By Joe Drape
History was made at the Belmont Stakes in Summer 2015 when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown title, the first racehorse to achieve the momentous feat since Affirmed in 1978. Pharoah was the crowd favorite, as spectators had anxiously anticipated the American Thoroughbred's victory, already a proven winner at the year's earlier Kentucky Derby and Preakness races.By all appearances, American Pharoah has led a successful career, unmarred by any controversy as he was the undisputed champion-only twelve horses total in American history have won the Triple Crown. Unfortunately however, his training team has not fared nearly as well. With accusations ranging from sour business transactions to poor gambling practices to active litigation with bankruptcy courts and other legal cases pending, his owner Ahmed Zayat has many rooting against him. The flamboyant Egyptian-American businessman has been leading a double-life that has threatened to overwhelm his small empire. Victor Espinoza, the famed racehorse's relentless jockey, left rural Mexico only to face harsh conditions on a farm where he had to overcome his fear of horses before learning that he had a gift for race riding. Finally, Bob Baffert, American Pharoah's trainer, has an interesting arc that includes tremendous wins, personal losses, and controversial medication violations. Beginning with American Pharoah's modest showing at his first maiden race in 2014, Joe Drape will recount the winning thoroughbred's explosive racing career by weaving in details of Zayat's questionable business practices, Espinoza's heartbreaking loss with California Chrome last year, and Baffert's temperamental, unreliable track record. By interviewing many of the parties involved, Drape will explore the claims of corruption, illegal gambling, and secretive business practices that have been prevalent throughout, all that have ultimately contributed to the makings of this award-winning racehorse.
And Gazza Misses The Final
By Rob Smyth, Scott Murray
Classic World Cup clashes brought to life and re-evaluated by two of the writers of the popular Guardian minute-by-minute football blog. Watching each match in real time and reacting to the twists and turns of the action, Murray and Smyth bring you the real stories of the matches as they happened, not the highlights package or rose-tinted version. From the crowd swarming over the pitch moments before the Brazil-Uruguay classic of 1950 kicked off, to the dubious refereeing decisions that decided England's single triumph at Wembley, this is the history of the World Cup as you've never seen it before. As well as 30 classic moments from other matches, the games given a full report include:1950Uruguay v Brazil1962Chile v Italy1966England v ArgentinaEngland v West Germany1970England v West GermanyItaly v West GermanyBrazil v Italy1974West Germany v Holland1978Scotland v Holland1982Brazil v ItalyWest Germany v France1986England v Argentina France v Brazil1990England vs CameroonEngland v West Germany1994Romania v Argentina1998Argentina v England2006Italy v Germany2010Spain v Holland
By Martyn Brunt
Having spent 10 years scaling the lower echelons of the sport, the time has come for one of Britain's least successful athletes to reveal all about how he got involved in all this nonsense in the first place. Marvel as he reveals: His sporting history - how being last pick at school football in the 1970s set him on course for a lifetime of being rubbish at team games. How he took up triathlons in the first place (for a bet, and the cow who made it with him never paid up). How he overcame a crippling lack of talent and a chorus of complete indifference from his family to complete 10 Ironmans, all outside the top 500 finishers. The many triathlon adventures he has experienced over the past 10 years (cow pats, Ironmans, incontinence, driving bans, broken bones, public nudity, spending entire redundancy payments on a new bike, Belgian portaloos, German knocking shops, sunburnt arse cheeks, channel swimming, fights with chavs, obsessions with weather and the nutritional value of Jaffa Cakes, 3 hour marathons, chronic dehydration and so on). The many and varied idiots he's got to know as a result of taking up the sport (aka his mates). The typical training (hell) he goes through to take part in a race given he has absolutely no ability whatsoever. How triathlons ultimately caused him to sell his Mercedes, give away his expensive suit, chuck in his job in the City and become, as his father put it, a "god-damned hippy" (A cycle path designer who owns a camper van).
