RV look for Friday resumption as jockeys told not to ride trackwork

Racing Victoria chiefs hope to find out later on Thursday whether or not the sport can resume on Friday.

Top jockey Mark Zahra has undergone tests to see if he has COVID-19 after informing stewards before Wednesday's Sandown meeting that he had come into contact with an individual who later tested positive to the illness.

Jockey Mark Zahra is being tested for coronavirus.Credit:Getty Images

His disclosure forced the abandonment of racing at Sandown and also Warwick Farm in Sydney on Wednesday afternoon.

Two top NSW  riders, Hugh Bowman and Tommy Berry, were sent by Racing NSW to be tested for COVID-19 on Wednesday night as a precaution after they shared a private plane with Zahra nearly two weeks ago. Their tests have come back negative.

Thursday's meetings at Kilmore and Pakenham were called off while the result of Zahra's test is awaited.

If it comes back negative, RV will look for racing to resume at Warrnambool on Friday afternoon and Pakenham on Friday evening.

In the meantime, RV asked all licensed flat jockeys not to ride at trackwork on Thursday and self isolate until further notice – essentially until Zahra result comes through.

"We are hopeful of an answer today [but] it can't be guaranteed," RV chief executive Giles Thompson told RSN on Thursday morning.

"We are hopeful this is a low-risk position with Mark …

"We are at the mercy of the system … but if nothing else changes from a health authority or government directive then we expect to be able to come back to racing as soon as possible if the result is negative as nothing else changes."

Thompson said that it could be quicker to get results in NSW because private facilities were allowed to conduct tests there, whereas in Victoria they went into a central lab system and were dealt with in turn.

He said discussions had taken place as to whether it might be possible to set up racing at an isolated centre, where horses and human participants – jockeys, trainers, strappers, TV crews, stewards were in lockdown.

Other states have implemented a geographical style of lockdown, he explained, but he stressed that in Victoria this wasn't close to happening and that the "complexity of such a plan was enormous".

Thompson said RV was trying to work out whether a variation – with people being locked down at home once they had worked at the temporary circuit during the day – was feasible, but stressed that such an initiative was "a long way away".

He said getting the number of horses required to race and establishing a self-contained quarantine area would be a huge challenge.

"You can lock away 400 horses, but how many race meetings are you going to get out of that even if you could successfully do it? In the thoroughbred world not that many.

"This is a long way away. It's a huge challenge … it's not imminent by any stretch."

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An inside look at NHL Network’s third annual all-female broadcast

SECAUCUS, N.J. — Tuesday, March 10, was just another day at NHL Network. The large complex was bustling and getting ready for “NHL Now,” the network’s afternoon show that typically runs from 4 to 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. Scripts were written and graphics were built in preparation to discuss the previous night’s games and the full slate that lay ahead.

Veteran director Lisa Smith sat in the front bench of the darkened control room. She signaled to her technical director, Ellen Welch, to open the show’s animation before counting down, directing the lights to be raised and the camera to begin its slow push in.

“Have a good show, everyone,” Smith said, just as she has done before the start of every show of her career.

Everything was the same, and yet it wasn’t — and now won’t be for a while.

Originally, the show was going to be slightly different than usual because, while everyone did their jobs normally assigned to them, this was just the third time in the history of the network that all the faces in front of the camera, and the majority behind it, belonged to women. Less than 48 hours later, it became one of the last episodes for now as the NHL put the 2019-20 season on pause.

As the world awaits the return of hockey, Sporting News takes a look back at NHL Network celebrating Gender Equality Month with an all-female broadcast team, through exclusive behind-the-scenes access.

— 

Jackie Redmond, host: I usually get here at 10:30 [a.m. ET] or a little bit before. That’s when I get makeup. Our show meetings are at noon every day, today was 11:30, but [usually] I come in, go to the gym, watch the highlights, read the research packet — which we get every day — and then we go to the meeting and from there we just kind of prep the day away.

