Heimir Hallgrimsson’s wait to register his first win as Jamaica’s Head coach has been prolonged, as his Reggae Boyz squandered an opportunity from the penalty spot, as well as a lengthy lead, and were held to a 1-1 stalemate by United States in their Concacaf Gold Cup Group A opening fixture on Saturday.

Defender Damion Lowe gave the Reggae Boyz a 13th minute lead, which was later cancelled out by substitute Brandon Vazquez in the 88th minute to rescue a point for United States in a contest that lived up to its billing in entertainment value for the massive crowd at the Soldier Field in Chicago.

Though they will be pleased with the point, the Jamaicans will also feel hard done given the fact that Leon Bailey should have converted from the 12-yard spot. But take nothing away from United States goalkeeper Matt Turner, whose save on his birthday proved the difference, though Reggae Boyz captain Andre Blake was also at his best between the sticks to spare their blushes.

Both teams started positively and signalled intentions with a few direct passes from the back into the attacking third to keep their respective defensive units on their toes.

Jamaica found a break in the eighth minute with Bailey finding debutant Demarai Gray out wide, the Everton winger showed glimpses of his nippy footwork and later played a dangerous pass inside that was cleared by the United States defence. 

The host responded almost immediately and caught Jamaica's defenders flat-footed with Jordan Morris finding loads of space in the final third to get a shot off from close range that was kept out by Blake who got down well to his left.

Still, United States struggled to deal with the pressure posed by the new look Reggae Boyz as again set pieces proved their undoing when the Jamaicans eventually broke the deadlock.

After Bailey was fouled by Jordan Morris, Gray delivered a perfectly weighted free kick which was expertly met by Lowe with a diving header that gave Turner in goal for United States, no chance at a save.

Jamaica should have doubled the lead from the penalty spot just before the half-hour mark when Amari’i Bell’s long throw inside the danger area was headed on by Michail Antonio to Kevon Lambert, who was taken out by Aidan Morris’s high boot.

Mexican referee Cesar Ramos quickly pointed to the spot and Bailey confidently stood over the ball, but the Aston Villa winger badly fluffed his lines, sending his penalty at a perfect height for Turner to save. He had a grand opportunity to make amends but steered the rebound wide as well.

That missed opportunity gave United States hope and they gradually found their rhythm, though they were assisted by some sloppy Reggae Boyz defending at times. One such occasion was in the latter stages of the first half, when Jordan Morris easily waltzed his way through on goal and it took some brilliance from Blake to deny him.

With momentum in their favour, United States came out lively on the resumption as Head coach BJ Callaghan made the adjustments with the introduction of Vazquez, Cristian Roldan and Djordje Mihailovic, who injected some tempo into their attacking thrust, as they probed for the equalizer.

A gorgeous interplay by United States in the 70th minute paved the way for Roldan to get a shot off from close range, but Blake again came up big to keep the Reggae Boyz in front.

As the game drew closer to its climax, the Jamaicans withdrew into a defensive posture, desperately trying to preserve their lead which would have not only handed Hallgrimsson his first win eight games, but also condemned United States to their first Gold Cup opening loss.

The victory would have also been Jamaica’s second against United States at this tournament following their semi-finals triumph in 2015.

However, all that went out the window when Vazquez pounced on a poor clearance from a Jesus Ferreira cross to put the ball away from close range.

This stalemate represents an opportunity for Trinidad and Tobago or St Kitts and Nevis to assume early pole position in the group, provided they separate themselves in Sunday’s fixture.

