Talking points,

From Hollywood to Tsukuba

From Cheltenham to Wrexham, Milton Keynes to Manchester, it was a blockbuster weekend of sporting action. Here I break down the weekend’s key talking points.

1. Kaoru Mitoma

Chelsea’s gluttonous January splurge continued this weekend with the acquisition of Lyon right back Malo Gusto – taking their January spend to £220 million for this window.

But on the South coast this weekend, there was a striking advert for a decidedly less flashy recruitment style. The man in question? Kaoru Mitoma. Possessing an otherworldly lightness, the Japanese winger repeatedly tore devastating holes in Liverpool’s rearguard before scoring a stunning winner in the 92nd minute.

Three years ago he was writing his thesis on the art of dribbling at the University of Tsukuba. He cost the Seagulls just £2.6 million in Summer 2021 from Kawaski Frontale in the J-league and now he is running Premier League defences ragged.

You wouldn’t bet against him becoming another record-breaking departure, and you certainly wouldn’t bet against Brighton. Hats off to Mr Bloom and his scouting team.

Brighton and Hove Albion to win the FA Cup @ 7-1

2. Whip rule controversy

After winning a race on a bumper Sunday card at Sedgefield, you would expect the victorious jockey to be all smiles in the winner’s enclosure.

However, Sean Quinlan, after winning the 3m3f handicap chase aboard Onestepatatime, could barely wipe the grimace off his face. His mind was on one thing only. He told Sky Sports Racing:

“I’m trying my best. I’ve been doing it for twenty years, I’ve used my whip and I’ve never been called in for it before. But now, apparently, I’m breaking the rules.”

“I am trying. I’ve had a few owners and trainers telling me that I’m not actually riding to the best of my ability and it is affecting me a little bit. I actually threw my stick away in the last race.

So, it is playing on every single one of us. Brian Hughes, champion jockey, rarely gets a whip ban. He’s been in and out of the steward’s room. He’s trying his best, we all have been, but something has to be done.”

3. You couldn’t script it

For those who insist the FA Cup has lost its lustre in recent years, try telling Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. The remarkable story of their purchase of the fifth-tier side Wrexham and subsequent march up the National League table, certainly has a touch of Hollywood about it.

The way they went toe to toe with high-end Championship opposition in Sheffield Utd epitomises what the FA Cup is all about. David vs Goliath at a rocking Racecourse Ground in North-East Wales.

Despite the heartbreak of conceding a late equaliser, Wrexham remain in the hat. We can look forward to another dose of box-office drama when the sides meet again at Brammall Lane.

4. Chris Dobey makes history

There was more drama from our very own ‘Hollywood‘ this weekend with Chris Dobey making history to win the Masters in his first-ever televised final, defeating Rob Cross 11-7 in a thrilling contest.

Well in Chris!

Chris Dobey to win the PDC World Championship @ 60-1

5. What it means to be a winner

Away from the doom and gloom of whip rules and affordability checks. There were plenty of positives to take away from Cheltenham on Saturday.

Gold Tweet at 14-1, became the first French-based winner to triumph on Trials Day for 18 years, following his success in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle.

The winning trainer, Gabriel Leenders, said: “We won at Cheltenham! It’s a dream, I’ve come back after riding for David Pipe and Nicky Henderson and I said to them I will have a runner at Cheltenham. I’ve come back and had a winner, it’s my dream and I’m very happy.

With all the talk around lack of prize money and dwindling attendance figures, it is a real boost to see just how much a Cheltenham winner still means.

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