Kirsten Sobecki, producer: The day before we’ll come in and we’ll request guests through our assignment desk … based off matchups, etc. … Then you come in in the morning, you see what happened the night before and [in] the games, you start [and] throwing things in your rundown.

Sometimes [the rundown] completely blows up in the meeting [because] someone’s like, “Hey, I saw this and we can do something cool about this” and, there you go, boom, now you have a whole segment that I had literally no clue about five minutes ago, so that’s kind of cool.”

This particular two-hour broadcast included the show’s usual host, Redmond, alongside the network’s Jamie Hersch and Team USA goalie and guest analyst Alex (Rigsby) Cavallini.

DAZN/NHL Network’s Lauren Gardner made appearances on the show, as did several remote guests: NBCSN’s Kathryn Tappen previewing the Bruins-Flyers game; two-time Olympic gold medalist Cheryl Pounder; Barbara Williams, the first female skating coach in the NHL; TSN’s Kristen Shilton on the Maple Leafs-Lightning game, and Lyndsay Rowley of Fox Sports Tennessee discussing the Predators in Montreal to play the Canadiens.

Redmond: We have a couple of breakdown tapes, which normally the analysts do, but I’m going to be doing a breakdown tape today and go through some tape. Jamie has some ideas as well that she’s going to tackle, and so it’s really the same show. We’re going to have everything from previews for tonight, analysis of last night. We’re going to look ahead to the postseason in a sort of fun way; our show always has these fun types of segments. We’re going to make picks. “Eight games in eight minutes” is a big segment that we do.

Jamie Hersch, co-host: There is responsibility in putting on the best show, especially this show, as possible. I don’t like to look at it as pressure because I just think it’s a responsibility for me. Again, it’s a personal thing, like, yeah, I want to be the best I can be every single show, not just because I’m a woman, [but] because I’m an accountable person and employee.

But I do think that credibility, it takes a long time to earn that credibility and very little time at all — especially for a woman — to lose it. So I think for us to make sure we’re as prepared as possible to not make a mistake. You know, if we go on the air and say, “Oh, the Flyers’ seven-game winning streak” and it’s nine games, that’s a mistake and people will quickly point [it] out or think: “Oh, it’s because you’re a woman.”

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After poring over the statistics packet that is put together every day by the research department, the team headed to the studio for a few pre-tapes, including the segment with Williams, who worked with the Islanders from 1977 to 1981 and Devils from 1981 to 1982. She continues to work with pros, including Long Island native and Red Wings prospect Robert Mastrosimone.

Once the clock struck 4 p.m. ET, the opening animation ran and Redmond, Hersch and Cavallini welcomed viewers to the telecast. Under the bright studio lights and situated on a replica rink, the trio began by recapping the five games that were played Monday night.

Cavallini, who won gold with Team USA at the 2018 Olympics and spent her afternoon going over the stats, brought her expert insight to the telecast as she broke down the netminders including Connor Hellebuyck’s play in the Winnipeg Jets’ 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. 

Cavallini, analyst: [This show] gets people to see that there are opportunities out there and, you know, one of the big things is that these women do these jobs on a daily basis. This is my first time, but everyone else, they do this all the time, and so to see them be able to put a show together like this is really incredible for women of all ages to be able to see, and see that maybe one day I can do that.

The all-female broadcast marked the goaltender’s debut.

Cavallini: It was a lot easier once the lights turned on, so it was kind of one of those things like a hockey game … you prepared and that’s pretty much all you can do. … I trusted being alongside Jackie and Jamie, that if I stuttered or if I made some mistake that they were going to help me through it, so felt a lot better once the camera got going.

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The episode also showcased Redmond, who hails from Canada and grew up playing hockey, skating with USA Hockey star Amanda Kessel. In previously recorded segments, the pair went through on-ice drills, including how to speed up your hands on shots. 

