Brexit march: Thousands join referendum protest


Brexit People's Vote MarchImage copyright
PA

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The march will be followed by a rally in front of Parliament

Thousands are gathering to march through central London calling for a second EU referendum, as MPs search for a way out of the Brexit impasse.

Demonstrators from the “Put It To The People” campaign will march from Park Lane to Parliament Square, followed by a rally in front of Parliament.

It comes after the EU agreed to delay the UK’s departure from the EU.

PM Theresa May has said she will ditch plans for another vote on her Brexit deal if not enough MPs support it.

Unless that deal is passed by MPs, the UK will have to come up with an alternative plan or else face leaving without a deal on April.

Meanwhile, a record-breaking online petition on Parliament’s website calling for Brexit to be cancelled by revoking Article 50 has attracted more than 4.18 million signatures.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said the petition could “give oxygen” to the campaign for another Brexit referendum.

Speakers at the rally include Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, former Tory turned independent MP Anna Soubry and former attorney general Dominic Grieve.

Ms Sturgeon said now was “the moment of maximum opportunity” to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Watson is expected to promise to back Mrs May’s deal if she agrees to hold a referendum on it.

He is expected to say: “I’ve come to the reluctant view that the only way to resolve this and have legitimacy in the eyes of the public is for the people themselves to sign it off.”

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Media captionTheresa May’s televised address, blaming MPs for a delay, caused anger in Westminster

Ms Soubry told the BBC: “It’s good to see Tom Watson coming on the march today… I honestly believe it’s the only way forward.”

She added: “It’s intolerable the situation that we’re in and I’m afraid Theresa’s the problem.

“I’m not saying the government should go because that’s the last thing we want, but I think she has to go and we need some temporary prime minister who can reach out, put the country first, get this back to the British people – that’s what we’re all marching for today, a people’s vote.”

Ms Soubry also said Mrs May had made a “desperately bad mistake” blaming the delay to Brexit on MPs in her televised address on Wednesday.

Former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell agreed “there was a very strong feeling she’d made an error of judgement” on this.

But dismissing reports of growing pressure on Mrs May to quit, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “To change prime minister would be a colossal error – it won’t change the numbers [in the vote for Mrs May’s deal]”.

‘Clear choices’

If Mrs May’s deal is approved by MPs next week, the EU has agreed to extend the Brexit deadline until 22 May. If it is not – and no alternative plan is put forward – the UK is set to leave the EU on 12 April.

In a letter to all MPs on Friday evening, Mrs May offered to talk to MPs over the coming days “as Parliament prepares to take momentous decisions”.

Children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi told the Today programme that failing to support Mrs May’s deal would lead to a “meltdown in our politics, not just for the Conservative party but for all parties”.

He said all the other alternatives would require MPs asking for a much longer extension, which Mrs May has said she is not prepared for.

Indicating he would stand down if Mrs May’s deal is not voted for, Mr Zahawi said he “cannot justify” going to his constituents and saying: “We failed to deliver this and that now we are having to stay in the EU and go into European elections.”

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Getty Images

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Nigel Farage said the People’s Vote march in London were not the majority

The march comes as the pro-Brexit March to Leave, which started in Sunderland a week ago, continues towards London.

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage re-joined the March to Leave in Linby, near Nottingham, on Saturday morning telling around 200 Brexit supporters that Mrs May had reduced the nation “to a state of humiliation”.

Speaking from the top of an open-top bus, Mr Farage said those gathering for the People’s Vote march in London were not the majority, before leading the crowds through the village.

Meanwhile, by 11:32 GMT on Saturday, the total number of signatures calling for Article 50 to be revoked stood at 4,151,815 – beating the previous record reached by another Brexit-related petition in 2016.

Margaret Georgiadou, who set up the petition, tweeted earlier that she had “received three death threats over the phone”, she also said she had closed her Facebook account after receiving a “torrent of abuse”.

Parliament’s petitions committee tweeted on Friday that the rate of signatures was “the highest the site has ever had to deal with”, after the website crashed.



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Libby Squire: Mum has ‘lost most precious thing’


Libby SquireImage copyright
Squire Family

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Libby Squire was a philosophy student at the University of Hull

The mother of Libby Squire says she has lost “one of the most precious things” after her daughter’s body was pulled from the Humber estuary.

The 21-year-old student was found on Wednesday, seven weeks after disappearing on 1 February.

Her death is being treated as a “potential homicide” and a man remains under investigation.

