Thistlecrack has been ruled out of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the rest of the jumps season, having been found to have injured a tendon. The news broke at lunchtime on Tuesday after appearing to leak out in the betting markets on the Cheltenham race, for which he had been favourite for months.

“Thistlecrack is out,” said the horse’s trainer, Colin Tizzard, in quotes first reported by the Racing Post. “He had heat in his leg last night. The vet scanned him this morning and it’s a slight tendon tear.”

The news is the first serious bump in the road in an amazing season for Tizzard, whose big-race wins included the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day with Thistlecrack. Even after the bad news, the Dorset trainer still has the top two in the Gold Cup betting with Native River at 11-4 and Cue Card at 7-2 in revised prices hastily issued by Ladbrokes.

But Thistlecrack had been just 15-8 for the race and his absence will be a blow not just to Tizzard but to fans of jump racing in general, as the nine-year-old had become perhaps the most exciting jumps horse in training.

While his run of nine consecutive wins was brought to an end by Many Clouds at Cheltenham last month, Thistlecrack’s reputation was arguably enhanced by that effort against a rival of extraordinary toughness, who died moments after crossing the line.

The trainer and jockey combination of Tizzard and Tom Scudamore would also have helped to make Thistlecrack a popular winner at next month’s Festival. Scudamore may now be left without a ride in the Gold Cup.



As a measure of why Pep Guardiola spoke so effusively about Manchester City’s latest opponents in the Champions League, it is worth bearing in mind Monaco’s achievements this season eclipse those of the Paris Saint-Germain side who just had the temerity to win 4-0 against Barcelona and knock the throne off football royalty.

Monaco are not only looking down on PSG from the top of the French league but, to put it into context, they have scored 76 goals from 26 games compared with 50 for the Qatari-funded team who gave Barça one of their worst chasings for many years.

Monaco have scored four or more on 10 different occasions in their domestic league this season, including one five-week period where they won 7-0 at Metz then put six past both Montpellier and Nancy, and their previous assignments against English opposition provide a neat riposte to anyone who argues Ligue 1 should not be an accurate barometer of a team’s ability.

Leonardo Jardim’s side have already beaten Tottenham Hotspur home and away in the Champions League’s group stages this season, winning 2-1 on both occasions, and the last time they reached the knockout stages of this competition two years ago they won 3-1 at Arsenal, a victory acclaimed by L’Équipe as “one of the great Champions League performances by a French club”.

The worry for City must be that Les Monégasques are a far more formidable team now. No other side in Europe has been so prolific this season or played with such a sense of attacking adventure. “Their first goal against Tottenham was a cross from a full-back and a header from another full-back,” Guardiola noted, “that is not easy” – and it was difficult to think of another time, other than when Barcelona visited Manchester in November and he described Lionel Messi and Neymar as “almost unstoppable”, that City’s manager has sounded so fulsome about an opponent.

“As a spectator, it is so nice to see them,” Guardiola said. “I am really impressed how good they are. The full-backs play like wingers, the wingers play like attacking midfielders. The two strikers are fighters – Falcao and Germain, they are killers in the box. Both holding midfielders – Silva and Bakoyoko – are intelligent, physically strong. A complete team. It is the most successful team in Europe in terms of scoring goals and a tough draw.”

“I’m looking forward to playing against them and seeing what our level is and I just have compliments because they are a really good team. I know how tough PSG can be in the French league. Yet this season Monaco are top, four or five points ahead, and that shows how good a job Jardim has done.”

Three points actually but it is easy to understand the gist when Monaco are averaging almost three goals a game in Ligue 1, historically a defence-minded league, and needed only eight home matches, with 31 goals, to go past their total of 30 for the whole of last season.

Two years ago, Monaco won their Champions League group with four goals in six games, whereas this season they scored nine times. Rudi García, the Marseille manager, summed it up rather neatly after his side were beaten 4-0 at Stade Louis II in November. Monaco, he said, would “score even if asked to play blindfolded”. The sides played again in Marseille last month – and Monaco won 4-1.

