted his bicycle and continued to the finish, although he too later retired from the race. And the next stage brought more of the same, with Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Shefer hospitalized after sustaining facial injuries.

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