Lisa Squire posted on Facebook she was “so sorry she could not keep her safe” on the night her daughter vanished.

She wrote: “My baby girl is gone. Gone forever. No more birthdays with us. No more Christmas Days with us. No more family time all together.

“No family should have to endure that.”

Mrs Squire, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, said she was “broken” for all the people who knew and loved her daughter.

The “worst point” was having to tell her daughter’s boyfriend Connor: “I am so sorry the girl you love the most in the world has gone”.

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Floral tributes have been left on the bench where Miss Squire was last seen

“I cannot thank you enough my darling Pie for making me a mummy. For choosing me to be your mummy. It’s an honour, a privilege and a joy,” she wrote.

“I kept you safe for as long as I could and I am so sorry I could not keep you safe on that night. I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.

“I love you my beautiful girl with all my being and I always will.”

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Hull Minster has invited people to light a candle in memory of the student

Miss Squire disappeared after a night out in Hull. Police believe she got a taxi from the Welly Club to her home in Wellesley Avenue at about 23:30 on 31 January.

She was spotted 10 minutes later on CCTV near a bench on Beverley Road, where it is thought a motorist stopped to offer her help.

Her body was recovered at around 15:30 GMT on Wednesday close to Spurn Point, near Grimsby Docks.

Detectives have said she could have been killed but “would not be releasing results of a post-mortem examination for investigative reasons”.

An inquest is due to open and adjourn on Monday.



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IPL 2019: BBC to broadcast ball-by-ball commentary


Ben Stokes is one of 11 English players taking part in the 2019 IPL

The BBC has signed a two-year deal to broadcast ball-by-ball commentary of the Indian Premier League.

The 2019 edition of the world’s biggest T20 competition begins on Saturday, 23 March and runs until 12 May.

Matches will be broadcast on both the BBC Sport website and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra (UK only).

Coverage of the Indian Premier League (IPL) kicks off a big summer of cricket on BBC radio, including the World Cup and the men’s and women’s Ashes.

“This summer of cricket is set to be one of the most exciting in recent memory and I’m thrilled we’re kicking it off with comprehensive coverage of the IPL, which is one of the sport’s most vibrant competitions,” said Ben Gallop, head of radio and digital for BBC Sport.

As well as match commentary, The Doosra podcast will round up the IPL action each week with England’s Women’s World Cup-winning bowler Isa Guha, stand-up comedian Aatif Nawaz and BBC Asian Network host Ankur Desai.



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Formula E: Jean-Eric Vergne wins Sanya E-Prix as Antonio Felix da Costa goes top


Formula E: Jean-Eric Vergne beats Oliver Rowland in China E-Prix

Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne won the Sanya E-Prix in China as Antonio Felix da Costa climbed to the top of the Formula E drivers’ championship.

Pre-race leader Sam Bird went out early on to drop to fourth in the standings but fellow Briton Oliver Rowlands claimed his first podium in second.

Vergne dedicated his win to ex-Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting, who died earlier this month.

“It feels good, it’s been a long time not winning,” said Vergne.

It was a first win of the season for the reigning champion and one that meant victory on home soil for the DS Techeetah team.

“I feel so good for the team because we had a tough beginning to the season,” Vergne added.

The race finished under a full course yellow after Lucas di Grassi crashed on the final lap and then left his car, causing the flag to be waved.

Portuguese driver Da Costa finished third to take a three-point lead in the overall standings from Jerome d’Ambrosio, with Vergne and Bird eight points off the pace in third and fourth.

“We had the package to do more,” said the BMW I Andretti Motorsport driver. “We were by far the most efficient car out there.”

It was a first podium for Nissan E.Dams driver Rowlands, who started the race from pole position, after failing to finish in the three previous races.

“I have to be happy,” said the 26-year-old Englishman. “My target was to get a podium, although we struggled a bit with the pace.

“Each race we are getting better and I am sure we will be there by the end of the year.”

The seventh race of the season takes place in Rome, Italy next month.



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Scotland: How does Alex McLeish stack up a year after first game in charge?


Today marks the one-year anniversary of Alex McLeish’s first game back in charge of Scotland.

His second stint began with a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica, and he has suffered a further six defeats during his 12 months in the job.

Since replacing Gordon Strachan as Scotland manager in February 2018, McLeish has been under constant scrutiny to prove he can end the 22-year wait for qualification for a major finals.

However, the jury is still out on the 60-year-old with just four wins from 11 matches.