For City, it is another occasion when they need to show they should no longer be classed as Champions League novices. Guardiola was still keen to make the point that the club were on a learning curve, pinching his finger and thumb together to sum up what he meant by their “short history” at the top end of European football, but this is their 47th Champions League tie since september 2011, and last year they reached the semi-finals. By this stage, they should have the hang of it.

What they will need is the kind of balance between attack and defence that has not always been apparent this season. Sergio Agüero, back in the team because of Gabriel Jesus’s broken metatarsal, needs to rediscover some of his old stardust – “We are going to talk with him, like with all his team-mates, to convince him in these two games,” Guardiola said – and Yaya Touré’s role as the deepest-lying midfielder could be crucial to negate Monaco’s counterattacking threat.

Touré was rested from the FA Cup tie at Huddersfield with this game in mind, while Willy Caballero is probably entitled to think he deserves to start in goal ahead of Claudio Bravo.

Guardiola, hired with the specific job of bringing the European Cup to Manchester, sounded like he wanted City to embrace this competition in a way that was seldom the case under Manuel Pellegrini or Roberto Mancini.

“The passion, how beautiful it is, how amazing it is to be here again,” he said. “We are lucky guys. Always I play these games and think: ‘Wow, I’m lucky’ because I know how difficult it is as a manager, like a player, to be here.”

“I want to convince the players to enjoy the moment because it is beautiful. All of Europe will watch us. They will kill us if we don’t win, or say how good we are if we do. That is a huge experience and it’s beautiful to live it.”



The desperate appeals from GB Badminton and six other sports for funding for the Tokyo Olympics have been rejected by UK Sport, which said the sports were unable to provide new evidence they had any chance of winning a medal in 2020.

Archery, fencing, goal ball, table tennis, weightlifting and wheelchair rugby also had their claims for money for the next Olympic cycle rejected.

GB Badminton said it was “staggered” by the decision to slash its funding from £5.9m in the four years running up to the Rio Olympics to zero. “Given the strength of evidence we were able to present to justify investment, we cannot believe UK Sport has concluded they should stand by their decision and award zero funding to our GB programme,” it said in a statement.

GB Badminton is particularly aggrieved given Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge won a bronze medal in the men’s doubles in Rio. “We have players who are on track to win medals for the nation at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and our belief in those players remains as great as it’s ever been. We will now take some time to consider our next steps.”

Liz Nicholl, the chief executive of UK Sport, defended the decision to cut the sports loose, saying that under the terms of its “no compromise” investment approach it had to advance sports with the greatest chance of delivering medal success.

“It’s a winning formula that has been proven to work over the last three Olympic and Paralympic cycles,” she said. “It is uncompromisingly focused on excellence, relative merit and what it takes to pursue the ambition to win more medals and create more medallists in Tokyo to inspire the nation.”

“The sports that made representations to our board were unable to provide any critically compelling new evidence that changed our assessment of their medal potential for Tokyo. Their position in our meritocratic table therefore remains unchanged and they remain in a band that we cannot afford to invest in.”

Sports may now choose to go to formal appeal through Sport Resolutions UK, which will consider the integrity of the decision-making process used by UK Sport but does not have authority to make investment decisions on its behalf.

In the meantime, UK Sport’s board will be considering at its next meeting in March what relationship UK Sport will be able to have with non-World Class Programme funded sports for the future.

Nicholl also added: “This is the first time we have been unable to support every sport that has athletes with the potential to deliver medals at the next Games. We don’t take these decisions lightly as we are acutely aware of the impact they have on sports, athletes and support personnel.

“To support those affected, we have put in place a comprehensive transition and support package and are working closely with these sports to help staff and athletes move out of UK Sport funding.

“We will still be supporting more than 30 sports with the collective potential to win more medals in Tokyo 2020 and sustain success in 2024, in a way that will make the nation very proud once again.”

The UK Sport board did make one change to its original investment decision – changing the funding for powerlifting from the English Institute of Sport to British Weightlifting to manage, as per the Rio cycle.



Donald Trump sparked no small number of raised eyebrows – along with a flurry of sarcastic comments – when he suggested something ominous had happened “last night in Sweden”.

After Mr Trump made the remarks at a rally in Florida, everyone from Sweden’s former prime minister, weighed in to point out that nothing had averse had happened. “What has he been smoking?” pondered Carl Bildt.

“We’ve got to keep our country safe,” Mr Trump had told his supporters.

“You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

Some smart observers suggested Mr Trump may, not for the first time, been referring to something he had watched on Fox News. Business Times pointed to a segment on anchor Tucker Carlson’s show on Friday night, which included a clip from a new film by Ami Horowitz claiming to document alleged violence committed by refugees in Sweden.

On Sunday evening, perhaps aware of the confusion and mockery sparked by his comments, Mr Trump indeed confirmed that Fox News had been the inspiration for his comments.

“My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on Fox News concerning immigrants & Sweden,” he said.

News of Mr Horowitz’s documentary made headlines last year when he told conservative outlets such as Breitbart News, that there were Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe.

“Over the last two years, they’ve taken in over 350,000 Syrian refugees,” he said. “The reason why I went there was to investigate why Sweden has become the rape capital of Europe. Rape was not unknown, but relatively minor. There were few incidents of rape, let’s say about ten years ago. And rape has absolutely skyrocketed in Europe.”

The New York Times said that Swedish officials had said that their statistics did not justify the kind of assertions made by Mr Horowitz, and that the country had a high number of sexual assault reports, relative to other European countries, because more victims come forward, not because there was more violence.

Henrik Selin, political scientist and deputy director of the Swedish Institute, a state agency dedicated to promoting Sweden globally, told the newspaper he had completed a study focusing on negative news reports about Sweden’s intake of refugees.

He said there were many exaggerations and distortions, including reports falsely claiming that Sharia law was predominant in parts of the country.

“Some of the stories were very popular to spread in social media by people who have the same kind of agenda – countries should not receive so many refugees,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper said the film was full of errors.

“At the end of the film, Mr Horowitz says that ‘it was not long ago that the first Islamist terrorist attack occurred in the country’.”

It added: “He likely means Taimour Abdulwahab’s suicide bombing in central Stockholm. It occurred on 11 December 2010. Thus, for over six years ago.

“But it is not the only remarkable error in the interview with Horowitz. The conversation is full of sweeping claims, exaggerations – and clear errors.”



After a month of arduous and, at times, turbulent governing, President Donald Trump is ready for what he really loves: campaigning.

While it is unclear what exactly Trump is campaigning for, the President will take to the road on Saturday, flying from Mar-A-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, to Melbourne, Florida, where he will address what organizers expect will be thousands of supporters at Orlando Melbourne International Airport.

Trump, ready for some relief from the confines of Washington and the limitations of the house he ran to occupy, is reverting back to the campaign-style event, basking in what energized him for months during the slog of the presidential campaign: the adulation of his supporters.

White House aides have tried to take a hands-off approach to Saturday’s event, which is being run by Trump’s 2016 campaign, Donald J. Trump for President Inc.

On Friday, though, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was headlining the event as a way to go around the media.

“People in this circle don’t always do the best job delivering his message (because) nobody does it better than he does,” Sanders said about the media.

“So he can do that very easily by taking the stage and talking directly to the people of America, addressing their concerns and being able to properly express exactly what he’s doing and what his administration has done over the last month,” Sanders said on Air Force One as the plane headed south to Florida.

While sources tell CNN that Trump feels cooped up in the White House and is itching to break out, Saturday’s event could also be a way for Trump to reset his administration after a chaotic month where the President was forced to fire his national security adviser, struggled to roll out his executive order banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries and strained to explain a growing story about how members of his 2016 campaign made repeated contact with Russian individuals known to US intelligence.

Trump’s presidential campaign was defined by raucous events where he would deliver hour-long stemwinders, responding directly to the chants of the crowd and seemingly plugging into the energy that his supporters were throwing his way.

Former campaign aides said Friday that they were not surprised Trump was getting back on the road so early in his first term, in part because it was what fueled him for months on the campaign trail.

Michael Caputo, a former senior adviser to Trump’s campaign, said that he expects this sort of campaign-style event will be the “first of many.”

“He grew very familiar with the rally concept and I expect him to return to where he is comfortable when he needs to recharge,” Caputo said. “The fact that Trump showed us a new way of winning should have given everyone a hint that he would say everyone a new way of governing.”



Three people were killed as a powerful storm soaked Southern California, flooding freeways and knocking out power to tens of thousands.

A 55-year-old man in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, died after apparently being electrocuted by live power lines brought down by a tree, and a person was found dead inside a submerged car near Victorville, fire officials said. A passenger was killed in a four-vehicle crash after a driver hydroplaned on a San Diego interstate, NBC San Diego reported.

A stretch of Interstate 5 in the Sun Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles flooded, causing huge traffic delays, and prompting crews to use generators to try and pump water off the road, the California Department of Transportation said.

Ten vehicles were stuck in a flooded road in Sun Valley and eight people trapped by fast-moving water were rescued by firefighters, the fire department said.

In Studio City, two cars plummeted into a large sinkhole that opened in a street Friday night, the fire department said. A 48-year-old woman around 10 feet below the street was rescued with a ladder, and was taken to a hospital in fair condition, the department said. The driver of the second car was able to get out unaided.

“At one point the wind was so strong I’m surprised it didn’t blow my windows out,” retiree Phoenix Hocking told The Associated Press in a Facebook message from Carpinteria on the Pacific coast. “I now have a pond in my patio. And my dog is starting to grow flippers so he can go out and do his business.”

The storm caused large power outages. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said electricity was knocked out for around around 82,000 customers as of 8 PM, and Southern California Edison said 67,000 of its customers were without power as of 9 PM.

Santa Barbara airport closed after runways flooded. Eight people were rescued from floodwaters in Los Angeles, the fire department said.

The storm was expected to be the most powerful in six years. Sixty-three flights scheduled to arrive or depart from Los Angeles International Airport were canceled Friday, and 270 others were delayed, the airport said.

Total rainfall predictions ranged from 2 inches to 6 inches on the coast and from 5 inches to 10 inches in foothills and coastal mountains.

Rainfall totals ranged from 3.5 inches in Santa Barbara to 9 inches in Santa Ynez Mountain Range, and Ojai in Ventura County got 6 inches of rain, the National Weather Service said Friday evening. Beverly Hills saw 2.45 inches of rain and Canoga Park in the San Fernando Valley got 4.73 inches, the weather service said.

Downtown Los Angeles got less than 2 inches, the weather service shortly after 9 PM local time (12 AM ET) but more rain was possible. The amount of rain downtown was likely to fall short of a record 2.18 inches set in 1884, the weather service said.



Arsene Wenger says he will definitely be managing next season, whether at Arsenal “or somewhere else”.

Wenger, 67, was speaking at the end of one of the most turbulent weeks of his two-decade tenure as Gunners boss.

After Wednesday’s 5-1 Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich, several ex-players said they believed his time in charge was coming to an end.

The Frenchman’s contract expires at the end of this season and he said that he would decide on a new deal in March or April.

“No matter what happens I will manage for another season. Whether it’s here or somewhere else, that is for sure,” Wenger said on Friday.

“If I said March or April it is because I didn’t know. I do not want to come back on that.”

“I am used to the criticism. I think in life it’s important to do what you think is right and all the rest is judgement. I am in a public job and I have to accept that, but I have to behave with my values.”

Wenger, who has been in charge of Arsenal since 1996, said: “We let everyone judge and criticise, we have to deal with that. We have to bounce back, that is what life is about.”

“Even if I go, Arsenal will not win every single game in the future. It is not like before I arrived Arsenal had won five times in the European Cup.”

“What is important is that the club makes the right decision for the future. I care about this club and its future and it is very important the club is in safe hands.”

“The main emotion is everyone has a big disappointment. We have to regroup and refocus on the next game, and to take care of the consequences a disappointing result can have on everyone’s spirit.”

“We have to focus on the real problems and they are the way we play football, not my future.”

“It is always important not to look for wrong excuses in life.”

Arsenal have not won the Premier League since 2004, with FA Cups in 2005, 2014 and 2015 the only major silverware Wenger has secured since.

However, he has consistently qualified for the lucrative Champions League and the club has continued to grow financially, despite the pressures of building a new stadium.