Hersch: I think the first year, the whole argument that I’ve heard most in terms of a negative response is: “Well, this is sexist. This is excluding men, like, why, you wouldn’t do this for the men.” I think my response to that is always: We’re not excluding men — and there are men involved in our show today, by the way. We’re not like, “Nope, you can’t do this.” It’s literally just about recognizing the fact that most of the time these roles are filled by men, so because there are women who are also in these roles, let’s just have one day to celebrate that. … So, that was the first year; I think we got a little more pushback. Last year was far less and then this year I’ve only seen positive things so far about that, so I think it is starting to become normalized.

Halfway through the show, they switched to a different, smaller studio that contained cameras on a track which are remotely operated from the control room.

At one point, they welcomed Rowley from Montreal, who just seconds earlier had to have a technician turn off a monitor behind her that had bars suddenly pop up on the screen — bars, by the way, are the colorful lines that show up when there’s a technical issue, so not the best thing to have on television. The direction came from the control room and was communicated via headset as they were preparing to go to her live.

During the segment, the rinkside reporter noted that she was “honored to be on the show” and told viewers “if I can do it, you can do it.”

Just like that, two hours went by quickly. Once the on-air talent said goodbye to viewers, there was a quick change in the control room and studio as the next show’s staff and talent stepped in — just like on a regular day.

Hersch: I think it’s huge [to have the show] because the thing that you know we’ve been seeing a lot more of lately is “if you can see it you can be it.” And I love that because that just kind of sums up how I felt my whole life really about representation and the importance of that.

I just go back to a couple years ago someone asking me if I’d ever considered doing play-by-play, and I said, “No, like, what? No, never.” And I thought more about that and I thought, “Why? Why haven’t I considered that?” and it was because I just literally had never had any sort of role model. … Just to have someone that looks like you, sounds like you, no matter what you are, I think is important to have those examples.

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Redmond: For me, it’s obviously really special. I think it is a great illustration of the women before us, and how much they have done, whether they’ve been broadcasters or athletes that have really pushed for females that play sports and females that want to cover sports. So I think from that standpoint, like when I was a kid, could I have ever imagined an all-female hockey show? I don’t know. I don’t know that I would have, as an 8-year-old, thought that that was a realistic thing.

We had a girl on the show last year, and this hit me the other day. … Logan is a young girl out in Vegas, huge Vegas Golden Knights fan, wants to be a reporter when she’s older. … We had her on the show last year. We were like, let’s bring Logan on the show as our Vegas correspondent and have her give us the details heading into the Vegas Golden Knights game. She posted that interview earlier this week, was like, “Can’t believe it’s been a year since I was on an NHL network.” … It obviously really impacted her and I just think it’s super important that, you know, young girls or anybody … know that there is opportunity for them.

It’s been a year and she is probably going to chase that career path because she’s a huge fan on her own. But I like to think in some sort of way that coming on the show might have been like a big deal to her, something that gives her confidence thinking not only is this fun [but] maybe I can do it. So, that’s my very long-winded way to say it’s really special to me. Hopefully, lots of youth and young kids watching feel that way when they watch the show or at the very least, will support the people in their lives that want to do something similar.

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Portsmouth look to stun Arsenal seven years after financial crisis

‘We’re a bigger club than we were in the Premier League’: Portsmouth were on the brink of oblivion seven years ago… now they’re debt free, chasing promotion to the Championship and ready to shock Arsenal in the FA Cup – SPECIAL REPORT

  • Portsmouth are a club on the up under the ownership of Michael Eisner
  • Pompey came close to extinction 7 years ago as they tumbled down divisions
  • The club now have 14,000 season ticket holders and have a long waiting list

The man known as Big Kev ducks and weaves his super-heavyweight frame through the tight twisting corridors to Portsmouth’s inner sanctum.

Mind your head. Watch that step. Life amidships is recreated in this windowless world with blue-and-white walls in the heart of a famous naval city.