So are Scotland improving under McLeish or are we once again going nowhere, fast? BBC Scotland takes a look…

Placing in the world

There’s no doubt McLeish deserves credit for reaching the play-offs of the Nations League ahead of Israel and Albania, but besides that there has been very little to help Scotland push up the FIFA rankings.

In fact, things have got worse.

When McLeish became Scotland manager in early 2018 the national team were ranked 32nd in the world. Yet since then they’ve dropped as low as 42nd, to then rise slightly to today’s ranking of 40th.

In January 2017 Scotland were even further down the rankings in 67th place, wedged between Benin and Guinea-Bissau. Yet a run of eight games in which Scotland won four and drew three hauled Strachan’s side up to 32nd.

Points and goals

To properly assess McLeish’s record since returning to Hampden, we need to go a little further back and compare the national team’s performances under his predecessors.

For example, Scotland are currently averaging just 1.09 goals per game in McLeish’s second stint in charge. Not only is that considerably less than the average during his previous spell – 1.44 – but it is also the third lowest return since Scotland last reached a major tournament.

What is perhaps even more concerning is that Scotland’s defensive record under McLeish has shot up to 1.64 conceded goals per game. This is not only considerably worse than the 1.1 goals per game conceded under Strachan, but also surpasses the rather abject performances under Craig Levein, George Burley and Berti Vogts.

After 11 matches, the national team are averaging just 1.09 points per game. To put that in context, it is not only around half the return they picked up when McLeish first took over in 2007, but is also the second lowest return for a Scotland manager since 2002.

Burley, with an average of 0.86 points per game, spares the current Scotland manager from the wooden spoon.

More players, less consistency

One of the reasons for McLeish’s ineffective restart as Scotland manager could be the manner in which he has chopped and changed his squad so much.

Although he has had to contend with injuries, he has also searched high and wide for alternative options in a number of positions as the nation transitions from one generation of players to the next.

Indeed, as we can see in the table above, McLeish has already called upon 46 players over just 11 games. Not only is that almost double the 26 players he stuck with during his first stint in charge, it suggests he’s well on course to quickly surpass the 58 Strachan used during his four-year tenure.

In fact, when we break it down to different players called up per match, McLeish’s average of 4.18 is higher than any of his last five predecessors and considerably more than Vogts’ 2.48 – despite the German coach’s notorious reputation for handing out call-ups on a whim.



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The rise and fall of the Islamic State group: The long and short story


IS militant hold up black jihadist banners in Raqqa on 30 June 2014Image copyright
Reuters

A US-backed alliance of Syrian fighters has announced that the United States and its partners have reclaimed the last territory in Syria controlled by Islamic State (IS) militants.

But who are they, and how did their influence spread?

The extremist Islamist group came to international prominence in 2014 when it seized large parts of Syria and Iraq.

IS imposed its brutal rule on almost eight million people, carried out countless atrocities, destroyed cultural heritage, and generated billions of dollars in revenue from oil, extortion, robbery and kidnapping.

After five years of fierce and bloody battles, local forces, backed by world powers, have driven IS out of all the territory it once controlled.

But the group is by no means defeated. Experts say it will return to its insurgent roots while rebuilding and remains a global threat.

What does it want?

IS is what is widely known as a jihadist group.

Jihadists see violent struggle as necessary to eradicate obstacles to restore God’s rule on Earth and defend the Muslim community against what they consider to be infidels and apostates.

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Reuters

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The UN says IS committed genocide against Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority

IS wants a “caliphate” – a state governed in accordance with Islamic law, or Sharia, by God’s deputy on Earth (caliph) – that extends across the Islamic world.

The group justifies its attacks on Muslims and non-Muslims alike by drawing on extreme interpretations of Islamic texts.

What are its origins?

IS grew out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was formed by Sunni Muslim militants after the US-led invasion in 2003.

In 2011, the group – by then known as Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) – joined the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, where it found a safe haven. It also took advantage of the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Sunni anger at the sectarian policies of its Shia-led government.

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AFP

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IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was last seen at Mosul’s Great Mosque of al-Nuri in 2014

In 2013, ISI began seizing territory in Syria and changed its name to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis/Isil).

The next year Isis overran large parts of Iraq, proclaimed its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph, and became known as “Islamic State”.

How much land did it control?

At its peak, IS ruled over 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) stretching across the Iraq-Syria border.

