Middleham Park Racing’s well-travelled Brave Emperor will try to break new ground as he bids for further Group success in Qatar on Saturday.

The gelding is one of racing’s most prolific globetrotters and has brought home significant prize money from Italy, Germany, France and Sweden in the last year alone – as well as winning on home turf.

He won the Listed Prix de la Californie at Cagnes-Sur-Mer last term before travelling around Europe to pick up three Group Three events and the Group Two Premio Vittorio Di Capua at San Siro in November.

Now Archie Watson’s charge will return to action at the same level in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cup at the Amir Sword meeting in Qatar this weekend.

The bay is currently settling in ahead of his first run in the Middle East and will compete for a total prize fund of nearly £400,000, with the winning connections taking home over £225,000.

“He’s the second top-rated for the race, he definitely deserves his chance and it’s fantastic prize money,” said Tim Palin of Middleham Park.

“It’s going to be the experience of a lifetime for the half a dozen owners going over.

“It’s going to be once in a lifetime, for all they’ve tasted success in Milan and Sweden, twice in Germany and in France as well.

“He’s a real globetrotting horse, he’s the perfect horse. He’s a Group Two winner and three times a Group Three winner.

“He was originally purchased as a yearling by Robson Aguiar and we bought him privately as a two-year-old just before the breeze-ups.

“He’s been an absolute revelation for us and everybody has experienced a fantastic journey with him. Hopefully he’ll continue to acquit himself well on Saturday.”

Qatar retained the Asian Cup title as Akram Afif scored a hat-trick of penalties to seal a 3-1 win over Jordan in Saturday's final.

Afif kept his cool three times from 12 yards at Lusail Stadium, completing his first international hat-trick, and becoming the first player to score one in the final of an Asian Cup.

Yazan Al Naimat had brilliantly dragged maiden finalists Jordan level, cancelling out the first of Afif's spot-kicks, in the 67th minute.

Yet with the help of VAR, referee Ming Na rightly awarded a further two penalties the hosts' way, with Afif's composure ensuring Qatar became the first team since Japan in 2004 to win successive Asian Cup titles.

 

Almoez Ali was Qatar's hero as the Asian Cup hosts and holders overcame Iran 3-2 in thrilling fashion to set up a final against Jordan.

Ali – the leading scorer at the 2019 Asian Cup – showed great composure and technique to settle Wednesday's chaotic semi-final at Al Thumama Stadium in Qatar's favour.

Qatar's winner came after Alireza Jahanbakhsh, fresh from scoring a last-minute spot-kick in the quarters, slammed a penalty down the middle to drag Iran level after Akram Afif's brilliant strike had put the hosts ahead before the break.

Sardar Azmoun's early stunner had been cancelled out by Jassem Gaber's deflected effort, with Iran – whose frustrations were compounded when Shoja Khalilzadeh was sent off late on –  having squandered a glut of opportunities to retake the lead prior to Ali's winner, while Jahanbakhsh went agonisingly close to forcing extra time when he struck the post in a frantic finale.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh's last-minute penalty gave Iran a 2-1 win over Japan, and a semi-final against Asian Cup holders and hosts Qatar will be their reward.

Jahanbakhsh kept his cool in the 96th minute to keep three-time Asian Cup winners Iran on course for a first title since 1976.

Iran came from behind after Hidemasa Morita put pre-tournament favourites Japan ahead in the first half of an entertaining quarter-final at Education City Stadium.

But Mohammad Mohebi levelled the score in the 55th minute to pave the way for Jahanbakhsh's late heroics.

Iran's win was made even more impressive considering they were without star striker Mehdi Taremi, who was suspended.

Qatar, meanwhile, are in with a chance of retaining the title after they defeated Uzbekistan on penalties following a 1-1 draw at Al Bayt Stadium.

Utkir Yusupov's own goal put Qatar ahead midway through the first half, but Uzbekistan rallied after the break – Odiljon Hamrobekov's effort enough to send the tie to extra time and eventually penalties.

Almoez Ali and Almahdi Ali both failed to convert for Qatar in the shoot-out, but Jaloliddin Masharipov's miss set the stage for Pedro Miguel to be Qatar's hero.

