ABU DHABI // The jockey Richard Hills celebrated his fourth President's Cup as no other after winning last night's Dh1 million race for the Purebred Arabians on Nirwan at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club. The veteran Englishman raised the whip as he passed the winning post to celebrate and he was all pumped up as he returned to the winner's enclosure, onboard the seven-year-old chestnut son of Dormane, in the popular silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, Minister of Finance and Industry.
"I have won this prize on horses that were expected to win before, but this one wasn't. I really enjoyed this ride and the win," said Hills. "He ran a fantastic race and I'm sure everyone who watched enjoyed it too." The champion trainer Doug Watson, saddling his first President's Cup winner, said: "We tried him with visor for the first time and it worked. We were hopeful of his chances yet there were two other horses we had to beat. Richard rode a fantastic race. He was patient.
"I am very fortunate to have such good Arabians for Sheikh Hamdan. And this horse has now done more than what was required from him. We'll see how he has come out of this race and then decide whether to run him in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 and on the World Cup night." Hills made headway as the field turned on to the second last bend and didn't seem the winner until the final 200-metre pole, driving from the middle of the pack to lead Shadiyda and then holding on the late challenge from Ryan Moore on Abu Alemarat.
Gerald Avranche was the first to step on the gas onboard the Eric Lemartinel's Shadiyda, and apparently it proved to be too soon. The Frenchman went for home before the final turn with more than 500 metres left. As the winning post loomed, Nirwan and the other favourite Abu Alemarat, the Rod Simpson's Triple Crown winner, swooped on the tiring horse with half-a-length separating the first three over the 2,200-metre trip.
Hills completed a superb night by steering Gillian Duffield's Waadi to victory in the concluding event, coming from last to first over the over the same distance of the President's Cup. Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa, Chairman of the UAE Equestrian and Racing Federation, later revealed: "We plan to scrap some of the races we sponsor for the Purebred Arabians abroad to concentrate more on the region. We find some of the Gulf countries to be having the best Arabian race horses and we want to build on this."
Simpson drew some consolation by claiming the Group 3 Al Ruwais race with Fryvolous, who got up in the final 50 metres under Richard Mullen to win from Al Surour, who tried to make up under Wayne Smith. Hills was third on Tashreefat. Lemartinel started off brightly. He saddled a 1-2 finish in the opener with Avranche winning onboard Habaib from the filly Shaymaa. The nine-year-old chestnut gelding Wayne Rooney under Fernando Jara produced a vintage run to win the next, the first of the two on the night for Watson.
William Buick picked up a win when he steered Ahmadani Musafer to win the Emirates Breeder's Cup for the Emirati trainer Ali Rashid al Raihe. Das El Samer, who was drawn from the reserve list, came from the wide outside to take second from Rafed. firstname.lastname@example.org