Alan King expressed his delight after the victory of Westerton at Sandown gave him his 2,000th career victory.

Undoubtedly in the top echelons of dual-purpose trainers, the Barbury Castle handler has trained major winners over jumps and on the Flat.

His Cheltenham Festival heroes include the likes of Voy Por Ustedes, My Way De Solzen, Katchit and Edwardstone, while Trueshan has been a real star on the level of late – landing the Long Distance Cup on British Champions Day three times to go with wins in the Prix du Cadran and Goodwood Cup.

Sent off at 100-30, Westerton was given a positive ride by Ryan Moore in the Darley British EBF Maiden Stakes, making all to beat Middle Earth by an emphatic four and a half lengths, with Frankie Dettori and favourite A Dublin Lad back in third.

“It’s a bit special, as that’s number 2,000,” King told Racing TV.

“We’ve kept it quiet. We’ve been working away – it’s been a long time coming these last few weeks, and then suddenly we’ve had four winners in two days. I’m very proud of it.

“We’ve been lucky to have some great horses at Cheltenham, Royal Ascot, I can’t single any out. It’s a great achievement for everyone at home as well. We’ll have a few tonight.

“I think we’ve had about 350 on the Flat, everyone thinks it’s something fairly new but we’ve been on the Flat a long time.

“I’m delighted with today and this horse has wonderful owners, they flew down from Aberdeen this morning and are a delight to train for. I’m chuffed for them.”

Asked for his drink of choice when celebrations begin, the Scot quipped: “It will be a mix!”

Elsewhere on the Esher card, the feature Molson Coors Scurry Stakes saw another significant juvenile success for trainer Karl Burke, as Lady Hamana (9-1) took the Listed spoils in the hands of Clifford Lee.

Running Lion will bid for Classic redemption when she attempts to give John and Thady Gosden back-to-back victories in the Prix de Diane Longines at Chantilly.

A daughter of Clarehaven’s multiple Group One winner Roaring Lion, she has been unbeaten in four since finishing fourth on debut last summer and took her form to the next level when claiming the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket last month.

That earned her a shot at the Betfred Oaks, but she got upset in the stalls and was ultimately withdrawn, meaning a frustrated Oisin Murphy could only watch on as stablemate Soul Sister stormed to Classic glory.

She is reported to be none the worse for that eventful few moments at the start at Epsom and will now get a second chance to secure Classic honours and follow in the footsteps of Star Of Seville and Nashwa, who have both won this race for the Gosden team in the past.

“It was a very unfortunate freak incident at Epsom when she kicked out and broke the back gate of the stalls which meant they weren’t able to open,” said Thady Gosden.

“But obviously she didn’t have a race there and came out of it with nothing serious fortunately. She has been in good form since.

“We are drawn 12 of 15 which isn’t ideal at Chantilly, of course, although in terms of ground it’s quick there at the moment and even though there may be some thunderstorms around Sunday, she is probably a versatile filly when it comes to ground.

“Her father liked top of the ground and she is out of a Dansili mare and they normally like top of the ground. However, she won the Pretty Polly really well on slower going.

“After her first run all she has done is improve and has done nothing wrong – she has a great mind on her and always puts her best foot forward.”

Fellow British raider Novakai brings solid Group-race form to the table having chased home Polly Pott and Commissioning in the May Hill and Fillies’ Mile respectively last term. She returned to finish second to Soul Sister in the Musidora Stakes at York.

This has always been the target for Karl Burke’s filly who runs in the colours of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid and will attempt to give the Spigot Lodge handler his second triumph in the race after Laurens in 2018.

Joseph O’Brien’s Caroline Street finished second to Derby hero Auguste Rodin in the Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown as a two-year-old and has won her sole outing this season when upped to 10 furlongs at Naas.

Brother Donnacha and father Aidan have won this prestigious contest in two of the last three years and it would be fitting if he could add his name to the roll of honour with the talented daughter of No Nay Never.

“She’s in good nick and she got a very good draw,” said the Owning Hill handler. “It’s a super hot race, but she goes there with a chance.

“I thought it was a great run in Naas, she sat back and hit the line really well – I thought she was impressive. This race has been the target since then, it was going to be the Diane or the Pretty Polly (at the Curragh).”

Meanwhile, the all-conquering master of Ballydoyle saddles Poule d’Essai des Pouliches fifth Never Ending Story, with her big-race pilot Ryan Moore expecting her to improve on that showing now upped in distance.

“This is about as deep and competitive a Classic as you will find, with a lot of talent on show and of course, with 15 runners, you are going to need all the luck going in here,” he told Betfair.

“I don’t think we saw the best of my filly at all when she was fifth in the French 1000 Guineas last time. She didn’t run badly but she didn’t fire and pick up as I was expecting, as I thought she had a big shot at winning that race.

“However, I think she remains a Group One filly and I hope she can prove it over a trip that she is bred to get. She could just surprise some fillies with more obvious claims.”