Iran will take on Qatar on Wednesday, a day after South Korea go up against Jordan.

Jordan fought back to beat 10-man Iraq 3-2 and clinch their place in the Asian Cup quarter-finals on Monday.

Iraq's Aymen Hussein turned from hero to zero as, moments after putting Iraq ahead, he was sent off, having received a second yellow card for excessive celebrations at Khalifa International Stadium.

Down to 10 men, Iraq could not withstand Jordan's fightback and conceded twice in stoppage time to end their hopes of winning the competition for a second time.

Hussein struck in the 76th minute to spark wild celebrations, including him sitting cross-legged on the field and mimicking eating.

Iraq's joy soon turned to frustration, though, when referee Alireza Faghani booked Hussein for a second time.

It got worse for the 2007 champions when Yazan Al Arab levelled in the fifth minute of added time, with Nizar Al Rashdan going on to drill in a winner two minutes later.

Jordan advanced as one of the best third-placed teams and took the lead in the first minute of first-half stoppage time through Yazan Al Naimat.

Suad Natiq equalized for Iraq prior to Hussein's fifth goal of the tournament sparking the chaotic finale.

Jordan will play tournament debutants Tajikistan in the last eight.

In the day's other match, Akram Afif delivered again for Qatar as the hosts and defending champions overcame Palestine 2-1.

Afif has established himself as one of the stars of the tournament, and if he can keep up this form he may yet achieve his ambition of joining a European club.

The forward struck from the penalty spot in the 49th — his fourth goal of the Asian Cup — as Qatar came from behind at Al Bayt Stadium, with Hassan Al Haydos having cancelled out Oday Dabbagh's clinical finish.

Qatar will play either Uzbekistan or Thailand for a place in the last four.

Tajikistan claimed a famous 2-1 win over Lebanon to progress to the last 16 of the Asian Cup on their tournament debut.

Lebanon took the lead early in the second half with a curling shot from Bassel Jradi, but they were reduced to 10 men when Kassem El-Zein saw red in the 54th minute.

Tajikistan had two goals ruled out for offside but finally scored with 10 minutes remaining to seal their progress from Group A.

Parvizdzhon Umarbaev restored parity, with Nuriddin Khamrokulov heading home a winning goal in the second minute of second-half stoppage time.

Coach Petar Segrt said: "Every day we stay here longer is fantastic. We have our first dream: To make the last 16.

"We have our second dream: we want to go to the second round. Now we dream again.

"This is football. Every one of us has a dream."

Asian Cup hosts Qatar, meanwhile, finished their group campaign in style on Monday with a spectacular volley from Hassan Al-Haydos for a 1-0 win over China, who are on the brink of elimination from the tournament.

The deadlock at the Khalifa International Stadium was broken midway through the second half with an unforgettable strike. Akram Afif's corner was immediately met outside the area by Al-Haydos, who confidently volleyed into the top corner. Both players had just been introduced as substitutes.

Qatar, who had already secured their spot in the knockout stage, topped Group A with nine points and advanced with Tajikistan, which beat last-place Lebanon 2-1 to take second with four points.

China finished with just two points and failed to score in any of their three games. They have never won the Asian Cup and must now wait for other results, but they have only the faintest of chances of squeezing into the next round as one of the four best-performing of the third-placed teams in the six groups.

Qatar may have lost all three games on home soil at the 2022 World Cup but has been perfect in the Asian Cup, advancing to the round of 16 by winning all three games without conceding a goal.

Qatar became the first team to advance to the knockout stage of the Asian Cup after a 1-0 win against Tajikistan on Wednesday.

Akram Afif scored his third goal of the tournament to secure victory for the host nation and defending champions at Al Bayt Stadium.

As hosts of the World Cup in 2022, Qatar exited the competition at the group stage after three straight losses, but now maximum points from their opening two games in the Asian Cup have ensured they advance as group winners.

Afif lifted a shot over Tajikstan goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov in the 17th minute and Tajikistan finished the game with 10 men after Amadoni Kamolov was sent off in the 81st.

The other Group A contest between China and Lebanon finished 0-0.

After back-to-back draws, China likely need at least a point against Qatar in their last game to have a chance of advancing.

Both China and Lebanon's hopes of reaching the round of 16 are in the balance. While China are second in Group A on two points, they have the daunting task of facing Qatar in their final game, knowing a loss could see them overtaken by Lebanon or Tajikistan.

"We know that we depend on ourselves and that is something that every team would like to be in that position before the last game," China coach Aleksandar Jankovic said. 

"No matter if we play against a host country, Qatar, with their World Cup experience, we still depend on ourselves and I always like to be in this kind of situation."

Hassan Maatouk and Hasan Srour hit the bar for Lebanon either side of half-time, while Wu Lei thought he had broken the deadlock for China in the 65th minute, only for his close-range shot to be hooked off the line at Al Thumama Stadium.

China were quarter-finalists in each of the last two Asian Cups.

Lebanon lost 3-0 to Qatar in their opening game and sit bottom of the group with one point, but could still advance.

"It is a very important point for us, especially after a tough defeat against Qatar," coach Miodrag Radulovic said.

Qatar began their defence of the Asian Cup with a 3-0 win over Lebanon at Lusail Stadium on Friday.

Two goals from Akram Afif and another from Almoez Ali saw the host nation make a perfect start as the tournament kicked off in front of a crowd of 82,490.

The only concern for Qatar coach Bartolome Marquez Lopez was an injury to star forward Ali in the second half.

But Afif proved how important he will be to his team's hopes of retaining their crown with clinical finishes at the end of each half.

Afif opened the scoring in the 45th minute when he latched onto Ali's lay off, and the forward rounded off the win in stoppage time when he charged into the box and lifted a shot over Lebanon's goalkeeper.

Ali, who was the leading scorer when Qatar won the trophy for the first time in 2019 with nine goals, struck in the 56th. He also had a goal ruled out for offside.

But he looked in discomfort as he limped off the field in the 77th minute, holding the back of his leg.

Qatar is staging the tournament for the third time after original host China withdrew as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament was supposed to be held in 2023, but was delayed to this month due to the extreme heat in the height of the summer in the Middle East.

Formula One will again hold six sprint weekends in 2024 with discussions ongoing about potential tweaks to the format.

The sprint weekends will be at the returning Chinese Grand Prix followed by races in Miami, Austria, Austin, Brazil and Qatar.

A number of drivers and team principals, including Red Bull boss Christian Horner, have called for changes to the sprint format.

It is likely that qualifying for the sprint will return to being held on Friday ahead of the sprint race on Saturday, which will be followed by qualifying for Sunday’s grand prix.

Other options may be considered to shake up the format, with changes to rules over parc ferme conditions – where alterations to the car are prohibited – and even a move to reverse part of the grid order for the sprint among possible options.

F1 bosses are keen to retain the sprint and believe having meaningful action on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of a grand prix weekend bring benefits for TV audiences and fans in attendance.

Stefano Domenicali, president and CEO of Formula One, said: “I am delighted to announce six exciting venues for next season’s F1 sprint events, including two new hosts China and Miami, both of which will be fantastic additions and provide great racing for all our fans at the race and watching at home.

“Since its creation in 2021, the sprint has been consistent in delivering increased audiences on TV, more on track entertainment for the fans at events and increased fan engagement on social and digital platforms, and we are looking forward to the exciting events next year.”

A decision on how the sprint format will look next season is likely to be made in January.

Speaking in November, Horner said: “I think it’s clear that the sprint needs to evolve a bit. I can understand the concept and it being action on all three days, which for the promoter and for the fans has an interest.

“But I think the sprints in some cases have been slightly underwhelming – there’s no pit stop, it tends to stay in grid order and it’s a little bit like getting a medal for a long run.

“I think there can be a little bit more racing introduced, but then you’ve got to look at the consequences of that, if you were to reverse the grid, if there were points involved etc, etc.”

Lewis Hamilton said Formula One must not become “too soft” and challenged his fellow drivers to embrace pain amid a safety backlash following the last round in Qatar.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell branded the race a fortnight ago “beyond the limit of what is acceptable” as temperatures in the drivers’ cockpits exceeded 50 degrees.

Canadian Lance Stroll said he faded in and out of consciousness because of the extreme heat and humidity in Lusail.

London-born driver Alex Albon was treated for acute heat exposure, while his rookie Williams team-mate Logan Sargeant was forced to park his car through illness. Alpine’s French driver Esteban Ocon also vomited during the race.

Following a series of complaints, F1’s governing body, the FIA, launched a review and said it noted with “concern” the impact the race had on the “well-being” of those who took part.

But speaking ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Texas, Hamilton, 38, said: “This is an extreme sport and you don’t have marathon runners who pass out after a marathon saying the event should be shorter.

“We get paid very highly for what we do, and, from my perspective, when I have not been feeling great at the end of a race I just train harder.

“So I don’t want them to shorten the races and make it easier for us. I want it to be extreme. I want to feel the difference. I want to feel pain in my body. That’s what this is about. We have got to be careful with the changes we make. It’s like, ‘let’s not get too soft’.”

Hamilton’s participation in Qatar lasted a handful of seconds following his race-ending collision with Russell at the opening bend.

But the seven-time world champion, second only to Fernando Alonso, 42, in terms of age and experience on the current grid, believes the conditions in Malaysia – last seen on the calendar in 2017 – were more challenging than those in Qatar.

He continued: “Obviously I didn’t do the race, so I didn’t get to feel the pain that the drivers felt. But I have been here a long time. And Malaysia was much hotter.

“If I was in the race in Qatar, of course I would have struggled to get out afterwards. But I know what it’s like to lose four or more kilos and barely being able to stand. I love that.

“That’s what makes it closer to what it was like back in the day. We are supposed to be elite athletes and to be elite, you need to be pushing to the limit.”

The drivers are set for another challenging weekend with record-breaking temperatures of more than 30 degrees anticipated in Austin.

Qualifying for Sunday’s 56-lap race at the Circuit of the Americas takes place at 4pm local time (10pm BST) on Friday.

Ferrari have the capability to threaten Red Bull's recent dominance in Formula One, so says 1978 champion Mario Andretti.

Red Bull secured their second successive constructors' championship last month, with their number one driver Max Verstappen cruising to his third successive title at the Qatar Grand Prix shortly after.

Despite the poor form of Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez's, Red Bull have still accrued more than double the amount of points of the second-place team, Mercedes.

However, tentative signs in recent weeks have begun to hint at a long-awaited shift away from Red Bull’s dominance.

In Singapore, both Verstappen and Perez struggled - finishing fifth and eighth respectively - as Ferrari's Carlos Sainz claimed victory.

Ferrari were tipped to be serious title challengers this year and, despite their poor start to the season, Andretti is encouraged by their performances as of late.

"Well, they've shown the capability," he told Stats Perform. "There were two successive races where they were on pole, and then the one where Max Verstappen had some issues which they won. 

"So, they're there and can cause some issues for Red Bull. You're seeing Ferrari and McLaren also annoying Red Bull quite a bit. And that's the interesting part as well."

McLaren have been the surprise package in the second half of the F1 season, having struggled with their car earlier in the year.

The British team have bounced back superbly, with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri both finishing on the podium in back-to-back races in Japan and Qatar and Andretti believes the future is bright for the young duo.

"It's been really interesting to watch how much McLaren has really improved in every way," he said.

"Obviously, they've given their drivers the equipment and the improvements that they needed to be competitive. 

"They've been right there, annoying the very top and Red Bull quite a bit. Two young drivers, one being a total rookie. There's a future there and no question, something to be built on. 

"Lando has shown that he is capable and between the two of them, it seems like they really get along very well. There seems to be a lot of harmony within the team."

McLaren's rapid rise has seen them put daylight between themselves and rivals Alpine this season.

Alpine pipped the British team to fourth in the team standings last season but have endured a disappointing season in 2023, with drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly only able to secure one podium each so far this year.

They sit sixth in the standings and a considerable 129 points behind McLaren with six races remaining, but Andretti believes the team will soon rediscover their winning formula.

"You never know why some teams all of a sudden they fall behind; there are many reasons for that," he said.

"I wish you could say 'do this and that, and you'll be right back where you were, or even better', but there's always a reason somewhere.

"That's nothing unusual in this sport. And sometimes the team just have to reboot, but their competitive capability is there. No question. They've shown that before."

