After a powerhouse showing from Shishkin in the Ascot Chase and another breathless installment of Premier League football, I discuss the biggest talking points from the weekend’s sporting action.
1. The guilty Pope
Before Alisson had even kicked the ball Mo Salah was on the charge towards the Gallowgate. This is a goalkeeper with three Premier League assists to his name and that fact was not lost on his opposite number Nick Pope. As Pope charged off his goal line, what followed was an extraordinary episode that kicked off a goalkeeping merry-go-round with potentially catastrophic ramifications for the Magpies.
The inevitable red card for deliberate handling outside the area was delivered. Not only had had Pope’s error all but conceded three points to top-four rivals, it had brought to an end a seventeen-match unbeaten run but crucially, the most galling fact for Newcastle fans is, it means he will miss next Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Manchester United.
Enter Loris Sven Karius. With Pope suspended and Martin Dubravka cup-tied, Newcastle will be forced to rely on the German come next weekend. Lesser-spotted since his calamitous errors in the Champions League final in 2018, can the former-Liverpool keeper wash away his sins and find Wembley redemption?
Newcastle to win the Carabao Cup @ 12/5
2. Silencing the doubters
After two sub-par outings in the Tingle Creek and the Champion Chase, Shishkin was being written off. Too slow, too old, too error-prone. But he didn’t just beat his rivals in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase, he obliterated them.
It was a laudable training performance from Nicky Henderson to step-up his great two-mile chaser in trip and he was rewarded with an unerring victory from the nine-year-old.
Pic D’Orhy put in a valiant effort but it was the ease with which Shishkin steamed away from a field including the decorated Fakir D’oudaries, that really captured the imagination of punters. With it all but confirmed he will head to the Ryanair, Cheltenham awaits for him to complete his renaissance.
Shishkin to win the Ryanair @ 5/4
3. Back with a bang
Oisin Murphy is back on the racecourse and back in the winner’s enclosure. Any doubts as to his sharpness or hunger have been well and truly banished.
He already has a Group 3 success to celebrate after triumphing in Saudi on Saturday and heads to Newcastle tonight with a book of rides bursting with potential winners.
With his longest shot tonight carrying odds of 6/1, you wouldn’t bet against him adding to his burgeoning tally and further laying down the gauntlet to last season’s Champion Jockey William Buick ahead of the Turf campaign.
Oisin Murphy to ride two or more winners at Newcastle tonight @ 6/4
4. The winning habit
When Ben Stokes became England captain there were sceptics to win over. Was he up to the strains of captaincy? Was his style of play appropriate to lead a Test team?
What Stokes has managed to do in his first year as Test captain, is not only galvanise a side to deliver thrilling performances, but to reinvent the England red-ball team as a winning machine.
On Saturday England swiftly dispatched New Zealand with an impressive 267-run victory in the opening test of the series. It was a professional, devastating and ultimately practiced performance.
As England sauntered to victory, Australia toiled to defeat in Dehli with a spectacular collapse yielding four wickets and no runs in just eleven balls. With a home-Ashes looming on the summer horizon, there is the sense that England have developed a timely winning habit.
England to win the Ashes @ 6/5
5. Borrowed time
The clock is ticking for Graham Potter, with over £320m invested in new players in the January window it seemed for all the world that the man who achieved miracles with Östersunds, Swansea and Brighton, had the backing of Todd Boehly.
But life comes at you fast. After a spectacular trolley-dash that saw some of Europe’s brightest talents relocating in their numbers to SW3, poor results on the pitch are providing an interesting study in the patience of the American tycoon.
The bare facts read as follows: Chelsea have one win in their last fourteen games. They have managed a miserly tally of 24 Premier League goals – for context even relegation strugglers Leeds have scored more. They languish in tenth place, ten points of the top four and eleven points off the relegation places.
How long will Todd Boehly’s patience last?
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