“Let’s play football!” was the message from former Reggae Boyz coach Rene Simoes as he announced that he will be in the island on July 16 at the Porus Football Festival in Manchester.

Simoes, who famously led the Reggae Boyz to their first, and only so far, FIFA World Cup berth at the 1998 showcase in France.

Simoes says he will be joined in Manchester by some members of that famous team.

“Dear Jamaicans, I have an invitation for all of you. Sunday, July 16, I will be in the Porus community in Manchester for the Porus Festival. I’ll be there and I want to play too,” said the 70-year old Brazilian in a video message on social media on Friday.

“Many of my former players from the national team in 1998 will be there too. Let’s play football! Let’s make it a beautiful celebration for the 25th anniversary of our qualification to the 1998 World Cup in France. See you there. Maximum respect,” he added.

Simoes had two spells as head coach of the Jamaica national team. He was the Reggae Boyz head man from 1994-2000 in his first spell then returned to lead the team in 2008.

Royal runner Circle Of Fire will be considered for both the Queen’s Vase and the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot next week.

There could be as many as eight horses carrying the famous purple and scarlet colours of the King and Queen at the five-day meeting, although connections are still weighing up the options for a couple of them.

Among those is the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Circle Of Fire, an unexposed three-year-old who finished third in the Lingfield Derby Trial on the second run of his Classic campaign.

The Almanzor colt holds entries in a pair of Group Two contests, Wednesday’s Queen’s Vase over a mile and three-quarters and Friday’s King Edward VII Stakes over a mile and a half.

The King and Queen’s racing and bloodstock adviser, John Warren, said: “We are going to look at the King Edward VII for Circle Of Fire, just because Sir Michael Stoute holds him in high regard. We think he is a stamina horse.

“He has just been a big, physical improver, so we think he is one of those horses, typically trained by Sir Michael, that has potentially got some improvement in him. He prefers to bring them along very quietly and nicely.

“He is a galloper and there is a great temptation to go for the Queen’s Vase, but before the commitment is made, we are just going to look at the Edward VII and get our heads around it.

“Hopefully, he is a horse on the up, as it were. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him. We hope he has a bright future.”

The rare prospect of two royal runners in the same race could occur, with Market Value also entered in the Queen’s Vase.

Trained by William Haggas, the daughter of Siyouni is out of Estimate, the mare who made history by becoming the first to win the Ascot Gold Cup for a reigning monarch, when famously obliging for the late Queen a decade ago.

“We have made an entry for Market Value in the Queen’s Vase,” said Warren. “She is the daughter of Estimate, but she is more of a free-going type. She is a filly who is only just coming to hand now.

“She is totally unexposed and she is only rated 82, so you could argue that on face value, she shouldn’t be qualified for anything at the moment. She is only on the up and learning her trade. She is a filly with plenty to come, we hope.”

Market Value has only had three outings in her career. Yet she has improved on each occasion and on her second run this term, the three-year-old relished the step up to 10 furlongs in romping to a three-and-a-half-length success in a fillies’ maiden at Ripon.

“The further she went, the more she looked like she was liking it,” Warren added. “If she wasn’t such a free-going sort, you’d have to feel confident she’d stay a mile and three-quarters, being a daughter of a Gold Cup winner and Siyouni, who is well capable of getting something to stay. That will be the caveat.

“This is the only real race for her and we are going to take it to the wire and see if she does get in.

“If William Haggas is happy with her on the morning of declarations, which at the moment he is, as she worked nicely on Thursday morning with an older filly, he’s confident she will run a nice race.

“She’ll take her chance if she can get in and if he’s happy running to the wire.

“So, we have potentially two for the Vase. There was a back-up plan for her to run somewhere else on Saturday if she doesn’t get in.

“It will be very interesting. She is on very good form, so wherever she goes, she’s going to run a nice race, but that’s the caveat, whether she will really stay if she is able. If she runs, she will almost certainly be ridden by Tom Marquand.”

Desert Hero, also trained by Haggas, will will head to the King George V Handicap on Thursday, on the back of being a beaten favourite in the London Gold Cup on his seasonal bow at Newbury last month.

“I think we think he wants a mile and a half,” said Warren. “He is by Sea The Stars and I think this race will suit him very nicely.

“He has the right profile for the race. I’d be hopeful he will run a nice race and I think Tom Marquand will ride, if he can do the weight.”

The John and Thady Gosden-trained pair Saga and Reach For The Moon will respectively run in the Wolferton Stakes on Tuesday and Royal Hunt Cup on Wednesday, with Frankie Dettori aboard.

There will also be a chance for young jockey and 3lb claimer Harry Davies, who comes in for the ride on the Andrew Balding-trained King’s Lynn in the Wokingham on Saturday. The six-year-old was seventh in the King’s Stand in both 2021 and 2022.

“Andrew is really happy with where he is,” said Warren. “He has run some very nice races at Ascot without getting right on top of them, but nothing would surprise us.

