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Tennis greats applaud Barty's rise to No. 1

Tennis greats applaud Barty's rise to No. 1

Australia's greatest female tennis players, Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley, have joined in celebrating the rise of compatriot Ashleigh Barty to the No. 1 world ranking which they both held. Barty became the first Australian woman in more than 40 years to take the top ranking by claiming her third title of 2019 on Sunday in Birmingham. Her mentor and idol Goolagong Cawley, who won seven grand slams, was the first in 1976. The WTA rankings were introduced in 1973. 'In 2019, with all the pieces in place, her rise has been almost unstoppable,' Goolagong Cawley said in a statement on Monday. 'Ash is a very worthy No. 1 and winning at the French will have given her even more confidence. 'I am so proud that another Aboriginal player sits on top of the rankings in women's tennis, particularly a young lady who conveys such happiness in all she does.' Court, who won 24 grand slams, said the challenge for Barty was to stay at No. 1. 'It was always easier climbing up the ladder than staying there,' Court said. 'That's a real champion — to stay at the top.' Compatriot Sam Stosur, who won the 2011 U.S. Open, said Barty's attitude will serve her well as she goes into Wimbledon next week as the top seed. 'She is playing fantastic and grass is a surface that she openly says she can't wait to get on every year,' Stosur said. 'I don't think she went to the French thinking she had a shot which is maybe why she went there and put no pressure on herself. 'She was just playing it and enjoying it and getting through the rounds and suddenly she's won a grand slam. 'Wimbledon will be a different scenario.' Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said Barty could win another grand slam title this year if she avoids injury. 'The top women players aren't used to the type of game that she has,' Tiley said. 'That's what is putting her at a high level quickly - while the other players figure out how to play her I think they will continue to struggle.' The great Billie Jean King congratulated Barty on Twitter. 'With incredible versatility, perseverance, and focus, Ash Barty is an inspiration to the next generation of young players in Australia. 'Well done!' King tweeted. ___ More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Santa Anita season ends after 30 horse deaths, trainer ban

Santa Anita season ends after 30 horse deaths, trainer ban

Santa Anita's troubled racing season has come to a close after the deaths of 30 horses at the Southern California track rattled the industry and led to Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer being banned when four of his horses were among the casualties. There were no incidents during morning training hours or in the 10 races Sunday. About 20 protesters briefly toted signs outside an entrance to the track, calling attention to the deaths and condemning the sport. Hollendorfer had two horses entered to run closing day, but they, along with two others Saturday, were scratched by track stewards on the recommendation of a special panel convened to review horses' medical, training and racing history. The 73-year-old trainer was ordered by The Stronach Group to remove his horses from Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields in Northern California, which are owned by the company. The fourth death in his stable during the meet occurred Saturday. Track ownership said Hollendorfer was 'no longer welcome to stable, race, or train his horses at any of our facilities.' No one from The Stronach Group spoke to the media Sunday despite a request. The company said a statement would be forthcoming in a few days. Racing next moves to Los Alamitos in Orange County beginning June 29, where the California Horse Racing Board said a panel will review horses entered to run there. That track will 'gladly' provide stalls to Hollendorfer, whom track owner Edward Allred called 'an unexcelled horseman.' 'Unless forbidden by the California Horse Racing Board, we intend to permit entries from Hollendorfer,' Allred said in a statement. 'We do not feel he should be a scapegoat for a problem which derives from a number of factors.' Still unknown is whether Hollendorfer would be allowed to train at Del Mar near San Diego, which opens its summer meet July 17. A track spokesman said Sunday a decision had yet to be made. Neither Los Alamitos nor Del Mar is owned by The Stronach Group. Racing at Santa Anita is set to resume Sept. 27. The track is scheduled to host the Breeders' Cup world championships on Nov. 1-2. The Breeders' Cup board of directors is expected to meet this week to discuss this year's location. The fatalities at Santa Anita since Dec. 26 have raised alarm within California and the rest of the racing industry. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently stepped in to direct the formation of the special panel to evaluate horses' histories before they race. Track and racing board officials implemented several changes involving exams of horses scheduled to train or race. The racing board also is looking at changes involving jockeys' use of a riding crop in a race. Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux was fined $100 by the stewards for violating a CHRB rule that prohibits use of a crop more than three times in succession without giving the horse a chance to respond. The violation occurred in the eighth race Saturday. Bob Baffert, the two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer, recently traveled to Sacramento to meet legislators concerned about the horse deaths. The majority occurred during the winter months when usually arid Santa Anita was hit with record rainfall totaling nearly a foot. Trainers like Doug O'Neill, a two-time Kentucky Derby winner, are dismayed that the sport is under fire amid a drumbeat of negativity. 'The important thing is that they are accidents and accidents happen,' O'Neill said. 'I can you tell in the 32 years I've been back here I've never seen one case of an abuse.' About 500 backstretch workers rallied on Thursday to ask for help in protecting their jobs, emphasize their commitment to the horses in their care and their support of the recent rules changes. O'Neill and Baffert support the workers, many of whom come from Mexico and Guatemala. 'Right now I'm worried about keeping these horses and keeping people here,' Baffert said. 'If it went away, I worry about all these unemployed people.' O'Neill noted there are good things done by the racing industry but 'it's just unfortunate that very little of that is talked about.' He lamented what he perceives as a lack of transparency by Santa Anita management about what's happening. 'You'd like to hear more dialogue between all the different factions that are involved,' O'Neill said. 'It seems like there's these small little groups that have all the power. They have their private meetings and none of it gets trickled down to us what the heck is going on.' The Stronach Group has moved to reduce the use of anti-bleeding medication Lasix on race days. Going further, there's been a proposal to eliminate Lasix in 2-year-old horses starting next year. 'Racing needs Santa Anita to work,' Baffert said. 'Santa Anita is so important. If something happens here, it affects everything.' ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Pujols concludes STL return with 2 hits, Molina jersey swap

