Multiple Group One winner Luxembourg starts his season in the Howden Neom Turf Cup in Riyadh on Saturday, with trainer Aidan O’Brien expecting him to return better than ever this year.

The five-year-old was last seen finishing a close second to Romantic Warrior in the Hong Kong Cup, prior to which he was runner-up in both the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.

His season did include a win, however, and a significant one at that, as he landed the Tattersalls Gold Cup at elite level at the Curragh in May.

There had been discussions about starting his campaign in the Saudi Cup itself and experimenting with running the son of Camelot on dirt for the first time, but it was ultimately decided that he would stick to turf for now.

“We’re looking forward to it, we were surprised at the way he got over the (dirt) track,” said O’Brien.

“Everyone’s very excited to see him. He’s a big, powerful, long-striding horse. A good, scopey horse, with a good mind and very sound.

“We think we haven’t seen the best of him yet, all through this year and next year he’s going to be a horse to really look forward to.

“He’s big with a long stride and often those types of horses take until four or five to really become strong enough to use their stride.

“He had a lean enough body, but his body is getting stronger all the time.”

“We were in two minds about it, the Saudi Cup is probably the most exciting race in the world. We were going to go there and take our chance, but then last minute we thought it was the wrong thing for the horse this early in the season.

“It’s the race everyone wants to win and we nearly did it, maybe we thought it might be safer to do it the other way and maybe we could go there with him next year.

“We will experiment, maybe we should have done it this time but we definitely will, he could go to Dubai and it’s very possible he’ll go there on the grass as well.

“Then we might think about switching over for the second half of the year, something like that.”

Also in the race are Daniel and Claire Kubler’s Astro King and Andrew Balding’s The Foxes, with John and Thady Gosden running Jack Darcy and Richard Fahey represented by Bahrain International Trophy winner Spirit Dancer.

O’Brien has a further hope at the meeting in Tower Of London, who lines up in the Red Sea Turf Handicap over a mile and seven furlongs.

The four-year-old was twice a winner last term and was unlucky to miss out on a Group Three success when going down by just a head in the Bahrain Trophy Stakes at Newmarket.

His three-year-old season ended in September, so he returns from a significant break, but his trainer has been pleased with his preparation for the race and expects him to perform well.

“He’s been off a good while and he’s carrying a little bit of weight, but he’s been working very well,” O’Brien said.

“We always thought the trip would suit him well and this type of race would suit him well.

“He has plenty of weight but he’s a classy horse, we think that ridden a little bit patiently and gently we will see a very big run from him.”

Sir Alex Ferguson “never dreamed” that he would have a horse good enough to take on the best in the world on the international stage. But in Spirit Dancer – a horse he bred – that is exactly what he is doing.

The former Manchester United manager has become immersed in the racing world since his retirement, enjoying several high-profile victories in the National Hunt sphere.

To date, his Flat exploits had not reached the same heights. But the Richard Fahey-trained seven-year-old Spirit Dancer has started to change all that.

Winning the Strensall Stakes at York last summer earned him an invite for the Bahrain International Trophy, which he won, and he was last seen finishing a respectable fourth in the Group One Jebel Hatta at Meydan in Dubai.

He now runs in the Howden Neom Turf Cup on Saturday in Riyadh, a race worth almost £1million to the winner.

“One of the great advantages of having a really good horse is international racing. We never dreamed, when I bred Spirit Dancer, that he would end up getting as far as this,” Ferguson told The Saudi Cup.

“We’re so excited about it and after Bahrain we are quite optimistic.

“He had a little problem when he was three years of age, he got over that and he’s just got better and better. He’s not had a lot of racing. That’s what Richard keeps saying, that he can race a lot more than he’s been doing. So we’re getting the benefit.

“The international element is something we didn’t expect. I’d been to Dubai some years back and I was saying to myself I wonder what it’s like to have a horse involved in it – now we’ve got one, I’m enjoying it.

“Competing with the likes of Aidan O’Brien and the Japanese, you know you are up against the best, and we’re enjoying it.”