“It’s a handicap – anything can happen in a handicap. The horse is on good form, he likes the track well. He’s got lots of things going for him and a 3lb claimer might help.”

Educator represents Haggas in Friday’s Duke of Edinburgh Handicap over 12 furlongs.

Warren said: “He is in the Copper Horse, but we don’t really want to experiment over a mile and six furlongs, so if he can get into the Duke of Edinburgh that would be his race. Gelding has definitely helped him.

“He has been threatening for some time and his last race proved he does stay a mile and a half. I think he has grown up a lot now and I think he is a nice prospect, a lovely sound horse, who is just coming of age now.”

Candle Of Hope completes the royal team and goes over a mile in the Sandringham on Friday.

Her trainer Richard Hughes said: “She won her maiden at Newbury and then was Listed-placed when third in the Denford there. Then she was unlucky at Lingfield at the start of the year in the Listed Spring Cup.

“We go there claiming three pounds off a mark of 91. She might be competitive, although a stiff mile might catch her out.

“I’m very honoured to be training for the King. I’m the first Irishman to train for him, which makes me very proud.”

Frankie Dettori would “love nothing better” than to ride a winner for the King and Queen at Royal Ascot.

Racing’s poster boy, in his last year in the saddle before retirement, will wear the famous purple and scarlet colours at least twice at the five-day meeting which starts on Tuesday.

And he hopes to raise the roof in front of the royal party, who are expected to attend each day.

“It was an honour to ride for the (late) Queen. I always wore those silks with pride and nothing has changed,” said Dettori.

“I am excited to ride for King Charles and Queen Camilla. I would love nothing better than to ride a winner for them next week. A royal winner would raise the roof. It would be fantastic and I’m obviously really looking forward to the meeting.”

One of the late Queen’s greatest loves was the thoroughbred and she took a keen interest in racing and breeding throughout her life.

She had 24 winners at Royal Ascot, the last of which came in 2020 when Tactical landed the Windsor Castle Stakes. Her first came just days after her coronation in 1953 with Choir Boy beating 20 rivals to land the Royal Hunt Cup.

Following her death in September, this will be the first Royal Ascot for the King and Queen, with the potential for eight runners in the 35 races.

John Warren, the King and Queen’s racing and bloodstock adviser, says the excitement is building in royal circles.

“We are hopeful the King and Queen will race through the week and they will be very much following their runners. They are really very much looking forward to a wonderful week’s racing, which is tremendous,” Warren told the PA news agency.

“Everyone is excited by their participation and the fact they are really engaged and looking forward to it.

“The King understands the bigger picture. He is more than interested in racing. It is something he’d heard in osmosis all his life.

“What with the Queen’s enthusiasm, racing is lucky to have two great advocates, people who are engaged in the sport we all love.”

Dettori will ride royal runners Saga and Reach For the Moon, who are trained by John Gosden in partnership with son, Thady.

At last year’s meeting, Saga ran a cracker under Dettori in the Britannia Stakes, finishing a head second to Thesis.

The son of Invincible Spirit is again among the main hopes for the royals, having opened his four-year-old campaign with a head defeat to King Of Conquest over nine furlongs at Newmarket.

Warren said: “On day one, we have Saga in the Wolferton Stakes.

“It was a nice run last time at Newmarket. It will be interesting. We don’t have too many fears about him staying a little bit further, so we feel the mile and two (furlongs) should be fine for him.

“The Royal Hunt Cup was a back-up as we didn’t know he would get into the Wolferton, as there are only 16 who can get in, so you have to give yourself a second string to the bow.

“He ran jolly well last year, so he is a capable horse.”

Dettori will also partner Reach For The Moon, who was expected to land the Hampton Court at the meeting last year, only for the 2-5 favourite to be downed by Claymore. He was also second at Royal Ascot in 2021, to Point Lonsdale in the Chesham.

After being gelded over the winter, the one-time Derby hope was last of seven on his seasonal bow in the Earl of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket.

He drops back to a mile for the Royal Hunt Cup on Wednesday.

“He will take his chance,” said Warren. “He has been rusty in a way and we just haven’t quite got him where the trainer wants to have him, but is on very good form now, so we are hopeful.

“Probably a mile is the right trip for him. A big field might help him, cover him up and be kidded along a little bit, and hopefully he’ll just get into his rhythm and then use his ability when it matters. Frankie will ride both.”

St. Kitts & Nevis, Martinique and Guadeloupe all advanced as action got underway in Concacaf Gold Cup qualifying at the DRV PNK stadium in Fort Lauderdale on Friday.

In the first match of the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup Prelims, Guadeloupe defeated Antigua and Barbuda 5-0 to move within one game of reaching the Gold Cup group stage for the fifth time in their history. 

Joshua Parker had the first good chance of the game for Antigua and Barbuda in the 11th minute but was unable to keep his shot on target. After that, the first half was largely controlled by Guadeloupe. Thierry Ambrose had two thunderous shots, but both were parried away by Antigua GK Nicholas Townsend. 

The breakthrough came in the 28th minute when Steven Solvet directed a corner kick into the back of the net with a towering header. It was Les Gwada Boys’ first goal against Antigua and Barbuda since 2010, after being shut out twice during the recent Nations League B tournament.

Just seconds before halftime, Andreaw Gravillon curled a free kick around the Antigua and Barbuda wall and off the post. The ball fell right to Jordan Tell, who tapped in to double the lead to 2-0 heading into the break.

It was more of the same after halftime. Tell had another close-range effort in the 55th minute but this time Townsend made a fantastic save to keep the Benna Boys in the game. It must be said that Townsend was nothing short of exceptional this afternoon.

Mohammed Hakeem had a breakaway with a chance to pull one back for Antigua in the 63rd minute but placed his shot just a few feet wide of the near post. However, the game was put to bed soon after in the 66th minute when Steven Davidas’ nifty chip beat Townsend and made it 3-0.

Luther Archimede would add a fourth, his first international goal, in the 70th minute. Guadeloupe would see out the rest of the game for a clean sheet, and Matthias Phaeton blasted home the fifth and final goal in the 93rd minute.

Les Gwada Boys will face the winner of Guyana-Grenada on Tuesday in the second preliminary round.

The day’s second game saw Martinique move one step closer to returning to the Gold Cup group stage with a hard fought 3-1 victory over Saint Lucia.

Saint Lucia came out aggressively and threatened twice in the opening six minutes with two long balls. Andrus Remy was just barely offside on the first and Dominic Alfred-Poleon’s attempt was blocked moments after. The tone was immediately set: this would not be a League A team easily overpowering a League C one.

Martinique would draw first blood in the 18th minute. Karl Fabien received the ball just inside the penalty area and coolly finished past Saint Lucia GK Vino Barclett into the side netting by the far post.

Martinique’s Kevin Fortune had an excellent chance to make it 2-0 in the 25th minute after a lovely give-and-go with Anthony Brighton Labeau, but his first touch was just a hair too strong and he wound up putting the ball over the top of the net.

But Saint Lucia were not going to go away quietly. A looping corner kick saw the ball fall to Reeco Hackett-Fairchild, and he took his chance expertly. A blast passed out-of-position Martinique GK Yannis Clementia knotted the game all up at 1-1 in the 40th minute.

Martinique nearly re-took the lead in the 56th minute when Labeau poked a ball towards goal from close range, but Barclett made a sensational diving stop to keep things even. 

Labeau would get his goal though, on a flexible finish in the 74th minute. Enrick Reuperne’s cross was just slightly behind, but Labeau was able to stretch back and get solid contact on the ball to give Martinique a 2-1 lead.

Despite a spirited effort from Saint Lucia to equalize, Patrick Burner would seal the deal for Martinique on the other end with a third goal in the 85th minute. 

Martinique will play the winner of Puerto Rico and Suriname on Tuesday for a spot in Group C alongside Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Panama.

In the final match of the day in the 2023 Gold Cup Prelims, Saint Kitts and Nevis got two saves from GK Julani Archibald to eliminate Curacao 3-2 in a hectic penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw in regulation.

The Sugar Boyz found themselves with a very early breakaway, with Jacob Hazel getting the ball behind the defense in just the third minute of play, but Curacao’s Leandro Bacuna was able to track back and run him down before Hazel could fire off a shot.

But it was Curaçao who struck first. Jurgen Locadia let loose a low strike from the top of the penalty area in the 22nd minute that just barely made it past Archibald, brushing off his fingertips but not hard enough to change trajectory. It was Locadia’s first international goal and gave Curacao a 1-0 lead at halftime.

In the second half, the Sugar Boyz again came right out of the gates with a good chance. Omari Sterling-James had a very solid effort from long range in the 49th minute that Curacao GK Eloy Room was forced to parry away.

The game settled into a pattern reminiscent of the first half, with Curacao largely in control but unable to break through with any truly excellent chances. Archibald deserves plaudits for his safe hands; he caught several balls that would have been quite dangerous had he allowed a rebound.

The moment of the evening came in the 83rd minute. Tiquanny Williams cut the ball back towards the penalty spot and Tyquan Terrell rocketed it straight into the top corner of the net for a dramatic late equalizer.

At 1-1 after the 90 minutes were up, the game proceeded to a penalty shootout. Archibald saved the first kick, and Room responded with an even finer save. The two sides exchanged goals for several frames before Archibald produced another quality save in the fourth round. Terrell hit his penalty, and Leandro Bacuna put Curacao’s fifth over the bar, sending Saint Kitts and Nevis into hysteria.

Saint Kitts and Nevis will now get ready to face the winner of French Guiana and Sint Maarten for a place in the Gold Cup group stage.


Richard Kingscote is looking forward to arguably his best ever book of rides at Royal Ascot.

Despite having originally being overlooked for Desert Crown – who now does not run – in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, he will be on Bay Bridge for Sir Michael Stoute as long as the ground is not considered too quick.

As well as the Champion Stakes winner, Infinite Cosmos is among the favourites for the Ribblesdale, Astro King heads the market for the Royal Hunt Cup and there will be several others trained by Stoute for Kingscote when Ryan Moore is required by Aidan O’Brien, including the promising Perfuse.

Kingscote said: “I’ve got plenty to look forward to next week, I’ll be very busy and hopefully I can get something on the board.

“I’ve got a few good chance, but I don’t know what is 100 per cent going to run.

“If Bay Bridge runs in the Prince of Wales’s he’ll run a great race and the filly in the Ribblesdale (Infinite Cosmos) would look to have a good chance.

“Then there’s the likes of Perfuse in the King George V and a few that look to have a good chance, but at this stage I’m just not sure if they’ll get in.

“I’ve got some nice rides, including the favourite in the Hunt Cup (Astro King) for Dan and Claire Kubler.”

Mawj and Tahiyra remain in the running for a Royal Ascot rematch after featuring in the nine fillies to stand their ground for the Coronation Stakes on Friday.

Saeed bin Suroor’s Mawj was a popular winner of the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, providing a welcome return to the big stage for her trainer, who has enjoyed so many great days in the past.

A daughter of Exceed And Excel, Mawj held off Tahiyra by a determined half-length under Oisin Murphy – form well advertised when the Dermot Weld-trained runner-up lifted the Irish equivalent at the Curragh.

Aidan O’Brien still has Breeders’ Cup winner Meditate in contention, after she finished sixth at Newmarket and immediately behind Tahiyra at the Curragh. Jackie Oh is another for Ballydoyle, with Mammas Girl (Richard Hannon), Queen For You (John and Thady Gosden), Remarquee (Ralph Beckett), Sounds Of Heaven (Jessica Harrington) and Comhra (Jim Bolger) also in the mix.

Star attraction in the 16 left for the Commonwealth Cup promises to be O’Brien’s Little Big Bear, who showed he is set to be a real force over sprinting trips when winning at Haydock, having returned to action over a mile in the 2000 Guineas.

In the 20-strong King Edward VII Stakes, all eyes will be on King Of Steel – second only to Auguste Rodin in the Derby.

Among the rivals to Roger Varian’s charge could be Arrest, who was sent off favourite at Epsom for Frankie Dettori and the Gosdens, but failed to handle the track on the fast ground and finished down the field in 10th place.

Dubai Mile (ninth), Adelaide River (eighth), Artistic Star (seventh), Military Order (14th) and San Antonio (11th) also ran at Epsom and could return next week.

The exciting Enfjaar could drop back to seven furlongs for the Jersey Stakes on the final day of Royal Ascot.

The Roger Varian-trained son of Lope De Vega downed Charlie Appleby’s Military Order amongst others over that trip in a red-hot Newmarket maiden in October – and confirmed the promise of that debut performance on his seasonal return when upped to a mile at Chelmsford, galloping to a professional six-length victory.

It was thought the Shadwell-owned son of Lope De Vega would head up in distance at the Royal meeting, with the Hampton Court mooted as a possible option.

But his name was missing from the six-day entries for that contest and with his handler keen to utilise the unbeaten colt’s proven speed, connections are considering a tilt at the seven-furlong Group Three which takes place on the Saturday of the summer showpiece.

“We didn’t feel it was the right time to go up in trip,” said Varian.

“You will see him in the entries for the Jersey and he is probably a miler as things stand. But having only had two runs he doesn’t qualify for the Britannia and he wasn’t in the St James’s Palace.

“He looks promising and he’s not short of pace and that is why we were reluctant to go 10 furlongs straight away with him. If he is a miler I think you get a kinder experience dropping back a furlong rather than racing over too far. Only time will tell if that is the right decision or not, but if he runs at Ascot it will be in the Jersey.

“You will see him entered for the race on Monday morning, but we’re still nine days away from the race and that is quite a long time in a horse’s life and a lot can change. I wouldn’t say it’s quite confirmed, but is possible you could see him in the Jersey.”

Meanwhile, The Platinum Queen will not be seen until next month at the earliest following a disappointing return at Haydock in the Temple Stakes.

Last year’s Prix de l’Abbaye winner did hold an entry for the King’s Stand Stakes on the opening day of the Royal meeting, but will be given all the time she needs following her lacklustre display on debut for the Carlburg Stables handler.

Varian continued: “She’s fine, she obviously didn’t run very well at Haydock and the feeling is for whatever reason she needs a bit of time to get her racing head and her racing body back to where it needs to be.

“She might run in July, but she won’t run again in June.”

Though disgruntled with the Jamaica Football Federation's (JFF) style of leadership and, by extension, the way they have been treated as players, Reggae Girl Deneisha Blackwood says the team is still focused on the task at hand and will be aiming to execute efficiently at the FIFA Women’s World Cup next month.

Blackwood and her teammates in a scathing letter released on Thursday, outlined a number of areas of concerns in how the JFF goes about business, chief among them are subpar planning, transportation, accommodations, training conditions, compensation, communication, nutrition and accessibility to proper resources.

These issues the Girlz revealed, remain unresolved despite the fact that they were shared with the federation on multiple occasions.

The Reggae Girlz also pointed out that their preparations for the July 20 to August 20 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, have been impacted by what they say is the federation’s “extreme disorganization”.

This, as they were promised a two-game sendoff series on home soil, which has not materialized due to logistical issues. As such, they are currently engaged in a camp which is expected to end next Wednesday. 

"It is unfortunate that we don't have a game for the sendoff, but I think the girls are focused, we are having a good training camp and we are just trying to prepare and not think about the difficulties that we are facing. So, the main focus is just to get better for the World Cup," Blackwood said.

"I just want us to be in the best mental state as a group and I think once everybody has the right mindset we will do well. I just want to support my teammates whether I'm on or off the field, that has always been my biggest thing being a part of this Reggae Girlz setup, the way we play with and for each other, so that is the most important thing for us now," she added.

With the team vibe in the right place, coupled with the fact that competition for final spots to the global showpiece are still up for grabs, Blackwood said they are gradually identifying those ingredients that gets everyone motivated, both during practice and game time.

The 26-year-old left full-back used the Cup of Nations tournament in Australia in February -- where the lost 0-3 to Spain and the host nation, and 2-3 to Czech Republic --and their most recent camp in England, a 2-0 win over Sheffield United, as good examples of the strides they have made.

"I think for the last couple camps, this is the best we have had in terms of chemistry and everybody buying into what is required. As coach said it is a very competitive environment and people are fighting for their positions, but we have come together as a team and I think our chemistry is so good right now," Blackwood noted.

"We left Australia on a high and even though we didn't win any of the games, I think the takeaway is that we are not afraid of teams. They were surprised that we came out the way we did but we wanted to keep surprising people because a lot of people don't think we are good or don't expect us to do well," she opined.

That said, Blackwood believes that the addition of English-born players, Rebecca Spencer, Drew Spence, Atlantic Primus, Vyan Sampson and Paige Bailey-Gayle, along with young players Solai Washington, Kameron Simmonds, Peyton McNamara and goalkeeper Liya Brooks, adds more value to the programme when compared to their debut World Cup appearance in France in 2019.

"I think it's good that we brought a lot of players in, maybe they didn't play in the last World Cup, but they have a lot of experience in football especially the English players and I think that's a good thing for us. They bring a lot of professionalism to the team, and I think everybody is feeding off of it and bringing good energy.

"I also think the younger players also bring a lot to the table as they not only keep us on our toes, but we can motivate them and they feed off us also because they are the next generation of Reggae Girlz, so having them there is definitely something good for us and good for the programme on a whole," Blackwood stated.

At the upcoming World Cup, Lorne Donaldson’s 43rd-ranked Reggae Girlz will once again come face-to-face with Brazil, France and Panama in Group F, and Blackwood is confident that they can progress beyond the group stages.

"Football is a very funny game so people can say stuff, but we go into every game like we have never played the team before and so I think that is the type of mentality we have, and we are not just going to go there and let them come and just walk over us," she declared. 


Aidan O’Brien is confident Emily Dickinson will be better the further she goes as he prepares a two-pronged assault on the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.

Though last year’s winner Kyprios has been ruled out through injury, the Ballydoyle maestro runs both Broome and Emily Dickinson in Thursday’s feature, which he has won on a record eight occasions.

The latter will have to recover from a lacklustre display when finishing a disappointing sixth as a 2-5 favourite in the Saval Beg at Leopardstown.

But O’Brien believes the four-year-old daughter of Dubawi will benefit from stepping up to two and a half miles, having previously won over two miles in testing ground at the Curragh in October – her first time at that distance.

“We always thought this race would suit her well, because we think she stays very well,” O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing.

“Obviously, she handles some ease in the ground well and when there is ease in the ground, stamina comes into it more.

“We think the trip will suit her and even though she handles soft ground, we don’t think she minds fast ground.”

Winner of three of her 13 runs, Emily Dickinson is the general 6-1 third-favourite behind Coltrane and Eldar Eldarov in what is considered to be an open race.

O’Brien feels Ryan Moore’s mount had excuses in the Saval Beg, run over a mile and three-quarters.

He added: “When we stepped her up to two miles at the Curragh she kind of grew another leg, then she won in very soft ground in Navan.

“The ground was soft, so it made it a testing, demanding race, and then she went back to Leopardstown for her next run and it was fast ground, they went no pace.

“Ryan got left in front. He didn’t want to be putting the gun to her head in that race, because it was obviously being used as a trial for the Gold Cup. He wasn’t too hard on her when he knew the race wasn’t going to suit her.

“She ran a nice race, obviously she will have to step up a lot from that but we think she will, going that trip.”