Little has changed since Milan rolled up in the UEFA Cup, puzzled by the idiosyncrasies of Fratton Park and disturbed by the raucous din shivering the timbers of the wooden stands above.

Sportsmail went behind the scenes at Portsmouth who are thriving after years of turmoil

Pompey host Arsenal in FA Cup 5th round and are chasing promotion to Championship

Manager Kenny Jackett will also lead his team out at Wembley in the EFL Trophy final

The Italians assumed it was Pompey’s training ground when they went through their paces under the lights on the eve of the match and they departed, after Ronaldinho had come off the bench to salvage a late draw against the FA Cup holders, querying the size of the crowd, certain there must have been more than 20,000 inside.

Five hours before kick-off against Milton Keynes Dons in League One, the air is still and the mood is calm. The kit is freshly laundered and the dressing room is primed for Kenny Jackett and his players.

This is the first of three games in seven days which will culminate tonight in the FA Cup against Arsenal, a fifth-round tie evoking memories of their eight years in the Premier League.

Big Kev takes a sachet of isotonic energy gel, examines it and tosses it back into its box with a shake of his head. ‘I mean, when did that ever help anybody score a goal?’

Little has changed and yet everything has changed. And Kevin McCormack, a former Royal Marine and ABA boxing champion, has seen it all in more than 20 years as the Pompey kit man.

Portsmouth’s facilities remain basic as they bid to remain financially stable and free of debt

Pompey’s training ground setup has remained the same as it was despite new investment

There was a decade of breathless success and a parade of world-class stars through the club when his job included lighting half-time cigarettes for Robert Prosinecki and providing Peter Crouch with a furniture delivery service.

Crouch, he pauses to explain, had bought an expensive sofa only to find it was too big to negotiate the spiral staircase to his penthouse flat in Port Solent. So he summoned Big Kev, who organised a long ladder, hoisted one arm of the sofa on to his head, ran the length of it down his back, secured it around his waist with a rope, scaled the ladder against an outside wall of the flats and threw it over the balcony.

When you have earned your green beret and carried the Wales flag into a Commonwealth Games, such piffling problems cause no stress.

Big Kev does dispute the details of a story told by Crouch, who once claimed on his podcast that he paid the kit man £60 a week to wash his kit, in the days when Portsmouth’s players were expected to wash their own. ‘More like £15,’ says Big Kev.

Portsmouth won the FA Cup in 2008 before paying the price for their financial excess

He rolls his eyes. ‘And he hardly ever paid it. I just did it. The more they earn the tighter they get.’ He laughs. True words spoken in jest, most probably. ‘They’re good lads. Like ships in the night most of them, but while they’re here let’s make it as much fun as we can.’

Along with the fun came acts of friendship and kindness. Avram Grant gave him his FA Cup medal from the final in 2010 and David James came to find him one day when Pompey were deep in one of their financial crises and not paying their staff. ‘He asked who was in my team and how much they were missing, and next day he brought in three or four grand and said, ‘There you go, make sure they’re paid’.’

Pompey’s crash was as spectacular as the climb. From the Premier League in 2010 to League Two in 2013, in and out of administration, with points deducted, they became a warning against reckless spending.

‘The saddest part was the people losing their jobs,’ Big Kev says. ‘I had to let two people go and they didn’t do anything wrong. They weren’t crooks. They were only good, hard-working people with mortgages to pay. That’s what breaks my heart.’

Portsmouth nearly lost their Fratton Park home as they succumbed to crippling debts

Unscrupulous owners and executives came and went and the suffering went on. The club was perilously close to winding up before the Supporters’ Trust won its struggle for control. A year later, they were 90th of the 92 league clubs and staring at the prospect of relegation from the Football League.

Mark Catlin is a beaming chief executive, sweeping down the tunnel, trading congratulations with full back Lee Brown and central defender Christian Burgess who is posing for photos with a pizza to satisfy the sponsors.