Almost eight million people found themselves living according to its interpretation of Sharia. Women were forced to wear full veils, public beheadings were commonplace, children were indoctrinated at school, and Christians had to choose between paying a tax, converting, or death.

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Media captionA Raqqa resident describes daily life under so-called Islamic State.

Prominent Muslim leaders rejected the IS caliphate, but tens of thousands of foreigners travelled to the region to join.

IS was able to fund its activities with the tens of millions of dollars it generated each month from oil smuggling, extortion, robbery and kidnapping.

The group also provoked outrage by destroying ancient sites and artefacts it considered idolatrous.

How did it lose its territory?

The battle to defeat IS militarily has cost many thousands of lives.

In Iraq, the fight has been led by local security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and a paramilitary force dominated by Iran-backed Shia militias, the Popular Mobilisation. A US-led global coalition – comprising 74 nations – has provided air support and military advisers.

In Syria, troops loyal to President Assad have battled IS in western and central regions with the help of Russian air strikes and Iran-backed militiamen.

The global coalition has meanwhile backed an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias called the Syrian Democratic Forces. They have driven IS out of much of the north and east of the country.

Is this the end of IS?

No. It remains a battle-hardened and well-disciplined force whose “enduring defeat” is not assured.

The top US commander in the Middle East has warned it is necessary to maintain “a vigilant offensive” against a group that “retains leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and the profane ideology that fuels their efforts”.

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Media captionIs this the end for Islamic State?

In Iraq, the group has already evolved into a covert network. The UN has said sleeper cells active in rural areas are seeking to undermine government authority, create an atmosphere of lawlessness, and sabotage reconciliation.

IS has suffered substantial losses, but the UN has said it still reportedly controls between 14,000 and 18,000 militants in Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, there are significant numbers of IS-affiliated militants in Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, South-East Asia and West Africa, and to a lesser extent in Somalia, Yemen and the Sahel.

Individuals inspired by the group’s ideology also continue to carry out attacks elsewhere.



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Miami Open: Novak Djokovic through but Dominic Thiem is out


Djokovic is level with Andre Agassi on six Miami Open titles

World number one Novak Djokovic returned to winning ways with a straight-set victory against Australia’s Bernard Tomic to reach the Miami Open third round.

Serbia’s Djokovic, who lost in the third round at Indian Wells last week, beat Tomic 7-6 (7-2) 6-2.

The 31-year-old is aiming for a record seventh title in Miami and faces Argentina’s Federico Delbonis next.

Britain’s Dan Evans plays Canada’s Denis Shapovalov later on Saturday.

“I’ve had quite a lot of court time between [my] Indian Wells loss in singles and now, tonight’s match,” said 15-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic.

“I’ve worked on everything I need to work on. Now it’s just a matter of time to build the momentum and build that match play.”

Elsewhere, Austria’s Dominic Thiem, who beat Roger Federer to win Indian Wells on Sunday, missed out on the ‘Sunshine Slam’, losing 6-4 6-4 to Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz.



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Islamic State group defeated as final territory lost, US-backed forces say


Breaking News image

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces say the Islamic State group has lost its last bit of territory in Syria, bringing to an end its “caliphate”.

Mustafa Bali said the SDF was declaring the “100% territorial defeat” of IS.

The jihadist group once controlled 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) of land stretching across Syria and Iraq.

Despite the loss of territory, the group is still seen as a major security threat capable of mounting attacks in the region and worldwide.

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly. Please refresh the page for the fullest version.

You can receive Breaking News on a smartphone or tablet via the BBC News App. You can also follow @BBCBreaking on Twitter to get the latest alerts.





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LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers out of play-off race – what has gone wrong?


LeBron James will not be in the NBA play-offs for the first time since 2005.

The Los Angeles Lakers were mathematically eliminated from the play-off race following a 111-106 defeat by the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night.

James was not expected to immediately deliver a title after moving to the tougher Western Conference last year, but few predicted the Lakers struggling so badly they missed the play-offs for a sixth year in a row.

What has gone wrong in Los Angeles?

Injuries

LeBron James missed 17 games of the season with a groin injury

Christmas Day was the peak of the Lakers’ season and the moment it started to fall apart.

They thrashed defending champions the Golden State Warriors 127-101 but small forward James left the game with a strained left groin.

The Lakers had 20 wins, 14 defeats and sat fourth in the Western Conference, with James, 34, saying he would be back soon.

Instead he missed the next 17 games – the longest absence of his career – during which the Lakers won only six times and slipped out of the play-off spots, never returning.

The injuries have kept coming – the defence has crumbled without point guard Lonzo Ball, out since January with an ankle sprain.

And earlier this month, small forward Brandon Ingram – on the best run of his career after a slow start to the year – was ruled out for the season, needing surgery to remove a blood clot in his right arm.

A puzzling roster

Summer signings Michael Beasley (left) and Javale McGee failed to impress, with the former traded away in February

James has had a superb season, averaging more than 27 points, eight assists and eight rebounds per game, but part of the roster is a bizarre bunch of incompatible characters.

During his run of eight straight NBA finals with the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers, James thrived playing with gifted three-point shooters – this year the Lakers are second bottom in three-point percentage.

Instead of recruiting shooters, the Lakers, although likely with James’ input, opted for veterans Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Javale McGee and Michael Beasley.

Those four are some of the league’s most eccentric personalities – Stephenson once tried to annoy James by blowing in his ear – and have been largely ineffective.

Players the Lakers recently let go are starring elsewhere – Milwaukee Bucks centre Brook Lopez is hitting threes, New Orleans Pelicans power forward Julius Randle is averaging 20 points per game and Brooklyn Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell has become an all-star.

‘LeBron’s gonna trade you’

Brandon Ingram was taunted by Indiana Pacers fans after the Lakers failed to trade him for Anthony Davis

If you need to keep morale high for a scrap to stay in play-off contention, do not let four key players find out you tried to trade them away.

In January, Pelicans centre Anthony Davis – one of the best players in the NBA – requested a trade, widely seen as an attempt to move to the Lakers, given Davis and James share an agent.

The Lakers reportedly put prospects Ball, Ingram, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma in offers but the Pelicans rejected every bid until the trade deadline on 7 February.

The young Lakers avoided being traded, but the possibility they will be this summer remains, as Ingram was reminded by opposition fans chanting, “LeBron’s gonna trade you”.

‘Play-off mode’ becomes ‘load management’

Mario Hezonja goaded LeBron James before later putting in a game-winning block on him

With the Lakers still faltering after his return, James said he had “activated” play-off mode to try and reach the post-season.

He must have missed the on switch. The Lakers won only two of their next eight games and decided to scale back James’ minutes, effectively confirming they had given up.

The most chastening moment of James’ season was still to come.

Going for the game winner at the New York Knicks, James was blocked by journeyman Mario Hezonja as the Lakers fell to a 124-123 defeat against the league’s worst team.

So, what next?

Missing the play-offs at least gives James more time to film Space Jam 2 this summer but how can he and the Lakers become contenders from here?

James’ contract runs for three more seasons and the offbeat veterans were only signed to one-year deals, so the Lakers have salary cap space to pursue talented free agents.

Losing games could even be their best option now, because a worse record increases a team’s chances of a higher pick in June’s NBA draft.

They have trade assets and will go after Davis again, but a bright future is not certain.

Heavyweight free agents like Leonard, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have been more regularly linked with other teams, while this year’s draft class is not considered overly strong beyond projected number one pick Zion Williamson.

Ball and Ingram should be back fit next season but their injury history might worry potential trade partners and the Lakers have to decide whether to fire coach Luke Walton.

Hanging over all this is how long James, who turns 35 in December, can stay at least near the peak of his powers. It is no given the King will win a fourth ring in LA.



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Winx: Australian horse wins 32nd consecutive race


Winx has not lost a race in nearly four years

Australian racehorse Winx extended her record-breaking win streak to 32 with victory in the George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill Gardens.

The mare, trained by Chris Waller, won the race for the fourth straight year in what may be her penultimate outing.

Winx justified odds of 1-17 as she claimed a 24th top-level Group One win under jockey Hugh Bowman.

“When the crowd erupted I could feel the energy increase in her body, it was just so exciting,” he said.

“I’m so proud of her and proud to be part of it.”

After victory. the seven-year-old horse was welcomed back by the crowd chanting “Winxy, Winxy”.

It is expected Winx’s extraordinary career will to come to an end after the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick next month.

Record-breaker in numbers

  • Winx beat Black Caviar’s Australian win record in August 2018 with her 26th consecutive victory.
  • Earlier this month, she won a world record 23rd Group One race.
  • That victory passed the record of the Willie Mullins-trained former Champion Hurdle winner Hurricane Fly who was retired in August 2015.
  • Winx has won 36 times in 42 races. Her last defeat was in April 2015.



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