Last year’s Hardwicke winner Broome advertised his credentials with a Group Two success at Meydan in March, before finishing a close-up third to Giavellotto in the Yorkshire Cup last month.

The seven-year-old has yet to race beyond two miles, and O’Brien admits it will be “interesting” to see if he can handle the extra half-mile.

He added: “Obviously, we were delighted with him in Meydan and delighted with him the last day.

“I suppose the Gold Cup is an unusual race because a lot of horses get two miles, but when you go past that two miles, a lot of different stuff happens, especially in the last quarter of a mile, so it will be very interesting.

“Obviously he is a classy horse. Ryan gave him a brilliant ride in Dubai and he was very happy with him again the last time at York and he was staying on again, so it is going to be very interesting – will he get the trip?

“He is a very good-natured horse – he should relax. He should have no problem with the track or ground, so it will be interesting to see if he gets trip or not.”

Hopes are high Little Big Bear, who reverted to sprinting at Haydock after a disappointing experience in the 2000 Guineas, can back up his Group Two Sandy Lane success when he runs in the Commonwealth Cup.

He has already shown a liking for Ascot, winning the Windsor Castle at last year’s meeting.

“He is a big, powerful, classy horse,” added O’Brien. “We were delighted with him at Haydock. He is a big traveller. He looks like a big sprinter.

“Obviously, we tried him at a mile and we didn’t have time to go back again – the whole Guineas just went wrong on us and that was it.

“But we knew to go to Ascot that it would be a nice thing to have a run into him at this trip, rather than throwing him straight back in from his Guineas run.

“Frankie (Dettori) rode him and was very happy with him. Wayne (Lordan) has been riding him work since and seems very happy with him, so we’re hopeful.”

Richard Kingscote lamented the fact Keith Dalgleish plans to leave the training ranks having partnered his Chichester to victory in the Seat Unique Ganton Stakes at York.

Dalgleish announced earlier this year he planned to do something else and was not leaving the profession for financial reasons. And with results like this he will clearly be a loss.

A talented former rider, Dalgleish is closing in on 1,000 winners. Chichester (15-2) has provided him with six of them, but this was by far the biggest with the Listed event carrying an almost £40,000 first prize.

When odds-on favourite Shining Blue hit the front he looked sure to collect for Saeed bin Suroor, but Kingscote had been biding his time on Chichester who stayed on strongly to win by a length and three-quarters.

“It was a great bit of placing by connections, they found a five-runner Listed race for good money so fair play,” said the Derby-winning jockey.

“I always thought I was getting there, we actually went a decent pace for once because in general of late we’ve been going steady but he was able to get into a nice rhythm.

“He found plenty. He’s a funny old boy, he’s more than capable as we’ve seen but sometimes he needs things to go his way. He stays this trip well, he ran over 10 furlongs the last day.

“Keith knows what he’s doing and it’s a great shame he’s handing in his licence – he can certainly do the job.”

The improvement of the David Evans-trained Radio Goo Goo (11-2) shows no signs of stopping after she won her fourth race in a row in the British EBF Supporting Racing With Pride Fillies’ Handicap.

She won first time out this year at Wolverhampton off 72, was beaten on Good Friday at Lingfield and then rattled off a treble at Chester, Haydock and back at Chester.

Racing off a career-high 86 she looked beaten, but just got the better off Al Simmo by a nose under Ben Curtis.

“To be honest she wasn’t really travelling so I had to sit on her a bit longer than I wanted to fill her up,” said Curtis.

“I didn’t think I was going to win, but the last few strides her ears went back and she really wanted it.

“She finished second a fair few times last year, but that was over five and she kept bumping into one. She’s stronger this year and is better suited to six and Dave’s horses are flying at the moment. Hopefully she can keep rising.

The most valuable race of its kind every season is the SKF Rous Selling Stakes which went the way of Ollie Pears’ Celestial Flight (7-1) in a photo finish.

James Sullivan’s mount prevailed by a head from Up The Jazz on his second start and was bought back in for £25,000.

“We always like to target this. For an inexpensive horse it gives the owners a fantastic day out and the chance to run for a big pot,” said Pears.

“I bought him back in as there would have been an awful lot of disappointed people here if I hadn’t.

“We think he’s a horse who should go on and he’s a horse who should get seven furlongs.”

Karl Burke saddled his 11th individual juvenile winner of the season when Harvanna (5-1) won the Juddmonte British EBF Fillies’ Restricted Novice Stakes after finishing third on her debut.

Clifford Lee was on top and said: “She learned a lot on her debut and we saw the benefit of that.

“We’ve got some nice two-year-olds, hopefully I’ll be on a couple next week and we’ll just see how the ground is and everything before finalising.”

Mick and David Easterby’s Menelaus (15-2) followed up a recent win at Thirsk when stylishly pulling clear in the Andy Thornton Hospitality Furniture Apprentice Handicap under Connor Planas.