Teams: Jamaica -Andre Blake, Dexter Lembikisa, Damion Lowe, Adrian Mariappa, Amari’i Bell (Kemar Lawrence 65th), Bobby Reid, Joel Latibeaudiere, Kevon Lambert, Demarai Gray (Daniel Johnson 90th), Leon Bailey (Shamar Nicholson 90th), Michail Antonio (Corey Burke 75th)

Subs not used: Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Jahmali Waite, Dishon Bernard, Javain Brown, Kaheem Parris, Jonathan Russell, Dujuan Richards

Booked: Lowe (3rd), Lawrence (83rd), Blake (85th)

United States: Matthew Turner, Deandre Yedlin, Matt Miazga, Aaron Long (Jalen Neal 46th), John Tolkin (Brandon Vázquez 82nd), Alejandro Zendejas (Djordje Mihailovic 66th), Aidan Morris, James Sands, Jordan Morris (Cade Cowell 55th), Jesús Ferreira, Alan Soñora (Cristian Roldan 66th)

Subs not Used: Sean Johnson, Gabriel Slonina, Bryan Reynolds, Miles Robinson, Dejuan Jones, Gianluca Busio

Booked: None

Referee: Cesar Ramos (Mex)

Assistant referees: Alberto Morin (Mex); Marco Bisguerra (Mex)

Fourth Official: Fernando Guerrero (Mex)

Var: Erick Miranda (Mex)

Avar1: Jorge Perez (Mex)

The combination of title-chasing jockey, Reyan Lewis and champion trainer, Jason DaCosta was once again the dominant force, as they accounted for the most wins on Saturday's 10-race card, including fleet-footed filly She's My Destiny in the Supreme Ventures Limited (SVL) 22nd Anniversary Trophy feature.

Lewis, who started the day on 50 wins, extended his lead atop the jockeys' standings with a dazzling four-timer that pushed him 16 wins ahead of closest pursuer Tevin Foster, three of those winners were saddled by DaCosta, who surpassed 200-career wins at Caymanas Park.

After DaCosta secured the milestone when Lewis piloted Tekapunt to five and a half-length victory over six-and-a-half furlong (1,300m) in the fifth event, the duo made it a quick two-in-two with three-year-old bay filly MPRS Links, who won by a head in a maiden condition race over seven furlongs (1,400m).

The natural hat-trick was completed in fine style by She’s My Destiny, who romped the three-year-olds and upwards Graded Stakes/Open Allowance contest over five-and-a-half furlongs (1,100m) by three and a quarter length.

She's My Destiny, a five-year-old chestnut mare made amends for a dismal fifth place behind stablemates I Am Fred, King Arthur, and Miniature Man in the Distinctly Irish Trophy on June 3, after being stretched out to nine furlongs and 25 yards (1,820m).

Though she was uncharacteristically slow out of the gates on this occasion, Lewis quickly got the filly into her running in the small six-horse field, and before long she was breathing down the neck of leader Yellowstone (Jordan Barrett).

However, it wasn't until the straightened in the homestretch that S&A Syndicate-owned She’s My Destiny hit top stride and easily swept by Yellowstone before pulling away for a comfortable win in the end. She stopped the clock in a decent 1:06.2, behind splits of 23.2 and 46.2 seconds.

King Arthur (Javaniel Patterson) and Miniature Man (Abigail Able), also from DaCosta's stables, were second and third respectively, with Yellowstone fading into fourth.

Lewis then added another to his tally when he booted home the Gregg Fennell-conditioned Ras Emanuel in the eighth event. Fennell, who was registering his second career win as a trainer, previously worked with DaCosta as his assistant.

Meanwhile, former champion jockey Anthony Thomas had a double, winning the last two events aboard Joyful for Patrick Lynch and Essential Quality for Oral Hayden. Lynch earlier won the first event with Traditional Lady ridden by Patterson.

Racing continues on Sunday with another 10-race card. First post is at 11:45 am.

Frankie Dettori may have come away empty handed from the final day of his last ever Royal Ascot – but the affection felt for the rider was still palpable throughout the racecourse that has been the scene of so much success.

The Italian will bow out at the end of the year, meaning his tour of this season’s fixtures is a farewell to the sport he has dominated for decades.

The Gold Cup is the feature race of the five days and Dettori’s triumph seemed to be fated as he guided John and Thady Gosden’s Courage Mon Ami to victory when rolling the dice for the last time on Thursday.

The remainder of the week could not reach quite the same high note in terms of his rides, but there was another significant moment as the jockey and his wife were a part of the royal procession that is led by the King and Queen from Windsor Castle to the course.

“I was sad this morning but once I was up and running doing things, I went to Windsor Castle to have lunch with the King and the Queen,” Dettori said.

“I didn’t eat at all, I had a full-fat Coca Cola and I looked across and the King wasn’t eating himself. We were both fasting, I don’t know why because I was riding and he wasn’t – he must be on a diet!

“It’s been really amazing, I’ve been pulled left, right and centre by everyone, cheered by everyone so it’s been very overwhelming, but I haven’t had time to get emotional. I’ll enjoy this moment, I’m looking forward to a nice beer actually – but don’t tell anyone that!

“The royal procession was amazing, to see all the people there. Then I rode in five races back-to-back, I’m done!

“It was an amazing experience to look at the grandstand. The whole ride here, the love the people have for the royals, flags, kids, picnics next to the road, banners, shouting, cheering – amazing. I was the last carriage so by the time they got to me they forgot! But it was an amazing experience.”

Dettori has recorded 81 Royal Ascot victories and though there is some sadness at leaving it behind, he is not short of memories as second only to Lester Piggott as the most successful rider the showpiece fixture has ever seen

“It’s 81 and every one is special. I’d be here all day talking about all of them, but the last Gold Cup was the biggest race of the week and to win that was amazing,” he said.

“My wife is presenting the last trophy and she’s cross with me that I’m not riding! It will take a while to sink in, but you’ve got to look at the positive side of it, I’ve had a real good time.

“This week has been so hard, but I loved it. It hasn’t hit me yet that it’s my last Royal Ascot because it’s been so good, I won the Gold Cup, had four winners, got past 80 which is what I wanted to do. I’m sure I will be sad, but for now I’m just too tired to cry!

I’m looking forward to a nice dinner, I will take a few days off with my wife and then regroup and start again.

“It has been sensational. I can still claim that I retired second at the all-time best meeting in the world.

“I’m not going to die! I’m riding another four months so don’t make me feel sad, I’m still around!”

Ryan Moore took the honours in the last race of the meeting – receiving his trophy from Catherine Dettori – and indeed for the week as he was crowned top jockey for the 10th time. He paid a warm tribute to his long-time colleague and rival.

“It’s hard to know what to say, we’ll miss him, but he still has a bit to go yet,” he said.

“I remember Frankie riding for my grandfather when I was small, the reality is he is the most beautiful rider you’ve ever seen and if you wanted to build a jockey that is how you’d build one.

“He’s an unbelievable talent, he’s a tough boy as well. He’s always wanted to be at the top and he’s stayed there for 35 years – that takes some doing.”

Ryan Moore landed his sixth and final winner of the week as Dawn Rising justified favouritism in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Trained by Joseph O’Brien, the six-year-old was having just his sixth run on the Flat, but he is a Grade Three winner over hurdles.

Never far from the pace, Dawn Rising had to be rousted along some way out by Moore but he kept on finding for pressure.

Typewriter then burst through against the rail looking a huge threat under Oisin Murphy but soon faltered and it was The Grand Visir who laid down the final challenge, going down by half a length. Run For Oscar stayed on for third.

Dawn Rising, a rare 2-1 winning favourite this week, was providing O’Brien with his second winner of the meeting after the success of Okita Soushi.

The Sugar Boyz are preparing for their historic first match in the Concacaf Gold Cup against Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale.

At training on Thursday morning, Coach Austin Dico Huggins said the team celebrated their qualification to the Gold Cup, but are now focused on their match on Sunday.

“We already celebrated. We already had our fun. So now...we are at the training field getting ready for our game and Sunday," Huggins said from the training pitch of DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

"The players are very happy to be in this situation. So, we are now ready to work," he added.

Coach Huggins made it clear that St. Kitts and Nevis is not just content with qualifying, but are prepared to compete with the other teams in the tournament.

“We are here to compete. We're small but as a local saying always goes, we're small but we tallawah. So we're gonna be there competing, working hard to ensure that we are successful and we get the job done,” Huggins said.