The Art of Sledging
By J Harold
In these days of cricketing correctness, where codes of behaviour are being handed down by the Cricket Police, here is a salute to the good old days when games were won and lost by whatever means available.With a great one-liner on every page, this is a collection of crude, rude, famous and infamous sledges all placed within the context of the match and the rivalries on and off the pitch.Including:Merv Hughes to Graeme Hick: "Mate, if you just turn the bat over you'll find the instructions on the other side."Lillie to Gatting: "Hell, Gatt, move out of the way I can't see the stumps."Woodfull to Jardine: "Which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard?"Warne to Cullinan: "I've been waiting two years for another chance to humiliate you." Cullinan replies: "Looks like you spent it eating."The most pathetic sledge of all time from present England Captain Kevin Petersen to Chris Gayle: "You're making me cross. You're making me cross. You're making me cross."Possibly the rudest of them all, Mark Waugh to Adam Parore: "Oh, I remember you from a couple of years ago in Australia. You were shit then, you're f**king useless now." Parore replies: "Yeah that's me and when I was there you were going out with the old, ugly slut and now I hear you married her. You dumb c**t."Even teammates have been known to sledge one another, Brian Close to Geoffrey Boycott: "Next bloody ball, bloody belt it or I'll wrap my bat around your bloody head."And the crowd is not adverse to hurling abuse either "Hey Tuffnell, lend us your brain we are building an idiot!"
Ajax, the Dutch, the War
By Simon Kuper
When most people think about the Netherlands, images of tulips and peaceful pot smoking residents spring to mind. Bring up soccer, and most will think of Johan Cruyuff, the Dutch player thought to rival Pele in preternatural skill, and Ajax, one of the most influential soccer clubs in the world whose academy system for young athletes has been replicated around the globe (and most notably by Barcelona and the 2010 world champions, Spain).But as international bestselling author Simon Kuper writes in Ajax, The Dutch, The War: Soccer in Europe During the Second World War , the story of soccer in Holland cannot be understood without investigating what really occurred in this country during WWII. For decades, the Dutch have enjoyed the reputation of having a good war." The myth is even resonant in Israel where Ajax is celebrated. The fact is, the Jews suffered shocking persecution at the hands of Dutch collabourators. Holland had the second largest Nazi movement in Europe outside Germany, and in no other country except Poland was so high a percentage of Jews deported.Kuper challenges Holland's historical amnesia and uses soccer,particularly the experience of Ajax, a club long supported by Amsterdam's Jews,as a window on wartime Holland and Europe. Through interviews with Resistance fighters, survivors, wartime soccer players and more, Kuper uncovers this history that has been ignored, and also finds out why the Holocaust had a profound effect on soccer in the country.Ajax produced Cruyuff but was also built by members of the Dutch resistance and Holocaust survivors. It became a surrogate family for many who survived the war and its method for producing unparalleled talent became the envy of clubs around the world. In this passionate, haunting and moving work of forensic reporting, Kuper tells the breathtaking story of how Dutch Jews survived the unspeakable and came to play a strong role in the rise of the most exciting and revolutionary style of soccer , Total Football" , the world had ever seen.
Ashes To Ashes
By Marcus Berkmann
The Ashes may be the longest and fiercest sporting soap opera the world has known. The anticipation is always intense, expectations are high and, for England fans, disappointment is almost inevitable, as we usually lose. But it's a drug we can never kick. How have we got into this state? Can we ever break free?Marcus Berkmann knows he can't and has stopped even trying. ASHES TO ASHES is the first emotional history of the contest, shamelessly eschewing balance and objectivity to give the punter's view of every series since 1972. This new edition updates the tale to the victorious 2009 series, while remaining brutally realistic about our chances in 2010 and beyond . . .
By Susan Fox Rogers
This anthology of true outdoor stories by famous and new women writers brims with the spirit of adventure. Barbara Wilson tells of a mesmerizing summer of glaciering in Norway Gabrielle Daniels explores her complex feelings about the forest Alice Evans describes a hilarious paddling trip. Plus much more.