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Mick Appleby criticised Tuesday’s meeting in Leicester after a spike of Covid-19 infections

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Local trainer Mick Appleby strongly criticised the decision to stage Tuesday’s meeting at Leicester after the city had restrictions re-imposed after a spike of coronavirus infections.

Appleby, along with fellow trainers Chelsea Banham, Alan King, Graeme McPherson and David O’Meara, all withdrew horses citing COVID-19 concerns.

With only four out of the 11 in the stall handlers team also agreeing to work at the track, all races had to be started by Flip tape.

Trainer Mick Appleby strongly criticised the decision to stage Tuesday's meeting at Leicester

Trainer Mick Appleby strongly criticised the decision to stage Tuesday's meeting at Leicester

Trainer Mick Appleby strongly criticised the decision to stage Tuesday’s meeting at Leicester 

The BHA had given the go-ahead for the meeting the green light at 11am after consultation with the local health authority.

Appleby, who pulled out three horses, said: ‘I don’t think the meeting should have been allowed to go ahead. You don’t know who has been at the racecourse in the last few weeks, working there. I don’t think it’s safe.

‘The owners have agreed. I’d have had two favourites there and probably two winners. What would happen in a couple of days if someone who attends the meeting tests positive? Your yard would end up going into lockdown.

‘I just don’t think it’s worth the risk. It would have made common sense to call the meeting off. It’s not doing racing any favours whatsoever.’

Appleby was concerned over safety following a spike of coronavirus infections in the city

Appleby was concerned over safety following a spike of coronavirus infections in the city

Appleby was concerned over safety following a spike of coronavirus infections in the city

Alan King also pulled out two horses, stating he was 'not prepared to travel to Leicester'

Alan King also pulled out two horses, stating he was 'not prepared to travel to Leicester'

Alan King also pulled out two horses, stating he was ‘not prepared to travel to Leicester’

King pulled out two horses, stating he was ‘not prepared to travel to Leicester due to the current situation in the city regarding Covid-19’, while McPherson, who pulled Homing Star out of the penultimate race gave his reason as: ‘Government Guidance about travelling to and within Leicester, in particular the area within which the racecourse is situated, could not be clearer. 

‘Racing at Leicester should not be taking place given the Government lockdown there.’ RaceTech, the company responsible for the stalls handler team, said it supported the decision of its employees not to work at Leicester.

A statement said: ‘Following confirmation earlier this morning that Tuesday’s race meeting at Leicester was to go ahead, we received notification from a number of our stalls handlers stating they felt uncomfortable working at the course this evening.

‘Unfortunately, due to the late notice, there was not sufficient time available to find replacement handlers to make up the team of 11 in time and therefore operate the starting stalls safely.’

Due to a spike in Covid-19 cases in the area, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Monday evening that all non-essential businesses in Leicester would have to close again, with schools also closing from Thursday.

Matt Hancock announced that all non-essential businesses in Leicester would have to close

Matt Hancock announced that all non-essential businesses in Leicester would have to close

Matt Hancock announced that all non-essential businesses in Leicester would have to close 

The BHA, who said that local people who worked at the meeting had all been subjected to health screening, added: ‘A number of individuals, including trainers and stalls handlers, have exercised their right not to travel to the race meeting at Leicester.

‘There are strict protocols in place at all race meetings including health screening and social distancing which ensure that the racecourse is one of the most controlled working environments, and local authorities indicated that the race meeting should go ahead.

‘However we entirely understand and respect the decisions taken by those individuals. Trainers have been informed that no penalties will be imposed with regards to withdrawn horses.’

Leicester is due on Tuesday when the city will still be subject to restrictions. Track general manager David Maykels said there would be discussions with the BHA to decide whether the fixture should be staged

Meanwhile, Aidan O’Brien has lined up James Doyle, William Buick and Adam Kirby to ride for him alongside Ryan Moore in Saturday’s Investec Derby at Epsom. O’Brien, who could have seven runners, will run 1,000 Guineas winner Love in the Oaks and Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Peaceful in Sunday’s French Oaks.

O’Brien is considering running Irish Derby winner Santiago against Stradivarius in next month’s Goodwood Cup.