Pujols concludes STL return with 2 hits, Molina jersey swap

In a weekend full of emotional moments, Los Angeles slugger Albert Pujols saved the best for last. Pujols capped off a stirring three-day return to St. Louis by exchanging jerseys with long-time friend and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina following the Angels' 6-4 win on Sunday. Pujols was cheered throughout his first series in St. Louis since leaving the club in free agency after the 2011 season. The former Cardinal got standing ovations before each plate appearance throughout the weekend and a curtain call after popping out in his final at-bat. 'This is probably one of the best moments of my career,' Pujols said. 'I'm going to put it up there with the two World Series championships.' Pujols met with Molina, his long-time friend, after the game. The two autographed and then exchanged jerseys on the field. 'That's something we felt from our hearts that we should do,' Pujols said. 'It's something that's going to be in my trophy case. To see the man that he has become, the leader, the champion. I can close my eyes right now and remember him, this little boy walking into Cardinals' camp. The man that he has become is unbelievable.' Los Angeles manager Brad Ausmus was overwhelmed by the support for Pujols over the three days. 'This is one of the most tremendous things I've seen in the game of baseball, the way he was treated as a visiting player,' Ausmus said. 'I've always known how great the St. Louis fans are - but this was something special.' St. Louis manager Mike Shildt was also impressed with the crowd's love for Pujols. 'A special tribute to a special man,' Shildt said. The 39-year-old Pujols was 4 for 11 over the three-game set, including a home run during a 4-2 loss Saturday. He spent 11 years in St. Louis and won three MVP awards and two World Series (2006, 2011) with the Cardinals. After Pujols popped out with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, fans chanted his name as he returned to first base the next half-inning. It may have been his final chance to play in front of his old fan base. Tommy La Stella and David Fletcher drove in two runs apiece, and Tyler Skaggs tossed five shutout innings for the Angels. Los Angeles snapped a three-game losing streak and finished a long road trip with a 6-5 mark. 'He was pounding the strike zone and the curveball was good,' Ausmus said of Skaggs. The Cardinals rallied for four runs with two outs in the ninth, sparked by Jose Martinez's solo homer. Angels closer Hansel Robles came on to get the final out in a non-save situation. La Stella had run-scoring hits in the second and sixth innings to back a strong effort from Skaggs and five other relievers. Skaggs (7-6) allowed four hits over five scoreless innings. He struck out three and did not walk a batter. 'He was pounding the strike zone and the curveball was good,' Ausmus said. St. Louis starter Miles Mikolas (5-8) gave up one run and seven hits over five innings. He struck out four and walked two. The Cardinals struggled with runners in scoring position over the first eight innings before coming up big in the ninth. 'We didn't score early, the runs that we needed, and that's why we lost,' St. Louis outfielder Marcell Ozuna said. REYES SUFFERS SETBACK St. Louis RHP Alex Reyes was removed in the second inning of a start for Triple-A Memphis on Sunday with right pectoral discomfort. He will be re-evaluated Monday. Reyes missed all of 2017 and most of 2018 after undergoing elbow surgery. He made four appearances on the major league level this season with an 0-1 record and 15.00 ERA. TRAINER'S ROOM Cardinals: RHP Jordan Hicks will be out two to three days after leaving Saturday's game with right triceps tendinitis. 'I'm really confident from the doctors and the medical team that it's nothing related to anything structural,' St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. UP NEXT Angels: LHP Andrew Heaney (0-1, 5.68) will face Cincinnati RHP Tyler Mahle (2-7, 4.17) on Tuesday in the first of a two-game series, which will kick off a six-game homestand. Heaney is making his sixth start of the season after missing the first 51 games with left elbow inflammation. Cardinals: RHP Jack Flaherty (4-4, 4.24) will take on Oakland RHP Chris Bassitt (4-3, 3.64) in the first of a two-game set on Tuesday. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports