Meet ends with declines in handle, attendance OCEANPORT – Monmouth Park closed out its 2006 racing season Sunday with declines in handle and attendance, offset by bright spots such as the highest purses in track history, an increase of more than $1 million in total betting on New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival Day, the opening of a new turf course, and the seventh consecutive year with attendance of more than 40,000 on Haskell Invitational Day. Monmouth lost the most number of racing days ever, with the scheduled 91-day meet whittled down to 87 programs (even with make-up dates). A total of five programs were canceled – one due to extreme heat, one to rain for the June 12 turf program at the Meadowlands, one to rain and wind, and two to the unprecedented state government budget shutdown. Total daily handle declined 1.6 percent with a daily average of $2,354,237. On-track daily handle on Monmouth races was down 10 percent, a daily average of $580,824. Wagering in the building on both live and simulcast racing declined 6.5 percent to a daily average of $1,205,411. Average daily attendance slipped 7.5 percent from 2005, averaging 8,400 per day. The on-track declines were due in great part to the expansion of telephone and account wagering in the state. Handle figures that were once incorporated into Monmouth totals are now considered transmission wagering. Total wagering from all sources averaged $3,549,451, a decline of 2.5 percent from last year. Turf racing, always an important factor in total handle, was not conducted for the first six weeks of the 2006 meeting. The new turf course did not open until June 18. During the meeting, Monmouth offered its highest purse structure in history. Overnight purses averaged $325,053 per day (an increase of 5.6 percent over the 2005 figure), and total purses – including stakes races – of $364,678 a day, a gain of 2.5 percent over last year. “With online and account wagering moving out of its infancy, a decrease in on-track handle was anticipated and expected,” said Dennis Dowd, senior vice president of racing for the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority. “We were pleased to see our total handle off a very slight number as wagering in New Jersey transforms and will continue to transform with the advent of OTBs next year. “We believe that in the long run, the combination of online and account wagering coupled with OTBs and on-track handle will lead to overall increases in total handle that will provide benefits across the board to everyone involved,” he said. Dowd cited the new grass course – the venue for one of the strongest runnings ever of the United Nations Stakes (G1) at Monmouth soon after it opened in late June – as a major positive of the year. “We couldn’t be more pleased with the new turf course,” he said. “All those involved in bringing it to fruition deserve a lot of credit, and their hard work will continue to pay dividends to the Sports Authority for years to come. Not only was it a great success, but its safety (and the safety of the main track) is something that management and horsemen can be very proud of.” Dowd said that despite the shortfall in numbers, several aspects of the meeting have created a positive outlook for next year – Monmouth’s Breeders’ Cup season – and beyond. “While the numbers may not reflect an air of optimism,” he said, “it certainly exists at Monmouth Park. Record purses are always something to smile about, and it continues a five-year trend of offering increased purses annually. “The Breeders’ Cup and its impact are already being felt and as we close this year’s season and look forward to 2007, Breeders’ Cup Day and beyond, there is a bright future for racing at Monmouth.” Once again, Haskell Day on Aug. 6 was the highlight of the season at Monmouth. The day’s crowd of 42,318 was the fifth largest in track history, and the seventh straight year the event has attracted more than 40,000 fans. Bluegrass Cat won the $1 million Haskell, giving trainer Todd Pletcher his first victory in the race. The fourth annual New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival Day was the most successful ever, with a total of $3,971,782 wagered on the day. That was an increase of more than $1 million over the 2005 total of $2,961,900. Killer B’s – Broome, Breen, Bravo – win titles again For owner Ed Broome, trainer Kelly Breen and jockey Joe Bravo, the 2006 Monmouth Park season was a repeat of 2005. All three repeated as the leaders, with Bravo taking his record 12th riding title, Broome his third owner title and Breen his second training crown. Four horses tied with four wins for leading runner at the meet. Through Friday’s racing, Broome had 17 winners to lead all the owners, with Patricia Generazio second with 14 and Stronach Stables third with 13. Richard Malouf, whose horses are trained by Broome, had the highest winning percentage of any owner, with 10 wins, five seconds and five thirds from 25 starters, a winning percentage of 40 percent, and an in-the-money record of 80 percent. Broome shared last year’s title with 13 wins, tied with Peter Kazamias and Michael Gill. Breen, who won his first training title last year when he saddled 38 winners, had already topped that mark through Friday, with 40 winners from 160 starters, a 25 percent win average. The New Jersey native (born in Perth Amboy) went out on his own in 2000 after working as an assistant to Ben Perkins Sr. Bruce Levine, who was second last year with 26 wins, had 30 to be runner-up again. Eddie Broome was third with 28. Bravo has had a lock on Monmouth’s riding title for most of two decades and was the runaway leader through Friday with 124 wins. Jose Lezcano was second with 95, and Chuck Lopez third with 85. Bravo, a native of Long Branch, has now won four straight riding crowns. Injuries in 2001 and 2002 kept him on the ground, but he had taken the titles in 1999 and 2000. Bravo won six straight riding titles from 1991 through 1996.