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Steer we go again: dispute over Mercedes device as Red Bull try to halt Hamilton’s bid for 7th title

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No sooner had the scream of V6 engines filled the Styrian valley than those seeking to prevent Lewis Hamilton winning a seventh world title blew the cobwebs off the rulebook.

How very Formula One, with all its arcane squabbling.

On Friday night, Red Bull protested the legality of Mercedes’ reinvention of the steering wheel ahead of Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix, which marks the return of major international sport after the coronavirus-created famine.

Red Bull have protested the legality of Mercedes' reinvention of the steering wheel

Red Bull have protested the legality of Mercedes' reinvention of the steering wheel

Red Bull have protested the legality of Mercedes’ reinvention of the steering wheel

Lewis Hamilton and his fellow racing drivers will finally start the season this Sunday in Austria

Lewis Hamilton and his fellow racing drivers will finally start the season this Sunday in Austria

Lewis Hamilton and his fellow racing drivers will finally start the season this Sunday in Austria 

It is not a case of back to normal. Spectators are banned. Masks are worn. Sanitiser is rubbed in. But certain verities pertain: Hamilton led the way in both practice sessions again, his car still the cream at the top of the bottle.

The man himself looks in prime physical shape, a touch more muscular after three and a half months of hibernation in the gym and pounding the pavements.

As for his machine — black-liveried rather than silver, as a nod to the racial equality cause he is espousing — it is helped by the controversial, Red Bull-challenged DAS system (dual axis steering). This enterprising device allows him and team-mate Valtteri Bottas to move the panel they hold in their hands not only right and left but forwards and backwards.

The novel adjustments deliver optimum set-up for both straights and corners by altering the angle of the wheels.

Hamilton posted the fastest time in both first and second practice sessions on Friday

Hamilton posted the fastest time in both first and second practice sessions on Friday

Hamilton posted the fastest time in both first and second practice sessions on Friday 

‘It’s a very clever system,’ said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. ‘All credit to the ingenuity behind it. The fundamental question for us is, does it comply with the regulations?

‘We’re after some clarification from the FIA. We have questions about it.’ Deliberations were ongoing on Friday night.

Ironically, Red Bull have set about emulating DAS, which broke cover in pre-season testing a lifetime ago in February, and are believed to be close to fitting their own version soon if the FIA declare the Mercedes within the rules. A Red Bull surge is the best hope of Hamilton and Co being threatened this season, however long it might last.

All we know for sure of the schedule for now is that eight races are planned over the next 10 packed weekends. So 18 rounds, finishing in Abu Dhabi in December, is the aim. There are no guarantees.   

Christian Horner wants clarification from the FIA regarding the steering wheel system

Christian Horner wants clarification from the FIA regarding the steering wheel system

Christian Horner wants clarification from the FIA regarding the steering wheel system

Seizing opportunities, reacting nimbly, will be more important factors than usual. Max Verstappen, in the Red Bull, is the man most likely, just conceivably, to stop Hamilton. He is fearless, young, aggressive.

‘He has the ingredient of self-belief,’ said Horner of the 22-year-old who is remarkably starting his sixth season.

Last year he took a second successive victory at this track — the Red Bull Ring, owned by the drink manufacturers’ boss Dietrich Mateschitz, born 40 miles from here in Wiener Schnitzel territory.

This place at the foot of the Alps, when still known as the Osterreichring, used to be one of the most picturesque killing fields in sport.

Hamilton is looking to equal Michael Schumacher's record of seven world championships

Hamilton is looking to equal Michael Schumacher's record of seven world championships

Hamilton is looking to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships

Now it is tamer, and a golden-horned bull, made of 1,200 pieces of rusted steel, ‘jumps’ through a hoop on the infield. Hamilton has won here once, in 2016.

Another winner in Austria is Bottas, the following year. One feels the Finn needs a flying start to launch his season.

If he should fail to land an early blow, it is hard to imagine him keeping his confidence high or denting Hamilton’s.

There are two reasons why the champion could waver. First, the uncertainty over his future at Mercedes. As we report on Saturday, he is asking for twice as much as his team want to pay him in these Covid-hit days of reduction, £40million to £20m. Will the gap breed ill-feeling? Secondly, will his political activism, fervently supporting the anti-racism cause, act as a distraction (or indeed as motivation)?

John Watson, a five-time race winner in the more dangerous era of the Seventies and Eighties, thinks it might be a negative.