Leeds have announced that former club record signing Rodrigo has joined Qatari side Al-Rayyan.

United splashed out £27million when they signed the Spain forward from Valencia on a four-year deal in 2020 following their return to the Premier League.

The 32-year-old went on to make 97 appearances in all competitions for the club, scoring 28 goals.

A statement on the Leeds website said: “We thank Rodrigo for his efforts and wish him all the best for the future.”

Rodrigo’s departure to the Qatar Stars League comes as relegated Leeds prepare for next season in the Sky Bet Championship under new manager Daniel Farke.

The summer transfer window has already seen defenders Diego Llorente and Robin Koch and midfielder Brenden Aaronson leave United on season-long loans, joining Roma, Eintracht Frankfurt and Union Berlin respectively.

Qatar has emerged as a surprise contender to host the 2025 Rugby League World Cup after France relinquished hosting rights earlier this week.

The Gulf nation, which does not have a team or a world ranking, and has never played an international match, is one of four countries to express an interest in staging the event, along with New Zealand, Fiji and South Africa.

The International Rugby League is scrambling to preserve the tournament, which could still be delayed or scrapped alogether, after French organisers admitted they were unable to meet financial guarantees demanded by the French government.

IRL chairman Troy Grant confirmed: “We have received expressions of interest from New Zealand, Fiji, South Africa and Qatar already.

“We are yet to make any assessments in regarded to their viability, I’m just being honest about who has reached out.

“It gives me comfort that there is interest in our sport and our World Cup. How real or viable any or all of those options are, we’re yet to make any of those assessments.”

The Qatari interest, which Grant said comprises two approaches combining state and public funding, continues the nation’s interest in muscling in on the global sporting landscape following a successful football World Cup last year.

And although unlikely, its offer may fit the expansionist policies of a sport that broke new ground when Toronto Wolfpack were accepted as the first transatlantic members of the English rugby league set-up in 2017.

New Zealand remain the obvious front-runners to step in to stage the tournament, but Grant acknowledged that tough decisions may need to be made given the limited time-frame for establishing new hosts.

They include postponement to a later date or outright cancellation, while there are also concerns about whether the current unique format, which comprised men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments, will remain viable at short notice.

“We understand that we need to move quickly,” added Grant. “It will certainly have a big bearing on where the tournament is in 2025, if it proceeds.

“There is a potential option to move out of this cycle and create a new cycle, and that will also be a discussion point for the board in June and July.

“We are not wedded to anything, to be honest. The experience of England last year was that the uniqueness of our offering, with the three World Cups being run at the same time, was a massive point of difference.

“It is a massive selling point so to abandon that strategy would be disappointing, but we have to be practical in any decisions we make going forward.

“It gets us to rethink how we do everything going forward. There’s a unique opportunity that this adversity presents, and I think we should take that opportunity.”

Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz will prepare for the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup scheduled for June 24-July 16 in the USA and Canada with two friendlies against Qatar and Jordan on June 15th and June 19th, respectively, at the Wiener Neustadt Ergo Arena in Austria.

The Reggae Boyz last faced Qatar on August 26th last year, playing out a 1-1 draw while this will be the first time Jamaica and Jordan will be doing battle.

JFF President Michael Ricketts said the matches are to give the Reggae Boyz the best opportunities to prepare for the Gold Cup.

“We want to place coach Hallgrimsson and his team in the best position to perform at their optimum at the Gold Cup,” Ricketts said.

“This is the third year consecutively that we will be hosted in this city, a location that is perfect for preparation. I believe that with the quality of the team we now have, combined with the quality of coaching, we have an outstanding opportunity to create history by winning the coveted trophy.”

Jamaica’s first match of the 2023 Gold Cup will come against defending champions USA on June 24th at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Carlos Queiroz has been named as the new head coach of Qatar.

The 2022 World Cup hosts had been without a coach since long-time boss Felix Sanchez's contract expired at the end of last year.

But Queiroz has succeeded Sanchez, having himself been out of work since Iran were eliminated from the World Cup.

That was the third finals the former Real Madrid coach had been to with Iran, although his two spells with the team were separated by unsuccessful stints with Colombia and Egypt.

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