Portsmouth have kept their focus to score six in the beating of MK Dons and Rochdale. They are in formidable home form and firmly in the race for promotion to the Championship. Everyone agrees this is the priority.

They are also bound for Wembley, as they attempt to defend the EFL Trophy they won last year and are confident they can sell out their allocation of 50,000 for next month’s final against Salford.

Fomer Disney exec, Michael Eisner, bought Portsmouth in 2017 and nursed club back to health

‘With regards to our fan base, we’re a bigger club than we were in the Premier League,’ Catlin says. ‘Coming out of administration, we had 10,000 season ticket-holders. Now we’re at 14,000 and we’ve had to cap it.’

Of all the historic images on display inside the club, the most prominent is one which has come to define Pompey’s new era. The photograph was taken before kick-off against Sheffield United, the final home game of a season which featured a record run of 23 games without a win.

Fans had finally won their court battle to seize control and the team, already doomed to relegation to League Two, were in a pre-match huddle and behind them was a montage in the Fratton End with the word ‘OURS’.

Portsmouth were saved and eventually fans turned round the tanker, clinched promotion to League One and, after a careful vetting process, in 2017 sold the club to the former Disney executive, the American Michael Eisner. 

Portsmouth are now third in League One and have managed to grow their fanbase

‘We were stewards until the right person came along,’ Catlin says. ‘Not a day went by without someone wanting to buy the club, but it had to be someone with a history of caring and the finances to take it forward. Not only on the pitch, but Fratton Park needs a lot of work and attention.

‘Michael could blow this league away if he really wanted to. But it’s a short-term fix and you get to the next level and then what? You’ve got to put more money in and you’re on that sinking sand where clubs owe their owners tens of millions.

‘If any club knows about that, it’s this one. Coming into his third year, and we’re still self-sustaining. The club is debt-free, we’ve got our own training ground and we own Fratton Park. We’re in a great place.’

Kenny Jackett, the manager, starts the week with light training in awful conditions before his players file off towards the gym, the physio’s room and the mobile cryotherapy unit in the corner of the car park.

Portsmouth average nearly 18,000 at Fratton Park despite playing in League One

The manager settles at a table outside his office for a media briefing. Throughout the week his public tone is the same: promotion is the priority, important games against MK Dons and Rochdale, everyone is excited by the Arsenal tie, he trusts his players to strike the balance.

Some have personal connections. Burgess started out in Arsenal’s academy in the same year group as Jack Wilshere. Ronan Curtis and Sean Raggett both grew up supporting Arsenal.

Curtis has 15 family and friends coming over from Ireland. Raggett, on loan from Norwich, was part of the Lincoln City team which reached the FA Cup quarter-finals in 2017, scoring the winner at Burnley before losing 5-0 at Arsenal.

‘We’re excited, not overawed,’ says Jackett, the most level of level heads. As a player under Graham Taylor, Jackett helped Watford climb through the divisions and reach the FA Cup final. As a manager, he led Millwall to a Wembley semi-final against Wigan.

Jackett says he’s proud to be in charge ahead of Portsmouth’s biggest night in nearly 10 years

‘It’s a home game and we want to do well. Our home form is strong and we will try to give them problems,’ he said. ‘We will enjoy the challenge and try to rise to it.’

Pompey are accustomed to cup football. They played 62 games last season and will play at least 60 in this campaign, although they have not hosted one of the aristocrats of English football since they were in the Premier League.

‘Arsenal are one of the genuinely great clubs in this country,’ Jackett says. ‘It is a decade since the national focus was on Fratton Park. It is a big occasion, a mouth-watering tie. I’m proud to be the manager of the last League One team in the competition.’

And he is reminded of the last time Arsenal visited in the FA Cup, won 5-1 and Thierry Henry pulled on a Portsmouth shirt for a lap of honour in tribute to the fans at Fratton Park.

‘Kev the kit man was telling me about it,’ Jackett says. ‘But I’ve got to say I don’t always listen to his stories.’

 

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