‘Has he reached a tipping point?’ he wondered. ‘Have outside interests become bigger in Lewis’s mind than his racing? Has he the capacity to separate the two things?

‘Bottas is the sleeper this weekend and maybe this season. Judging by his social media output he is fitter than ever, never off his bike, and has been spending his time contentedly in Finland with his new girlfriend. He’s one to watch.’

What else is there to watch? Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari. The German has been told he has no future at Maranello from the end of the season, which means he is now slipped the pressures of corporate responsibility.  

His relationship with the team and his replacement as No 1, Charles Leclerc, has the potential to turn toxic. It will be political at best.

Talking of politics, all eyes will be turned towards the grid on Sunday and the planned statement on the big racial contention of the day. To take a knee or not to take a knee?

This was the question discussed at a long meeting of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association on Friday night. The millionaires’ trade union decided as one to wear ‘End Racism’ T-shirts.

As it stands, so to speak, some of them will kneel, some won’t.

2020 FORMULA ONE CALENDAR 

Austrian Grand Prix (Spielberg): July 5

Styrian GP (Spielberg): July 13

Hungarian GP (Budapest): July 19

British GP (Silverstone): August 2

70th Anniversary GP (Silverstone): August 9

Spanish GP (Barcelona): August 16

Belgian GP (Spa-Francorchamps): August 30

Italian GP (Monza): September 6

STILL PLANNED

September-November: Eurasia (Russia), Asia (Vietnam and China) and Americas (Canada, United States, Mexico, Brazil)

December: Middle East (Bahrain and Abu Dhabi)

CANCELLED

Australia, Monaco, France, Netherlands, Azerbaijan, Singapore, Japan

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Charlton 0-1 Millwall: Jake Cooper nets late winner for visitors in Championship clash

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For the best part of 80 minutes, Charlton showed the sort of defensive resilience that could still keep them up before Millwall finally found the breakthrough they deserved.

After his attacking colleagues had failed to do any damage, central defender Jake Cooper scored the winner to move Millwall within two points of the play-offs.

It was the first goal Charlton had conceded since the restart and with it came their first defeat since the season resumed and leaves them just three points above the Championship relegation zone.

Jake Cooper celebrates scoring the only goal of the game against Charlton on Friday night

Jake Cooper celebrates scoring the only goal of the game against Charlton on Friday night

Jake Cooper celebrates scoring the only goal of the game against Charlton on Friday night

Cooper broke the deadlock from close range in the 81st minute of the game at The Valley

Cooper broke the deadlock from close range in the 81st minute of the game at The Valley

Cooper broke the deadlock from close range in the 81st minute of the game at The Valley

MATCH FACTS 

Charlton (4-4-2): Phillips 6; Matthews 6, Lockyer 6.5, Pearce 6, Oshilaja 6 (Doughty 75); McGeady 6 (Williams 75), Pratley 6 (Sarr 90), Cullen 6, Morgan 6 (Field 46); Bonne 5.5 (Aneke 64, 6), Hemed 5.5

Subs not used: Amos, Purrington, Forster-Caskey, Green

Scorer: N/A

Booked: Oshilaja, Pearce, Lockyer

Manager: Lee Bowyer 6

Millwall (3-4-2-1): Bialkowski 6; Hutchinson 6, Cooper 7, M Wallace 6; Romeo 7 (Mitchell 76), Leonard 6 (Mahoney 76), Molumby 6 (Thompson 46, 6), Pearce 6; J Wallace 6.5 (Williams 86), Woods 6; Smith 6 (Bradshaw 65, 6)

Subs not used: Steele, Ferguson, Skalak, Burey

Scorer: Cooper 81

Booked: Molumby, Cooper

Manager: Gary Rowett 6.5

Referee: Dean Whitestone 6

 

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For Gary Rowett and Millwall, it means their hunt for a play-off spot is back on. This was by no means convincing but it was proof once again of their willingness to dig deep – a quality they have possessed since Neil Harris was manager.

This wouldn’t have been pleasant viewing for Charlton manager Lee Bowyer. Despite keeping Millwall at bay for large parts, his side were blunt in attack and struggled to cause the visitors problems before their defence was breached.