The Gunners reached the knockout stage of Europe’s elite club competition for a 14th year in a row this season, but the last-16 first-leg thrashing at German champions Bayern leaves them with little hope of progressing.

The performance, coupled with earlier damaging league defeats by Chelsea and Watford, prompted several former Arsenal players – some of whom played under Wenger – to suggest his time was up.

Former Gunners captain Martin Keown described the defeat as Wenger’s “lowest point”, while ex-defender Lee Dixon said: “This team is getting no response from him. I’ve never seen him like that.”

In the Premier League, they are 10 points adrift of leaders Chelsea. After the Blues beat them 3-1 on 4 February, ex-England defender Danny Mills said Arsenal “have settled for fourth again”.

Earlier, former striker Ian Wright, who scored 185 goals for the club between 1991 and 1998, said he believed Wenger’s time as Arsenal boss was “coming to the end”, although the Frenchman later denied giving any indication of his future plans.

Meanwhile, Wenger also said defender and captain Laurent Koscielny will have a scan on the injury he suffered against Bayern.

The France international was replaced by Gabriel after limping off just after half-time, and within seven minutes Arsenal conceded twice to go 3-1 down.



Manchester United’s hat-trick hero Zlatan Ibrahimovic says he is football’s Indiana Jones.

The 35-year-old footballer was in sensational form on Thursday night, banging in all three goals in United’s 3-0 Europa Cup victory over St Etienne at Old Trafford and they take his goal tally to 23 in all competitions since his arrival last summer.

The Swede is targeting trophies in the Europa League and EFL Cup – they play Southampton in the final next week, live on Sky Sports.

He says that he succeeds at whichever club he plays, like Harrison Ford’s archaeologist adventurer ‘Indy’ in the famous Steven Spielberg films.

“Every trophy for me is incredible, everywhere I came I won so if I can win something here I will be super happy,” he said.

“People that know me know that I play in many clubs and I try to do my best. Wherever I went I won – so I am like Indiana Jones.”

Thursday’s hat-trick was the 17th of his career and took his goal tally against St Etienne alone to 17, putting a smile on the striker’s face.

“It feels good,” Ibrahimovic said. “I got a lot of help from my team-mates. We played an open game today and it was important to get a good result so we can take it into the second leg.”

“We won 3-0 and I got to score the three goals so I am happy for that. We have still many games to play so hopefully I can continue like I am doing.”

“I’ve scored a couple of goals against them, I don’t focus on specific opponents, I just try to do my job, try to do what I am good at.”

Boss Jose Mourinho was not imressed with United’s first-half display but in the end his team built up what should be a winning lead heading over to France in the second leg.

“Exactly,” said Ibrahimovic. “A good result because I know how difficult it is to play over there.”

“They have a fantastic crowd, fantastic support, and the stadium is very nice, so the guys will see it when we go there. It was important today to get a good result.”

“It is a good team. They always make it difficult for every team they play against and when I was at PSG the same thing. They did good.”

“I think a couple of players are new, a couple of players left, but it is a good team.”



Fox News anchor Shepard Smith is under fire for criticizing President’s Trump’s treatment of CNN reporter Jim Acosta during a freewheeling news conference Thursday and for Trump’s refusal to answer questions about his campaign’s ties to Russia.

“It’s crazy what we’re watching every day,” Smith said after Trump’s news conference. “It’s absolutely crazy. He keeps repeating ridiculous, throwaway lines that are not true at all and sort of avoiding this issue of Russia as if we’re some kind of fools for asking the question. Really? Your opposition was hacked and the Russians were responsible for it and your people were on the phone with Russia on the same day it was happening and we’re fools for asking the questions? No sir.”

“We have a right to know,” Smith added. “You call us fake news and put us down like children for asking questions on behalf of the American people.”



Officials in Mozambique say that seven people died and thousands of homes were destroyed in a tropical cyclone.

Parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe are anticipating high winds and heavy rain on Friday after cyclone Dineo hit southern Mozambique late on Wednesday and swept inland. It was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

Emergency officials in Mozambique are reporting downed power lines and blocked roads in Inhambane, the province that suffered the worst impact. They say food and tents are being provided to families in need.