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Breeders’ Cup: Aidan O’Brien confident Love could bounce back to her best in Filly and Mare Turf at Del Mar | Racing News

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Aidan O’Brien is in confident mood as he sends a small but select team to the Breeders’ Cup this weekend, live on Sky Sports Racing.

The Irish trainer will be represented by Love in the Filly and Mare Turf on Saturday as the four-year-old attempts to get back to winning ways for the first time since Royal Ascot.

Love, 1000 Guineas and Oaks winner in 2020, has failed in three attempts since taking the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on her first start this season, finishing third in the King George and Juddmonte before a disappointing second in the Group Two Blandford Stakes at the Curragh in September.

“For her to win a Prince of Wales first time out was very difficult,” O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing. “That form is there.

“Her next couple of runs were a little bit below par, but we would say that was maybe because the pace was bit messy and she likes an even pace.

“After that, she had a prep for the Arc, and it was treated as such, but we were very happy with that run. She nearly ran up to her top rating to be second.

Adayar beats Mishriff and Love to win the King George at Ascot
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Love is beaten by Adayar (blue) and Mishriff in the King George at Ascot

“She’s fresh, she’s well and will like the fast ground. The track and the mile-and-three-furlongs won’t be a problem.

“She’s a lovely filly and we’re delighted to have her here.”

Mother Earth is set to make her ninth appearance of the season in the Mile at Del Mar after pleasing O’Brien with her effort in Group One Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot, when back in fifth.

The three-year-old, this year’s 1000 Guineas winner, is drawn in stall nine for Saturday’s Group One.

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O’Brien is happy with Mother Earth’s draw in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and says, with a little luck in running, anything could be possible on Saturday

“She’s been unlucky and it’s possible that her last run could be her best,” O’Brien said.

“She was caught out the back off a very slow pace at Ascot and still finished best of all. Her last two furlongs were faster than any other horse, so that’s a great sign.

“She’s a tough, hardy and consistent filly who travels and quickens well. She can be a little at the mercy of the pace sometimes and if it’s slow up front, then it can be hard to come from where she does.

“She hasn’t got a bad draw, maybe a little lower might have helped her. She’s going to be very competitive and if she had a little bit of luck, and Ryan [Moore] was able to get a good position on her, then it’s very possible anything could happen.”

O’Brien and his Ballydoyle team are still waiting to finalise their runners in the Turf, with first reserve Bolshoi Ballet needing one entrant to withdraw before the weekend.

Bolshoi Ballet misses the Irish derby after suffering a cut
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Bolshoi Ballet is first reserve for the Breeders’ Cup Turf

The former Derby favourite, who finished fourth at Belmont last time, could end up replacing one of his stablemates Japan or Broome.

Asked if he thinks Bolshoi Ballet will get into the race, O’Brien said: “It’s very possible. Obviously one of ours or something else would have to come out but we’ll assess it every day.

“He’s well used to American racing and is hardy. He’s missed his last few targets, but that might not be a disadvantage because he’s fresh and well.”

On Japan, O’Brien added: “He’s a Juddmonte winner and we know how hard it is to win that.

“His last two runs have been way better than anybody thinks. Ryan [Moore] rode him in second last [at Saratoga] and he just got chopped coming off the bend but came home very well. Wayne [Lordan] rode him the last day [at Belmont] and he got chopped twice. They are legitimate excuses.”

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Lakers superstar LeBron James doesn’t feel suspension was warranted for altercation with Isaiah Stewart

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Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James doesn’t believe a suspension was warranted for his involvement in the altercation with Detroit big man Isaiah Stewart.

James made a dominant return to the lineup against Indiana, pouring in 39 points to go along with five rebounds and six assists in the 124-116 OT win.

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Postgame, he gave his account of what happened in the incident that incensed Stewart.

“It was a box out in the free-throw line. His elbow got kinda high, if you watch the film it got me off-balance a little bit,” James explained.

“I tried to swimdown on his arm and when I swung down on his arm he got off-balance and the left side of my hand grazed his face. I knew right away, I knew right away I had caught some part of his head so I went over to apologize to him and obviously you guys seen what happened after that. Definitely accidental.”

Stewart made repeated attempts to get at James, requiring multiple staff members to hold him back as blood streamed down his face. Stewart received a two-game ban for the reaction, while James was sidelined for one game.

The Lakers would lose that one game without James, 106-100 at Madison Square Garden to the New York Knicks. LeBrondoesn’t believe he should have missed the contest.

MORE: LeBron James gets couple ejected in Indiana

“I’m definitely not that type of player. I hate to see that, what escalated after that.

“I didn’t think itwarranted…I thought it warranted an ejection because of what happened after that. Having me in the game, the excitement from the fans, what could possibly happen after that, but a suspension I didn’t think was warranted but the league made that call.”

Los Angeles climbed back to .500 at 10-10 on the season with the win against the Pacers, as they try to shake off a slow start to the season. Fellow star, Anthony Davis missed the game against Indiana with a fever.

Davis will have one night to recover before the Lakers host Sacramento at STAPLES Center – tip-off is at 8:30 p.m. ET.

