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■There is plenty of racing on offer this weekend but Sandown’s card stands out with two big-money hurdle races on offer, writes The Investor. The class race is the Anglo Irish Bank Tolworth Hurdle, but punters will want to dissect a typically open Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle.
Nicky Henderson’s Afrad is a hot favourite based on a comfortable course and distance victory at Sandown on Boxing day and could be a star. He looked a class act that day but all too often flatters to deceive, including when favourite in the Cesarewitch in which he finished a humble 28th of
36 runners. His attitude has often been questioned and at the price he is worth taking on.
There are plenty with an each-way squeak, including Chief Yeoman who was good enough to be second in the Triumph Hurdle two years ago. At silly odds, Admiral has a touch of class.
But the one to be on is Briareus. Trainer Andrew Balding has always rated this horse and he did well as a novice. A gallant second on his handicap debut should put him spot on for today.
Earlier on the card, the Ladbrokes Handicap Chase should be at the mercy of classy seven-year-old mare Liberthine and her amateur rider Sam Whaley-Cohen. He ignominiously fell off her last time when looking bang in contention in a hot race at Cheltenham, but proved a more than capable pilot when guiding her to an easy victory in the Mildmay of Flete at the Festival.
2:05 – Liberthine (win)
3:10 – Briareus (each-way)
■Portsmouth broke their transfer record with the £4.1m purchase of Zimbabwe international striker Benjani Mwaruwari from Auxerre, subject to the need for a work permit.
Manchester United confirmed that they had reached agreement to sign the French international full-back Patrice Evra from Monaco for fee believed to be about the £5m mark.
Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, 33, shocked the club by requesting a transfer, just six months after signing a three-year contract.
The Football Association has charged Manchester City’s French defender David Sommeil with violent conduct for his challenge on Tottenham left-back Lee Young-Pyo. Sommeil was given the option of pleading guilty so he could start a suspension immediately, but the 31-year-old has opted to have the case heard at a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday.
■Ricky Ponting guided Australia to an unlikely eight-wicket win over South Africa in the third Test in Sydney, becoming the first cricketer to score centuries in both innings of his 100th test.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith, pushing for a series-levelling win, declared their second innings at 194 for 6 an hour before lunch, setting Australia 287 to win and giving his attack 76 overs to bowl the hosts out, but the gamble failed to pay off.
■Martina Hingis’s comeback run in the Australian Hardcourts tournament ended in her semi-final against Flavia Pennetta of Italy, the Swiss former world number one losing 2-6 7-6 6-2.