Clockwise from left: Middletown South High School linebacker Matt Saulnier l) tries to bring down Monroe’s Blake Bascom during the first half of the NJSIAA Central Group III Championship game held at The College of New Jersey in Ewing on Dec. 5. Middletown South High School running back Tim McArdle (l) makes a sprint for the end zone during the first half. Middletown South’s Brian Benedetto (r) tries to bring down the pass before Monroe Township’s Frank Roupoli (l) can break it up. The Eagles fell to Monroe Township by a score of 30-10. PHOTOS BY ERIC SUCAR staff
By Andreas VouDESPITE being second best for most of the game, APOEL scored a crucial away goal in a 1-1 draw against Aalborg in the first leg of the Champions League play-off on Wednesday night, giving them a slight advantage going into next week’s return game in Nicosia.The Danish outfit can feel aggrieved for not coming away with a comfortable win having made many more chances than the Cypriot champions but failure to bury their opportunities cost them dearly.A 16th minute strike from Nicolaj Thomsen gave Aalborg a well-merited lead but Brazilian midfielder Franco Vinicius handed APOEL an equaliser as well as an away goal which could prove decisive early into the second half.Even though APOEL lie on the brink of their third progression to the Champions League groups in six seasons, just four players from their starting eleven had previously played in a Champions League encounter and the inexperience was evident in the first half.APOEL set up very defensively with two banks of four standing in front of goalkeeper Urko Pardo, while Tomas de Vincenti roamed in behind Cillian Sheridan in attack.There was only team in it in the first half as Patrick Kristensen wreaked havoc down the right side of the field. The early warning signs were not picked up by APOEL and they were soon made to pay.After some nice approach play from Nicklas Helenius on the edge of the APOEL box, Kristensen picked out Nicolaj Thomsen with a low cross who struck first time from the edge of the box beyond the reach of Pardo to give the Danes the lead.Aalborg players were continuously allowed to take shots at will as the APOEL players opted to stand off their opponents and it looked like a matter of time before the home side would double their lead.However, a quick break away just before the break saw Nuno Morais played through on goal, but the Portuguese midfielder was eventually caught up and had his shot blocked.In the second half, coach Donis switched Tiago Gomes to the right-hand side of midfield and Constantinos Charalambides to the left to provide more defensive cover to cope with the threat of Kristensen.On 54 minutes, Gomes swiveled on the corner of the box before feeding Vinicius who made a bursting run from midfield into the penalty box before lashing the ball beyond Nicolai Larsen to hand APOEL a key away goal.Prior to the equaliser, Aalborg had ten shots on goal compared to a solitary APOEL effort – the leveller took the sting out of Aalborg’s game and the tempo of the game slowed.Kasper Risgard saw a penalty claim turned down on 64 not long before Vinicius came agonisingly close to a second for APOEL but the game would remain 1-1 with the visitors going home the happiest.The job is half done for APOEL who need little reminding that Aalborg are more than capable away from home after the Danes reversed a 0-1 deficit against Dinamo Zagreb to win 0-2 in Croatia to reach this stage.