Ferguson’s racing interests stretch back almost 30 years now, and it is fair to say he is more involved than at any time in his life.

“It was round about 1995 that I remember my wife saying I was going to kill myself because my whole day was absorbed with the (football) club,” he explained.

“One day, I said to my wife ‘shall we go to the races?’. She asked where that had come from and I told her it was her who said I needed to start doing something else.

“We were at the races one day when I met John Mulhern and Dessie Scahill and I got hooked. She once said ‘you want to buy all the right horses’, well, I’m trying!

“I got into breeding by accident, I was in Germany visiting Andreas Wohler and he put the idea in my mind, I bought a horse from him, the mare Queen’s Dream (Spirit Dancer’s dam).

“A friend of mine then put the idea in my head about buying the stud in Hemel Hempstead. I said we’d have a go and it’s been great. They are fantastic people there, we had a foal there last week by Stradivarius, so it’s great.”

It is Ferguson’s second trip to Saudi Arabia, the first was in 2008 when Manchester United played in a testimonial to honour local player Sam Al Jaber, who played over 150 times for his country.

“We came to Saudi about 15 years ago to play in a game to celebrate a famous player who had 150 international caps. The King bought 80,000 tickets and gave them all away to the people and it was fantastic,” said Ferguson.

Spirit Dancer is co-owned by bookmaker Fred Done and Ferguson’s big friend, Ged Mason, with whom he is involved with most of his horses – and who initiated a rather painful celebration in Bahrain.

“Ged broke my rib celebrating in Bahrain, I won’t mind him breaking another if it means we win!” said Ferguson.

Mason is loving being involved in the ride and is thrilled at the enjoyment Ferguson is getting from the game.

“When he came round the bend at Bahrain, it was a fantastic sight and the way he pulled away was a pinch yourself moment, to be honest,” said Mason.

“He got the invite to Bahrain because he’d produced the goodies at York. I’m so proud for Sir Alex because he bred him and he’s out of Frankel.

“I think our first venture into ownership was What A Friend and what a friend he was to us, he got our appetite for winning. Clan Des Obeaux won King Georges and Irish Gold Cups, it’s been a fantastic journey and we don’t want it to stop.”

Tyson Fury’s undisputed world heavyweight title fight with Oleksandr Usyk has been rearranged for May 18, promoters have announced.

The much-hyped encounter had originally been due to take place in Saudi Arabia later this month but was postponed this week after the Briton suffered a “freak cut” above the eye in training.

A statement from Queensbury Promotions on X, formerly known as Twitter, read: “The undisputed heavyweight championship fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk has been rescheduled to May 18th in Riyadh.”

Fury, holder of the WBC belt, required medical attention after suffering the injury during a sparring session.

It is the second time his planned fight with Usyk has been delayed after an initial slot in December failed to materialise.

The winner of the fight, when it eventually takes place, will be crowned as the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the four-belt era.

Ukraine’s Usyk holds the WBO, WBA and IBF titles.

Inter Milan beat Napoli to win the Italian Super Cup after both teams paid tribute to Italy’s all-time top scorer Gigi Riva.

Lautaro Martinez scored the winner in injury time as Inter wrapped up a third straight Super Cup success.

But the match, held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, between current Serie A champions Napoli and Coppa Italia holders Inter, was overshadowed by Riva’s death, aged 79.

A minute’s applause was held before the second half after the news filtered through during the first half.

Riva scored 35 goals in 42 appearances for Italy and was a member of the squad which won the 1968 European Championship and lost in the 1970 World Cup final to Brazil.

He was also a prolific goalscorer for Cagliari, leading the Sardinian club to their only Serie A title in 1970.

It appeared that no one was going to find a goal to settle the match, until Martinez finally broke the deadlock two minutes into added time.

Inter dominated the first half and created the first chance when a long Matteo Darmian throw-in found its way through to Federico Dimarco, whose volley was deflected inches wide.

Martinez then headed wide from Francesco Acerbi’s cross and Henrikh Mkhitaryan fired over 20 yards out.