Meanwhile, for the St. Kitts Nevis fans in the diaspora who have been attending the games, Coach Huggins expressed appreciation and is looking forward to the continued support of fans at home and in the US.

The Sugar Boyz will play Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday at the DRV Pink Stadium in Fort Lauderdale at 3:30 pm, followed by the United States on Wednesday, June 28 at 9:30 pm at Citypark, St. Louis, and Jamaica on July 2nd at 7 pm at The Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara.

 

Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore picked up the top trainer and jockey awards for the week at Royal Ascot.

Finishing with four winners, O’Brien was landing his 12th trainer title and Moore his 10th jockeys’ crown following his six victories – fittingly taking the closing race, the Queen Alexandra Stakes, with the Joseph O’Brien-trained Dawn Rising.

The highlight for both was the emphatic success of Paddington in the St James’s Palace Stakes on the opening afternoon.

O’Brien said: “It is a privilege for us, we are in a very privileged position and really appreciate it.

“The team make it all happen for us all. We really appreciate it, it’s great to be a part of it.

“I suppose it is very hard to get away from Paddington (as highlight), he looks very different. He has come out of the race fine.

“We had plenty of placed horses too, and we have been delighted that they were placed.”

Saluting Moore, O’Brien added: “Ryan is a superstar, that’s the word that describes him best.”

Frankie Dettori was out of luck on his final Royal Ascot ride as Knockbrex trailed home well beaten in the Golden Gates Stakes won by Burdett Road.

Dettori went into an early lead on Charlie Johnston’s charge, but the writing was on the wall before the turn for home and he quickly backpeddled.

That left Liberty Lane in front but he too paid for his early exertions, as Neil Callan made stealthy progress on Michael Bell’s three-year-old.

Burdett Road (20-1) went several lengths clear and the race looked over. However, a combination of tiredness and being in front on his own meant he was in danger of being caught.

Lion Of War, briefly stuck in traffic earlier in the straight, came with a late rattle but the 9-2 joint-favourite could only close to within three-quarters of a length.

It was a second winner of the week for Callan having won the Queen Anne on Triple Time.

Saint Lawrence returned to winning ways in the Wokingham Stakes to oblige on his first start for Archie Watson and provide Hollie Doyle with a third victory at this year’s Royal Ascot .

A Listed winner at two for Roger Varian, the five-year-old had run several good races since but failed to get his head in front.

After two further runs for Varian this season, owner John Deer decided to move him to Watson, already on the mark twice this week with Bradsell and Rhythm N Hooves, both ridden by Doyle.

Drawn highest of all in stall 30, the high numbers looked a long way behind at halfway as the Swedish raider Duca Di Como set a blistering gallop on the far side.

Just over a furlong out the pace appeared to collapse in that group, though, allowing those drawn high to close up.

It was Doyle and Saint Lawrence (22-1) who finished fastest of all, to beat Apollo One by a length with Juan Le Pins third and Mums Tipple fourth for Frankie Dettori.

Pyledriver once again showed his liking for Ascot when defying an absence of almost a year to win the Hardwicke Stakes.

The hugely popular six-year-old has been beset by niggling injuries since winning the King George V And Queen Elizabeth Stakes in July last year.

Winner of the King Edward VII Stakes at this meeting in 2020, he looked to have hampered his chance in the first half-mile by running extremely keenly.

PJ McDonald was riding his first Royal Ascot winner having replaced the injured Martin Dwyer, while trainers William Muir and Chris Grassick have worked wonders getting their stable star back to full fitness.

As if to advertise his superiority over his rivals, once he hit the front Pyledriver (7-2) wandered in front of Changingoftheguard and West Wind Blows but went on to cross the line a length and a quarter clear of the latter.

While acknowledging that playing in Australia has assisted in her development as a player to arguably become the best goal shooter in the world, Jamaica's ace Jhaniele Fowler says international players have given the Super Netball competition more flavour and flair.