By Nick MulvenneyBryan Habana scored a try with his first touch of the ball in international rugby and 99 Tests later the South Africa winger remains one of the most lethal finishers in the game.On Saturday, the 31-year-old will become the fourth Springbok to win 100 caps when he lines up on the left wing in the Rugby Championship Test against Australia in Perth.Among his South African record 56 tries are nine in 19 matches against the Wallabies, including a hat-trick in Pretoria two years ago.As one of South Africa’s most experienced players, though, Habana feels his input these days needs to be greater than just dotting the ball down over the whitewash.“It would be pretty awesome to score my 10th try against Australia in my 100th Test,” he said this week.“But, that said, I think the contribution I need to give as a senior player who’s been there and done it, will be more important off the field than on it.”Blessed with explosive pace, excellent football skills and an unswerving commitment to the cause, Habana has been one of the most prolific try scorers in rugby since making his debut against then world champions England at Twickenham in 2004.“It’s been a wonderful journey over the last 11 seasons and one I feel very privileged to be a part of,” he added.“Through the good times and the bad times, the journey has been one that I’ve enjoyed every step of the way.“Yes, there’s been some trying times but just to get the chance to live out your dream, to be part of a team that represents a country and stands for so much.”The good times have included a World Cup win and IRB World Player of the Year award in 2007 as well as a British and Irish Lions series triumph and Tri-Nations title in 2009.The bad followed soon afterwards when he was booed by the crowd during a defeat to Australia at Bloemfontein in 2010 in the midst of the often troubled coaching reign of Peter de Villiers.Habana said while that was disappointing, he had never lost faith in his own talent or his desire to wear the Springbok jersey.“The true greats are the ones that bounce back,” he said. “Hopefully when I do hang up my boots, I’ll have left the jersey in a better place than when I received it 11 seasons ago.”
By Mike CollettChelsea wasted chance after chance and had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Schalke 04 in their opening Champions League Group G match at Stamford Bridge that made a mockery of both teams’ early season form.Cesc Fabregas scored his first goal for Chelsea to put them ahead after 11 minutes but the London side, who have won all four Premier League games, were pegged back when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored a superb equaliser for Schalke, who are without a win in Germany this season.Fabregas was fortunate Croatian referee Ivan Bebek allowed play to continue after he appeared to foul Max Meyer at the start of the move that led to his goal, which came when he fired past goalkeeper Ralf Fahrmann with a lofted angled drive.Didier Drogba wasted a great chance to seal victory for Chelsea but justice appeared to be done when Fabregas lost the ball at the start of the move that led to Schalke’s 62nd minute equaliser, which Huntelaar fired in from the edge of the box.“We had more than a couple of fantastic chances to win the game but we got a point. It is not the best result but it is a result,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho told Sky Sports.“In the second half they scored, we had a good reaction and I have nothing to complain about with my players.“(Drogba) missed the goal by a few inches and that would have been 2-0 but football is like this. Didier Drogba is not crying because of that miss.”Chelsea dominated for much of the match and should have gone into the break with two goals on the board but, after scoring in the 11th minute, Fabregas was guilty of a bad miss in the 37th when he skied the ball over the bar from 10 metres out.Suddenly Schalke, who had been second-best, and understandably cautious after losing 3-0 home and away to Chelsea in the group stage last season, came to life and had two good chances of their own in the last few minutes of the half.Kevin-Prince Boateng forced Thibaut Courtois into a diving save with a swerving shot smashed with the outside of his right foot, before Julian Draxler fired wide with the goal gaping just before the half ended.Drogba, making his first start since returning to Chelsea, should have doubled their lead after 60 minutes but saw his angled drive go past the far post before Loic Remy, who had only replaced Drogba a few minutes earlier, saw a shot headed off the line by Roman Neustadter.Eden Hazard then had two more opportunities to win it for Chelsea but even the introduction of Diego Costa, who had scored seven goals in his first four games, could not break the deadlock after coming on in the 73rd minute.