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New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson cleared for full team activities; still no return timeline

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New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson has been cleared to participate in full team activities, the team announced on Friday evening.

Williamson, who is recovering from a fractured right foot, had his latest set of scans on Wednesday. They were evaluated by Pelicans team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Scott Montgomery and by Dr. Richard Ferkel, a surgeon who has worked on NBA players in the past.

“It’s been a long road to get him to this point,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “Anyone that’s ever dealt with any type of injury like that, it’s hard to come back from. It’s hard mentally. He’s done a great job pushing through. Z has an opportunity now to be a full go in practices, and we’ll have a practice soon. Hopefully that’ll add some juice to our team. He’s a huge part of what we do there.”

The Pelicans said Williamson went through 4-on-4, full-court work on Friday while the team is in Utah for a back-to-back. New Orleans plays Utah on Friday and Saturday before heading to Los Angeles to play the Clippers on Monday. The team will travel back to New Orleans on Tuesday and then play the Dallas Mavericks the following day.

Because of the team’s schedule, it’s likely the Pelicans won’t have a full practice for Williamson to participate in until Thursday.

In a news release, New Orleans said it has yet to determine when Williamson will return to game action.

“It’s more about how he responds to practices,” Green said. “How he responds to the physicality of playing against his teammates. How he responds to getting up and down. Just giving a timeline is tough on that. We want him back as soon as possible. But it’s all predicated on how he feels after workouts, and the medical team will work diligently with him and we’ll go from there.”

Williamson has yet to play in a game this season because of the fractured foot. In his absence, the Pelicans have gotten off to a 4-16 start.

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‘Not going to lie, I just wanted to spank you’ — How Brooks Koepka routed Bryson DeChambeau

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After months of feuding, trading jabs during interviews and on social media, then seemingly making up at the Ryder Cup — there was even a bro hug! — until that unraveled earlier this week, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka finally had a chance to settle this on the golf course.

This installment of “The Match” wasn’t much of a match. It was a rout.

The drama might not have been there, but the storytelling and trash talk didn’t disappoint — from Koepka and/or from commentators Charles Barkley and Phil Mickelson.

Here’s how it happened:

Scoreboard: Koepka wins 4&3

No. 1: Par 4

And we’re off at the Wynn Golf Club, with DeChambeau passing out cupcakes for Friendsgiving on the first tee, which drew a slight grin from Koepka.

DeChambeau found trouble from the start, with his opening tee shot landing behind a small bush in the pine bark. Fortunately for him, he got a free drop because the sprinkler system was in his line of play. He knocked his second shot into the greenside bunker. Koepka’s drive also went way right in the rough, but he was able to hit the green.

Koepka two-putted, and DeChambeau got up and down to tie the hole.

Result: Tie with pars.


No. 2: Par 4

DeChambeau might want to dial it back a bit. His second tee shot was even farther right than his first. Then he once again landed in a greenside bunker. Koepka hit the fairway again and took advantage with a 15-foot birdie putt to take a 1-up lead.

Mickelson correctly had the putt falling right because of the grain, and Koepka responded, “Oh, Phil, good call,” while grabbing his ball out of the cup.

While walking off the green, Koepka looked back.

“Bryson, that’s good,” he said.

It’s about to get chippy.

Result: Koepka wins with birdie


No. 3: Par 3

On the closest-to-the-pin hole for charity, Koepka’s ball ended up in the deep rough to the right, while DeChambeau’s was just about perfect, landing pin high and about 8 feet from the hole.

Koepka hit a nice chip to about 2 feet.

Before DeChambeau attempted to make his birdie putt, Mickelson asked him what was going through his head. His answer was about what you would expect — a thorough, 40-second explanation.

“It’s pretty simple: It’s 11 feet [with the uphill], 2% straight putt over here and to be honest, 10 or 11 feet straight putt,” DeChambeau said, in part.

Of course, he left the putt low and let a good opportunity go to waste.

Result: Hole tied with pars.


No. 4: Par 4

Koepka’s tee shot went way right. Mickelson said what many weekend hacks would have said.

“Aren’t paralleling fairways the best, though?” Mickelson said. “I’m a big fan of those.”

DeChambeau hit a fairway off the tee for the first time. After Mickelson bragged about DeChambeau’s wedge play, he missed his number and hit his ball over the green. Koepka’s second shot landed on the green, but he left another putt short on his birdie try.

“I would make snarky comments on that, but I’ve still got to make a par putt,” DeChambeau said.

He did.

Result: Tied with pars.


No. 5: Par 5

On the lone par 5 of the match, both players carried the fairway bunker. DeChambeau’s shot, though, went a lot farther. Mickelson was impressed.

“I mean, that is so attractive,” Mickelson said. “I don’t even know what to say about that.”

“Phil, you like that?” DeChambeau asked.

“I love that,” Mickelson said.

“I hit that good, man, just for you,” DeChambeau said. “Hey, I’ve still got to finish out the hole, though. It’s never guaranteed, just like the last hole. We talked about this length all of the time. It’s great, but I’ve still got to get it in the hole.”