Fowler, who represents the West Coast Fever shared her views in the midst of a debate about whether Super Netball should have a cap on international players, who currently make up 17.5 per cent of all players in the tournament.

Fowler, a five-time league MVP, believes the competition should remain open.

“International players do come in and make the competition rounded and exciting. We do bring a little bit of different flavour, a bit of flair, but just more talents and more skill set,” Fowler said in a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.

Though the Australia Football League (AFL), the Australia Football League Women’s (AFLW) and the A-Leagues don’t have any official caps on international players –with the caveat that salary caps can limit star imports –the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) limits imports to two per team, while the National Basketball League (NBL) is capped at three.

In a global context, the Women’s Super League soccer competition in England has a “home grown players” clause where in a squad of 25 players registered in their squad cap, there must be at least 15 registered home-grown players. A home-grown player is someone who, irrespective of their nationality, has been registered with a club affiliated to the Football Association for three seasons – or 36 months – before their 21st birthday.

In the UK-based Netball Superleague, teams are permitted up to two overseas players, but a team cannot have more than one overseas player in the attacking, midcourt or defensive positions on the court at once.

But, where Super Netball is concerned, Fowler is one of seven Jamaican players in the Australian league, including Thunderbirds defensive duo Shamera Sterling and Latanya Wilson and Collingwood’s Shimona Nelson.

For Fowler, moving to Australia has made her a more complete player, as she pointed to improvements to her craft under elite coaches and, by extension, playing against the best in the world each week. But in the same breath, she is of the view that it is also a two-way street, as the Jamaican players have made the game more exciting.

“They’re amazing, they’re so athletic,” said Fowler.

“Just week in, week out, when you see the Jamaican players go out there, the commentators, everyone, has to talk about them because they have made such an impact in this league in their teams,” she added.

Former Diamonds head coach, and a current coaching mentor, Lisa Alexander, didn’t think there should be a cap on international players, but her stance was different while she was Australia’s coach.

“As a national coach with a different purpose, I thought differently in the past and did call for restrictions to be two imports per team. If we eventually become the best in the world like the NBA [is to basketball], then we must have a draft and salary cap,” she said.

Alexander explained that, without a cap, the Super Netball competition would continue to provide a world-class competition for Australian athletes to compete in, week in, week out.

Netball legend and Hall of Famer Jill McIntosh praised the strength of the league but pushed for a cap on the number of international players allowed in the competition.

McIntosh, who captained Australia to their 1983 World Cup win, said that while imports have been good for the league, she is worried that without a limit, potential Diamonds players could be benched.

“We’re not in the Olympics, so our World Cup is our pinnacle,” McIntosh said. “I want to see the sport survive and thrive.”

Meanwhile, veteran netballer Ash Brazill said she would like to see more teams added to the competition to give more opportunities to local players, given the spots taken up by international players.

“I can’t wait to see extra teams added to our league because in the end there are only 80 spots, and we have 25 internationals. It’s pretty hard as Australians to get one of those 55 spots that are left. I think we definitely need some more teams for the Australian pool,” said Brazill.

However, Fowler reiterated international players also improve world netball by affording more opportunities for players in countries that don’t have avenues to develop or play.

“I reckon it should just stay open because, if you look, there are still teams in the league that do not really have an international player on their team yet. I reckon I can safely say that, and if anything, some teams just maybe have one international player,” Fowler argued.

She continued: “But I reckon, yeah, bring the international players in, also give them the experience because other countries don’t have the competition back home to develop players.

“So, it would be good for netball on a whole because then you will see that the competition is not just Australia, New Zealand, England or Jamaica in top four – other countries are putting out and delivering as well. And then netball is just going to be even more exciting. You just don’t want to see the same countries winning all the time.”

That international rivalry will be put on show at the upcoming World Cup in Cape Town in next month, but first Fowler has a Super Netball semi-final to win.

Despite West Coast having an inconsistent season with “ups and downs”, the 36-year-old Fowler said they are proud to have finished in third spot, meaning they take on Melbourne Vixens in a knockout grand final rematch in which the Fever will have home-court advantage.