By Iacovos ConstantinouThe long awaited top of the table clash between Apollonas and APOEL on Friday evening ended in a dull goalless draw disappointing both sets of fans who had turned up to watch the game.The pattern of the game was set out from the very early stages with Apollonas dropping deep and allowing APOEL plenty of possession and hoping to catch them on the break. Despite their possession APOEL could hardly muster a clear-cut chance in the first half even though Sheridan did find the net but the ‘goal’ was disallowed by the assistant referee for offside. It was a difficult call for the assistant and even TV replays proved inconclusive.In the other end Apollonas striker Gaston Sangoy, not the quickest of strikers, was all alone chasing long balls against probably the best central defencing pairing in the league.In the second half Apollonas upped their game and almost managed to take the lead in a rare swift counter attack but Lopes blasted the ball wide with only keeper Pardo to beat.APOEL’s Tomas de Vincenti fired just wide after a melee in the penalty area and Apollonas’ keepr Vale had to be at his best to keep out a Morais header.With the final whistle APOEL may feel somewhat disappointed by the result as they were the better side but were found wanting in the final third of the pitch. On the other hand Apollonas should be satisfied with the draw as it keeps them two points off the top.
By Michael HannLIVERPOOL striker Daniel Sturridge could make his long-awaited return from injury in their League Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday (9.45pm), manager Brendan Rodgers said.Former Chelsea striker Sturridge, who scored 25 goals for Liverpool in all competitions last season, has not played for the Merseysiders since August after a series of persistent injuries.Sturridge travelled to the United States over the Christmas period for treatment on a thigh problem and, having since returned to training with the first team, Rodgers is hoping the England striker will be ready in time to face Chelsea.“Sturridge trained very, very well yesterday and that was as comfortable as he’s looked,” Rodgers told a news conference on Monday.“He looked back to normal. We won’t risk it that’s for sure, he’s been out for a long time and we need to make sure he’s ready.”Raheem Sterling’s stunning individual goal earned Liverpool a 1-1 draw in last week’s semi-final first leg at Anfield.Premier League leaders Chelsea were dumped out of the FA Cup by League One (third tier) Bradford City on Saturday and Rodgers is wary of a backlash from Jose Mourinho’s side.“They had a difficult result at the weekend but it doesn’t mean they’re not a dangerous team and an outstanding team,” he said.“We know it will be a tough game but we are certainly going in with no fear and our strength is in attack.“There will be great motivation for them to go out there with a Wembley final at stake but I’m sure there will be a wee bit of trepidation.”With a week to go before the transfer window shuts, Rodgers said he does not expect to make any new signings.The Liverpool boss also played down suggestions that misfit striker Mario Balotelli, who is yet to score a league goal in 12 appearances since his £16 million move from AC Milan in August, is to leave the club.“We’ll give Mario every chance,” Rodgers said. “We brought him in to give him every chance to show that he can perform consistently for a team at this level.“I’ve seen clippings saying this morning (Monday) that’s him over with here and that’s not the case.”