Martinez had the ball in the net after 40 minutes when he tapped in Marcus Thuram’s cross but an offside flag curtailed any celebrations.

Napoli’s first real opening came six minutes into the second half when Stanislav Lobotka fed Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

The Georgian cut back inside and tried to curl the ball towards the far post but his effort was beaten away by Inter keeper Yann Sommer.

Napoli were reduced to 10 men on the hour after Giovanni Simeone was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Acerbi.

Inter set about trying to press home their numerical advantage but Thuram twice missed his kick in front of goal and Martinez volleyed over the crossbar.

Frustrated Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri was shown a yellow card before Mkhitaryan tried his luck again, only to send his shot too high.

The match looked destined for penalties until Alexis Sanchez fed Benjamin Pavard down the right.

Pavard pinged in a low cross which was swept home by Martinez to wrap up a super treble for Inter.

Barcelona boss Xavi hopes retaining the Spanish Super Cup can help his side get their season back on track.

LaLiga champions Barca face 2022-23 Copa del Rey runners-up Osasuna in the semi-final of the competition on Thursday evening in Riyadh.

The Catalan giants travelled to Saudi Arabia sitting third in the league, seven points adrift of both leaders Real Madrid and second-placed Girona.

Xavi, who guided Barca to a 3-1 win over fierce rivals Real in the final of last year’s Supercopa de Espana, told a press conference: “We want to find our game again and keep it going.

“We need to play a complete game against a solid side, who have a great coach (Jagoba Arrasate) and who can generate all kinds of different scenarios.

“The click we need to win might come from winning the Super Cup, it certainly helped us last season.

“Hopefully we win this title and it helps us get back on track.”

Barcelona’s two league defeats this term have come against title rivals Real and Girona.

They dropped seven points in four games played between late November and mid December but recovered to register successive victories before the trip to the Middle East.

Barca defender Ronald Araujo echoed his manager’s comments.

“We hope (the Super Cup) marks a turning point,” said the Uruguay international. “It’s a title and is very important for the team and the club.

“We have a great team. We aren’t quite clinical enough in both areas. But we have top quality players to turn this situation around.”

Xavi has selected a 25-man squad for the Super Cup.

Defenders Joao Cancelo and Inigo Martinez and midfielder Pedri travelled, despite not being fully fit.

Real face city rivals Atletico Madrid on Wednesday evening in the other semi-final.

Anthony Joshua insisted he remained focused on securing victory on Saturday night and was not distracted by thoughts of future fights when he goes up against Otto Wallin in Saudi Arabia.

The 34-year-old is aiming to make it three wins from three in 2023 having already beaten Jermaine Franklin Jr by unanimous decision in April before securing a seventh-round stoppage against Robert Helenius in August to earn a 26th professional career victory.

Saturday’s bout is an important clash for the former two-time world heavyweight champion, who is looking to insert himself back into the top of the heavyweight division.

Speaking after Friday’s weigh-in, Joshua said: “If my prayers are answered, I’ll get the win.

“I’ve been focused, praying hard and whatever God wants from me, I’m going to follow that path. I’m making sure it’s not just prayer, I’m following up by action as well.”

With talk of a proposed fight against Deontay Wilder – who faces Joseph Parker on the same bill – Joshua insisted he remained focused on securing success on Saturday night before considering future fights.

He said: “I’m a serious fighter, I’m a serious businessman, I’ve got a great team behind me and they’re handling business. As I always say, let me focus on what I’ve got to focus on.

“Without Saturday night there is no future. Saturday night I’ve been saying all week is my main focus. Whatever happens in the ring, I know that’s where my heart is. I need to get this win.”

Joshua has recorded three career losses so far, beaten by Andy Ruiz in 2019 before Oleksandr Usyk defeated him twice, and comes into Saturday’s fight weighing 251 pounds, while Wallin came in at 238.6 pounds.

The Swedish southpaw has only one career loss to date against Tyson Fury and insisted there would be a “new king” on Saturday.

Wallin said: “I’m a small fighter. I’m a southpaw. I’ve trained for this moment for a very long time so I’m very much ready for it.

“I know tomorrow there’s going to be a new king and he’s from Sweden.”

Wilder and Parker will also go head-to-head in the other main showpiece this weekend.

Wilder comes into the bout at a lean 213 pounds compared to Parker’s 245.3 pounds and the heavy hitter, who has won 42 of his 43 victories by knockout, insisted Parker had “never felt the power” he possessed.

“I’m just this calm and collected,” Wilder said.

“I’ve been here many times before and I’ve fought his style before. He’s never fought a style like mine. He’s never felt the power that I bring and possess.”

Parker vowed to “be aggressive” ahead of their meeting.

He said: “We’re here, we’re ready and I can’t wait.

“I’m going to be aggressive, go in there, execute the plan, follow the strategies and get the win.”

Anthony Joshua admits “there is no future” if he fails to beat Otto Wallin on the “Day of Reckoning” in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

The two-time world champion is aiming to win his third fight of 2023 after already gaining victories over Jermaine Franklin Jr and Robert Helenius earlier in the year as he looks to step back to the top of the heavyweight division.

Joshua has three career defeats to date, Andy Ruiz Jr inflicted his first loss in 2019 before Oleksandr Usyk beat him for the IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles on two occasions.

The 34-year-old understands that defeat could be damaging for his future in the sport.

He told a press conference: “I know where I’m going in my life but I’ve got to say this is a checkpoint and if I don’t get past this, there is no future so I’m fully locked in to Otto Wallin and doing the job.

“Pure focus on Saturday, that’s with my heart, soul and every cell in my body is focused on Otto Wallin and knowing what I can do.”

Joshua has looked focused in the build-up to the fight and explained he only has one thing on his mind.

He added: “I’m looking to do a good job and what more can I say, I will do a good job.

“I’m here to fight, I’m not here to party, I want to perform well and put that pressure on myself because I want to win, I have that urge to win and want to hurt my opponent as well.”

Swedish fighter Wallin, 33, has just one career defeat to his name, narrowly losing to Tyson Fury in 2019 but has won all six of his fights since.

Wallin vows to win the fight on Saturday and does not think it will be an ‘upset’ if he does so.

He said: “Its a big fight and big opportunity I’ve worked hard to be here and now it’s time to enjoy the moment, win the fight and move on.

“I’m going to win the fight and it shouldn’t be an upset, it’s natural and it’s my time, I’m happy to be here. I’m just trying to be myself, people say I talk a lot but I just answer them with what I feel, and I’m not trying to make anything up its the truth if people don’t like it fine, but its true.”

Deontay Wilder takes on Joseph Parker in the co-main event of the evening on a card which features eight fights.

Wilder has claimed 42 of his 43 victories by the way of knockout and insists he will do the same on Saturday.

He said: “I’ve come here to do what I do best, it’s something that comes naturally and I’m looking to do it again. Don’t blink baby, bam good night.

“I come to do what I do best, and that’s what the fans want to see, no one wants to see a 12-round fight and we are heavyweights and hard hitters, they wanna see us fight and then afterwards go party. Nowadays my name is called doctor sleep.”

Parker promised to put on a display for those in attendance.

He added: “I’ve had a great camp and coming into this fight with a great game plan, great strategy and respect to Wilder but I’m here to do a job and I’m here to win.

“We have a great camp and the people involved but when I get out there I’m going to put on a display.”

Anthony Joshua kept his cards close to his chest with another low-key open workout ahead of Saturday’s fight with Otto Wallin in Riyadh.

Former two-time world heavyweight champion Joshua will step into the ring for 30th time this weekend, but the talk ahead of this latest bout in Saudi Arabia has swirled around a proposed clash with Deontay Wilder in 2024.

Wilder will face Joseph Parker on the same bill as Joshua on Saturday night and both men adopted different approaches for their open workouts on Wednesday, with the British boxer doing barely a minute of shadow boxing before he invited local youngsters into the ring.