“Definitely, it will be pretty good coming up against the Vixens. They’re going to be a really tough team to beat, but we know that we have what it takes to win,” Fowler declared.

“The green army, they’re really loud, and they also always help to get us over the line, so we’re going to make sure to capitalize on having the home court,” she ended.

Khaadem caused an 80-1 upset in the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Winner of the Stewards’ Cup in 2019, he was fourth in the corresponding race in 2020 but had always come up short when previously tried in Group One company.

Trained by Charlie Hills, he was given a typically patient ride by Jamie Spencer, who was recording his second big-priced winner of the week after the 50-1 success of Witch Hunter.

Highfield Princess, second in the King’s Stand on Tuesday, was prominent throughout leading one group, while The Astrologist and Kinross led the group on the far side.

The William Haggas-trained Sacred hit the front over a furlong out and it looked like she was just going to do enough to hold on, but Spencer had bided his time exquisitely and produced Khaadem to perfection.

Sacred was second, while the gallant Highfield Princess hung on for third.

Age Of Kings bounced back from his run in the Irish 2,000 Guineas to win the Jersey Stakes for Aidan O’Brien at Royal Ascot.

Down the field behind stablemate Paddington at the Curragh, he was the second string in this Group Three with Ryan Moore preferring the claims of The Antarctic, who never got involved.

Wayne Lordan was the man on board and he was never far from the early pace, set by Frankie Dettori on the favourite Covey.

With two furlongs to run Covey’s stride began to shorten and that left Age Of Kings in front and it became a question of what he had left in the tank.

Challengers emerged from out of the pack, the best of which was James Ferguson’s Zoology, while Streets Of Gold also made good late headway.

But Age Of Kings was able to hold on by a length and win at 22-1 to give O’Brien a fourth winner of the week.

O’Brien said: “He had a very good run in the Irish Guineas if you look back at it and it was his first run of the year. He’s made great progress from it. He’s worked a length or two off The Antarctic who we were worried about the trip, but we were sure this fellow would enjoy it.

“The form was there and Wayne kept things uncomplicated. He said the horse tried very hard and would get a mile.”

Lordan said: “He had a run in the Guineas because he was a long time off the track, and finished eight lengths behind Paddington, so for the first run of the year to do that is not too bad.

“It’s great to be coming over here for rides, especially for Aidan and to get a winner is fabulous. Any day here is special.”

Age Of Kings bounced back from a disappointing run in the Irish 2,000 Guineas to win the Jersey Stakes for Aidan O’Brien at Royal Ascot.

Down the field behind stablemate Paddington at the Curragh, he was the second string in this Group Three with Ryan Moore preferring the claims of The Antarctic, who never got involved.

Wayne Lordan was the man on board and he was never far from the early pace, set by Frankie Dettori on the favourite Covey.

With two furlongs to run Covey’s stride began to shorten and that left Age Of Kings in front and it became a question of what he had left in the tank.

Challengers emerged from out of the pack, the best of which was James Ferguson’s Zoology, while Streets Of Gold also made good late headway.

But Age Of Kings was able to hold on by a length and win at 22-1 to give O’Brien a fourth winner of the week.

Snellen just held off the late lunge of favourite Pearls And Rubies to provide Champion Hurdle-winning trainer Gavin Cromwell with a second Royal Ascot winner.

Sent off at 12-1 having won on her only previous outing at Limerick, she was produced with a well-timed challenge by Gary Carroll.

With a furlong to run there were any amount still in with a chance, but Carroll’s mount took a length out of the field.

That should have put the race to bed but Snellen began to drift to her left, allowing Pearls And Rubies and Ryan Moore a chance to close the gap. Unfortunately for favourite-backers, though, there was still a head between them when the line came.

Golden Mind and 125-1 shot Oddyssey dead-heated for third.

Cromwell said: “She’s been nice from the word go and is just progressing all the time.

“Her dam won over a mile and a half so I think she’ll stay further. I haven’t thought about Classics, we’ll enjoy today first.”

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