It was a third success in his last four rides for Planas, who is enjoying a breakthrough season.

An overwhelming feeling of gratitude was palpable as athletes, organizers and sponsors came together at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Thursday to celebrate a successful staging of the 50th Gibson McCook Relays.

The 50th Anniversary Awards Banquet was held to recognize the outstanding schools who dominated this year’s edition of the meet, which was held on May 8 at the National Stadium in Kingston, as well as honor some of the longest serving officials, committee members and sponsors.

Founded by the late Neville "Teddy" McCook in 1973, the meet has served as the premier relay carnival on Jamaican soil for half a century, which is not something to overlook.

“50 years in the life of any individual or organization is an achievement,” said Chairman of the Gibson McCook Relays organizing committee, Professor Rainford Wilks.

“Organizing and executing a relay carnival with multiple participants requires more than dreams and values. To consistently execute the event on schedule is no mean achievement. These are some of the characteristics of the Gibson McCook Relays that have made it famous and a staple in the Jamaican track & field diet,” Wilks added.

Former Jamaica Olympic Association President, The Hon. Mike Fennell, was the guest speaker for the evening and used his time at the podium to encourage people to understand the value of sport to the country.

“We should never undervalue the contribution of sports to brand Jamaica,” he said.

“In Jamaica, and in many other parts of the world, sport is recognized mainly because of an event, whether it’s Champs, the Olympic Games or the Commonwealth Games but sport is far more than that. Sport is something that contributes to the economy; sport is something that contributes to both physical and mental health; sports contributes to tourism and so on,” he added.

Fennell also relayed a message to the athletes themselves, encouraging them to “never lose your values.”

Now, onto the honorees of the evening, starting with Hydel High who took home the biggest prize as the best overall performing school.

Hydel, who also went on to claim their first ever Girls Champs title a few weeks later, also took home the best performing girls school and the championship events record breaker awards.

Jamaica College took home the prize as the top performing school on the boys side.

Some of the evening’s other honorees included Custos of St. Andrew, Ian Forbes, as well as Audley Hewett, who has been on the organizing committee since inception. The meet’s two longest serving sponsors, Child’s Play and Nestle, were also recognized.



Tajalla will put his sprinting credentials to the test as Roger Varian seeks back-to-back victories in Sandown’s Molson Coors Scurry Stakes.

The speedy son of Kessaar burst on to the scene at Newmarket last spring, but injury soon struck meaning he was ruled out of the rest of the season and was not seen again until making a successful reappearance at Hamilton last month.

Having confirmed his powerful engine remains intact during that venture north of the border, the Carlburg Stables handler has now decided to try the three-year-old in Listed company at the Esher track and in a race he claimed 12 months ago with the progressive Mitbaahy.

“It’s a nice race, it’s competitive and we will learn a bit more about him tomorrow because he has only run in two novices,” said Varian.

“He’s a promising young sprinter, I think the stiff five furlongs at Sandown should suit him and we’ll see how we go.

“He’s only really had one setback which was quite a major setback and came a few weeks after his debut at Newmarket. It meant he had to miss he rest of last season, but he’s come out this year and won nicely at Hamilton and I think that form is solid with the second well regarded.

“We never planned to take him to Ascot and this looked a nice race so we have hung on. It’s a nice race for those horses who don’t quite hit that Ascot window. I don’t know if he will win or not but we will find out more about him.”

Richard Fahey’s Great State claimed the Listed Westow Stakes at York last month and attempts to extend a three-race winning run, while also looking to continue a consistent run of form is George Boughey’s Perdika.

The filly claimed her second Chantilly Listed race of the season in the Prix Marchand d’Or in between her two triumphs in France has gone close in three other Listed and Group events.

“She likes soft ground, but she won on quicker ground on French Derby day on her latest start so she is pretty versatile,” said Boughey.

“She has come out of her last race in super shape. She doesn’t do much at home and we’ve never opened her up here. We like to save her for the track.

“It is a credit to her and the guys in the team here that look after her as she is trained like a real sprinter.

“I’ve had very few horses like her and she is coming into the Oscula category now. My long-term plan is to run her in the Prix de l’Abbaye back at Longchamp in the autumn.”

Karl Burke’s Yahsat returns from 344 days off the track and was last seen chasing home The Platinum Queen on the Knavesmire, with Clive Cox’s Katey Kontent also on the comeback trail following over 300 days on the sidelines.

The daughter of Havana Grey, who shaped like a useful prospect at two, missed an intended engagement at York last month but is now reported to be back in tip-top condition.

“She had a little hold up ahead of going to York with a pulled muscle which was one of those things but I’m pleased to say we are back on track now,” said Cox.

“She is a filly that we hold in good regard and we hope she shows the promise she did early in her career.

“She has got bags of speed and showed a lot of class early on last year, but everything happened quite quickly for her.

“She has matured and developed well over the winter and we are looking forward to seeing her back in action. We feel she is in that Listed bracket hence her entry here.”

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