Instead of Joshua being put through his paces, it was the aspiring fighters who worked up a sweat before the 34-year-old reiterated his focus is all about claiming the 27th victory of his career on Saturday.

“I do want to hurt him, that’s fact,” Joshua (26-3, 23KOs) told TNT Sports.

“This (workout) ain’t fun for me, this is just work. What will be fun is Saturday night getting my hand raised.

“All of this is really nice, but this ain’t for me. This is for the entertainment, for the viewers, for the people who have come to Saudi to watch a night of boxing. My entertainment is in the ring on Saturday night and I’m not there yet so I’ve got to stay focused.

“I’m here with you guys out of contractual obligations so I will fulfil my obligations but ultimately my true, true obligation is to fight on Saturday night.

“I need to win, I have to win and yeah, if it is destined and meant to be, it’s meant to be.”

Before Joshua stepped in the ring for his non-workout, which has been a feature of other fight weeks, his long-standing rival Wilder discussed the pressure being put on the Watford fighter.


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Wilder added: “It’s been so long that people talk about me and him getting in the ring. I think there is a lot more pressure on him than me.

“A lot of people talk about how he responded to media. I had a lot of media come up to me today and ask me about his behaviour. I say you all put a lot of pressure on him. He has got to focus on Otto Wallin.

“You put a lot of pressure on him, I wish everyone would back off him.”

Anthony Joshua has vowed to deliver a “demolition job” on Otto Wallin when the British heavyweight fights on the same bill as Deontay Wilder in Saudi Arabia on December 23.

Joshua, who is looking to insert himself back into the world title picture, will face the Swede as part of a stacked card in Riyadh.

The 34-year-old Joshua, who beat Robert Helenius in his last bout in August, will fight after Wilder, who faces Joseph Parker on the undercard.

The 2012 Olympic gold medallist is on a quest to become a three-time heavyweight champion and he sees Wallin, who claimed a points victory over Murat Gassiev in September, as the next step.

“I’m looking forward to delivering my message to Otto Wallin on December 23,” Joshua told a press conference.

“I can’t predict the future but I know what I want to do. I believe I’m going to be three-time heavyweight champion and the first step is to put a demolition job on Otto Wallin.

“It’s going to be a really good time to go to Saudi. It’s going to be big, we haven’t seen a card like this before.

“This is not a one-stop shop. This is a vision, this is my first stop and I will deliver the message. I’m determined to win and get back to my peak.”

Joshua lost his WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight belts to Oleksandr Usyk in 2021 and he fell short in their rematch the following year.

Eddie Hearn, his promoter, believes the best is still to come for Joshua, who will step into the ring for a third time this year after victories against Jermaine Franklin and Helenius.

Hearn said: “This is a tough fight. We saw (Wallin) against Tyson Fury, he’s a good southpaw and we have seen something different from AJ (Joshua).

“I think the best chapter is still to write for AJ. He changed the face of Saudi boxing and this is a challenge he wants to take.

“He wants to be heavyweight champion again and I think this will be a destructive performance from him.”

Hearn talked up a potential showdown between Joshua and Wilder next year, saying: “Wilder is potentially a massive fight to bring in 2024.

“This lines everything up for AJ and this lines up his whole career. I can’t wait to see him shine on December 23.”

The date was initially reserved for Tyson Fury and Usyk’s undisputed heavyweight showdown, which has since been postponed following the Briton’s lacklustre performance against Francis Ngannou last month.

Wallin, whose only defeat came against Fury, admitted the fight against Joshua was a bit of a surprise.

He said: “It’s an easy fight to make for us. I didn’t expect to fight again this year. I’m in a great position and feel on top of the world.

“I have been waiting for this for a long time and I’m blessed to be in this position.”

British heavyweight Daniel Dubois will take on American Jarrell Miller on a stacked undercard, which also features Manchester’s Lyndon Arthur challenging WBA light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol and London’s Ellis Zorro taking on IBF cruiserweight holder Jai Opetaia.

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