Charlton did, however, start the brighter of the two sides with Albie Morgan and Tomer Hemed both having shots blocked or saved. But after that sweet but short spell Millwall found their rhythm and soon Charlton were retreating into their own half.

Romeo’s runs down the right were forcing Charlton’s defensive line back which gave lone striker Matt Smith the chance to get into more dangerous positions. Smith’s presence, particularly in the air, unsettled Charlton captain Pearce and central defensive partner Lockyer in early stages. Romeo’s crosses from the right continued to come but Smith either didn’t make his runs soon enough or was barged off the ball when Lockyer began to read what he was trying to do.

When Romeo dinked a ball up to Smith at the far post he went to head it only for Lockyer to get in front of him and force the striker into fouling him. The crosses from the right continued to be Millwall’s most preferred route to goal. Not long after Jed Wallace sent a low cross into the box which skidded through the six-yard and also past Smith who was stretching for the ball at the back post. 

Charlton found it tough to plot a way out of their own half but when they did they tended to do well without reward. 

Cooper is congratulated by his team-mates after scoring the match-winner in the second half

Cooper is congratulated by his team-mates after scoring the match-winner in the second half

Cooper is congratulated by his team-mates after scoring the match-winner in the second half

Macauley Bonne should perhaps have gone to Bartosz Bialowski’s right after he sprinted through on goal only to spurn Charlton’s best chance of the half by shooting straight at the Millwall goalkeeper.

It didn’t get much better for Charlton’s front two of Bonne and Hemed in the second half. 

Hemed was in a prime position on the edge of the Millwall area but rather than look for a pass he chose to go it alone only to take a heavy touch and lose possession.

Millwall's (left) players attempt to mark Charlton's as a corner comes in from the right

Millwall's (left) players attempt to mark Charlton's as a corner comes in from the right

Millwall’s (left) players attempt to mark Charlton’s as a corner comes in from the right

It summed up Charlton’s attacking potency that without Lyle Taylor lacks finesse and or much cause for defensive concern. 

Bonne made way for Chuks Aneke in the 64th minute but he too struggled. In fact, the closest Charlton came to scoring as the clock ticked down was when Lockyer volleyed wildly over the bar.

A point would have been satisfactory for Bowyer and Charlton but not deserved and it wasn’t to be. After Phillips had saved from Connor Mahoney, Cooper reacted quickest and rifled the ball into the roof of the net.

Chuks Aneke shows his disappointment in the closing stages of the Championship clash

Chuks Aneke shows his disappointment in the closing stages of the Championship clash

Chuks Aneke shows his disappointment in the closing stages of the Championship clash 

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Ex-Rangers and Norwich star Kyle Lafferty held a GUN to Michael O’Neill’s head during Northern Ireland Euro 2016 party

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KYLE LAFFERTY has revealed he put a GUN to Michael O’Neill’s head after Euro 2016.

The former Rangers and Norwich man made three appearances in France as Northern Ireland qualified for the knockout phase.

 Former Rangers and Hearts star Lafferty has 73 Northern Ireland caps

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Former Rangers and Hearts star Lafferty has 73 Northern Ireland capsCredit: Getty Images – Getty

He starred against Poland and Northern Ireland in the group stage but was dropped for the win over Ukraine.

The Northern Ireland squad had a farewell party before jetting home after being knocked out by Wales.

And ex-Ibrox forward Lafferty has revealed he jokingly put a gun to his gaffer’s head after the national team’s security guards brought out their unloaded guns.

Speaking on Open Goal, Lafferty said: “After the Wales game it was just like ‘let loose’.

“And there was always the three security guards that always came with us. If two of us wanted to go the the shop, one of them would come with us.

“But they’d always carry guns. They were top guys, you don’t mess with these guys.

“So they started drinking as well. We got friendly with them and we were always chatting and they said ‘Give us 10 minutes and we’ll come back’.

“So we were like ‘What the f*** are they doing, are they bringing more drink? There’s loads here.



“They came back with all their guns. Night vision goggles, big guns, everything! Obviously not loaded.

“So we’re in this room and we’re like Rambo. Night vision goggles, guns, p***ed.

“Michael O’Neill’s sitting there and I’ve went up to Michael and I put the gun to his head and said ‘Do you regret dropping me against Ukraine now you p***k?’

“Thinking back to it I’m like what’s going on man.”

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