The conversation proved to be prophetic. Koepka, who complained of missing his second shot, found the green and had an eagle look. DeChambeau’s second shot clipped a tree and came up short.

DeChambeau chipped up to about 6 feet. Koepka two-putted from about 40 feet for birdie. Then DeChambeau, inexplicably, missed his birdie putt to fall 2 holes down.

As the broadcast went to commercial, Brian Anderson, doing play-by-play on TNT, reminded viewers it was a 12-hole match.

Koepka, because has an earpiece in and can hear Anderson, Mickelson and Barkley, grinned.

“It won’t go 12,” he said.

Result: Koepka wins with birdie.


No. 6: Par 3

Koepka’s putts are starting to fall, and the four-time majors champion is threatening to run away from DeChambeau with a 3-up lead after six holes.

On the second par 3 of the match, Koepka hit a safe shot, with his ball landing about 11 feet from the hole. DeChambeau’s ball landed right, but spun back below the hole to about 14 feet. DeChambeau missed his putt; Koepka drained his.

“Any questions?” Koepka said.

“Man, I haven’t seen a beatdown like this since me and Phil put it on [Peyton Manning] and Steph [Curry],” Barkley said.

“A focused Koepka is a tough Koepka,” Mickelson said.

Result: Koepka wins with birdie.


No. 7: Par 4

With the match getting away from DeChambeau, Mickelson, a U.S. Ryder Cup co-captain at Whistling Straits, tried to encourage him before DeChambeau’s tee shot on No. 7.

“Bryson, same thing we talked about at Ryder Cup off No. 9,” Mickelson told him. “Get your brain in theta.”

“Yep, right in that sweet spot between parasympathetic and sympathetic,” DeChambeau said.

“Chuck, you get that?” Koepka asked Barkley.

“Hell, no,” Barkley said.

DeChambeau’s drive went way left, hit a tree, bounced off the cart path and landed in an adjoining fairway. After DeChambeau explained the difference between alpha, beta, delta and theta brainwaves, Barkley told Mickelson, “Man, I’m telling you, I’ve got to keep you two guys apart. You two together are dangerous.”

“How about a cross-country drive with us?” Mickelson said.

DeChambeau’s brain apparently remained in beta mode; he missed a good look at birdie to get one back.

Result: Tied with pars.


No. 8: Par 4

While Koepka waited to put the finishing touches on this one, he shared a tremendous story about bringing the U.S. Open trophy to Las Vegas after winning his first major at Erin Hills in 2017.

His caddie, Ricky Elliott, wanted to take the trophy out on the town. A restaurant wouldn’t let them bring the trophy inside — only the big ones like the Stanley Cup were allowed — so Koepka left the trophy in a drawer in the host stand.

When Elliott went back to his room that night, he left the trophy outside the room. They didn’t discover it was missing until the next day.

“We were in a panic because we didn’t know where it was,” Koepka said.

DeChambeau missed his birdie putt on No. 8, Koepka made his to go 4 up with four holes to play.

He’s probably going to have another trophy to lose.

Result: Koepka wins with birdie.


No. 9: Par 3

And that will do it. DeChambeau conceded the match after missing a birdie putt on the ninth hole, giving Koepka a 5&3 victory in a 12-hole match.

You could sense DeChambeau’s frustration on the tee box.

“Where is this on the PGA Tour, man?” DeChambeau asked Koepka. “You play so good right now.”

“It’s kind of like my major right now, right?” Koepka said.

“I guess it is,” DeChambeau said.

“I don’t play again until April,” Koepka said. “Not going to lie, I just wanted to spank you.”

“Does this want to make you play with [Bryson] more?” Koepka was asked. “Nah, I’m good.”

Result: Koepka wins with birdie.


Before the match

Let’s compare what the two have done:

And what they’ve done when in the same group:

Let the trash talk begin

PGA Tour officials don’t want fans taunting DeChambeau with shouts of “Brooksy” at its events, but that rule apparently doesn’t apply to Koepka. His ride for Friday’s match includes many of his favorite verbal jabs toward DeChambeau:

  • “2 short of a 6 pack”

  • “Let’s go Brooksy”

  • “There’s an ant”

  • “Sorry bro.”

Let the insults begin.

Just say ‘Brooksy’

In an otherwise mundane prematch news conference — actually, it was fans sending in questions during a livestream event — about an hour before they teed off, Koepka and DeChambeau were asked what they would whisper to their opponent if the other had a putt to win on the 12th hole.

‘”Brooksy’ seems to get to him quite a bit,” Koepka said. “He had to go to the Tour to get them to stop.”

“It’s simple: I’d just be walking on the cart path in spikes,” DeChambeau replied.

Of course, the sound of DeChambeau’s spikes were what sent Koepka’s eyes rolling during a post-round interview at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in May. Even Koepka admitted on Friday that the incident sent their beef to another level.

“The spikes drowned out the sound of his mouth,” Koepka said. “I enjoyed hearing the spikes.”

Tom Brady has thoughts

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who played with Phil Mickelson against Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning in the event a year ago, has already chimed in about his former partner, who is offering TV commentary with Charles Barkley.

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