By Mike CollettSUNDERLAND are banking on the guile of Dick Advocaat to steer them to safety after the English Premier League strugglers appointed the Dutchman as head coach until the end of the season on Tuesday.The club, who sacked Gus Poyet on Monday following a poor run of results that culminated in a 4-0 home thrashing by Aston Villa at the weekend, are one point and one place clear of the relegation zone with nine matches remaining.“Sunderland is a big club and I am very much looking forward to the challenge ahead. We must now concentrate on Saturday as a priority and I can’t wait to get started,” the former Dutch national coach said in a statement on the club website (www.safc.com).Poyet departed following a run of just one win in 12 league matches which has left the club in danger of relegation after eight seasons in the Premier League and Advocaat’s immediate aim will be to win at West Ham United on Saturday.The 67-year-old has no Premier League experience but he did lead Rangers to successive Scottish titles in 1999 and 2000 and is one of the most experienced and respected coaches in the game.As well as coaching the Netherlands, he has also coached the national teams of the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Belgium, Russia and Serbia.At club level, he has coached Borussia Moenchengladbach, Zenit St Petersburg, AZ Alkmaar and PSV Eindhoven as well as Rangers.His move to Sunderland represents something of a gamble for owner Ellis Short because, historically speaking, changing managers so late in the season, rarely has any major effect on the team.Since the Premier League started in 1992-93, 14 managers have been appointed on March 17 or later with little positive impact.Of those 14, only one managed to improve the team’s position in the few games remaining, while all six clubs who were in the relegation zone when the change was made, still went down.
By Ed OsmondMohammad Hafeez made a fluent unbeaten 102 to lead Pakistan to a comfortable six-wicket victory over England in the first one-day international in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.England spluttered to 216 all out after winning the toss and the hosts, who won the recent Test series 2-0, overcame the loss of two early wickets to coast to their target with more than six overs to spare.Hafeez struck a six and 10 fours in his 11th one-day international century, sharing an unbeaten fifth-wicket partnership of 106 with Babar Azam to guide his side to victory.Azam finished on 62 not out off 62 balls, reaching his fifty with a huge six off Chris Woakes shortly before the end of the match.England lost Jason Roy, Joe Root and Alex Hales with just 14 runs on the board before a fine partnership of 133 between captain Eoin Morgan and James Taylor dragged them back into the game.Morgan hit 11 fours in his 76 and Taylor made 60 but the dismissal of the skipper prompted another collapse as Jos Buttler, Taylor, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid followed him back to the pavilion for the addition of 33 runs.Woakes hit 33 before being run out to end England’s innings with two balls of their 50 overs remaining.The second game in the four-match series is in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Striker Harry Kane has half an eye on retaining the Premier League’s ‘Golden Boot’ as a confident Tottenham Hotspur focus on delivering a league and FA Cup double.Spurs, who have won their last eight games in all competitions, face league leaders Chelsea in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.At an individual level Kane, the league’s top scorer last season, trails Belgium international Romelu Lukaku of Everton by four goals with six Premier League games to play.The 23-year-old England international became the first Spurs player since Jimmy Greaves in 1969 to hit 20 goals in three successive top-flight seasons after netting in the club’s 4-0 win over Bournemouth last weekend.After the FA Cup semi-final, Spurs will shift focus to the league, where they trail Chelsea by four points, ahead of a trip across London to Crystal Palace on April 26.Spurs last won the English league title back in 1961.Kane said on the club website that Spurs must focus on maintaining their momentum heading into a difficult run of fixtures, which includes home games against fifth-placed Manchester United and North London rivals Arsenal.“We’ve some tough games coming up – Palace away, Leicester away, Arsenal and (Manchester) United here but we’re feeling good, we’re feeling confident,” he said.“Every game we go into we feel like we’re going to score goals and defensively we’re keeping clean sheets, so that’s what we’ve got to try to maintain until the end of the season.”Kane is also hoping to keep his own momentum going after Lukaku’s 24th league goal of the campaign in Everton’s 3-1 victory over Burnley meant he matched Dixie Dean’s 1934 record of scoring in nine consecutive home league games.“As a striker you want to be top scorer in the league, no doubt about it,” Kane said.“I left a couple out there I probably should have scored, Lukaku has been doing well and it’s a good competition but the main thing is we’re winning games.“I’ve a little eye on the run-in and if I can get a few more, we’ll see what happens,” Kane added