x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Emotional victory for veteran jockey Richard Hills

Englishman registers 502nd win over two decades of racing in UAE on his last appearance at track.

Richard Hills, centre, who rode Versac PY to victory in Abu Dhabi, has had a long association with Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid. Christopher Pike / The National
Richard Hills, centre, who rode Versac PY to victory in Abu Dhabi, has had a long association with Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // Richard Hills signed off in style last night as he marked is final appearance at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club with a victory in the feature race.

It was an emotional moment for the Englishman as he crossed the line on Versac PY to claim the Group 1 Emirates Championship in the silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, his main patron, for his 502nd winner in the UAE.

"It has been a wonderful 20 years in the UAE and I couldn't have wished for a better ending than signing off with a Group 1 winner on an Arabian," Hills said. "Abu Dhabi has provided me with some wonderful Arabian winners and it was quiet fitting to ride one on my last appearance here. I have got two more meetings [Jebel Ali on Friday and the Dubai World Cup on March 31] and then look ahead for the next chapter of my life. I would like to start with a good holiday.

"I have ridden him [Versac PY] in his last three starts and won them all. He is an improving horse with natural speed. It has been a great journey and I have enjoyed every moment."

Ali Al Muhairi, the racing manager for Sheikh Hamdan, paid tribute to Hills on his 15-year association with the owner.

"Richard has been a true professional and been a thorough gentleman," he said. "He steps down having accomplished his duties to perfection.

"His record speaks for itself. He has some memorable winners in the UAE including a Dubai World Cup success and four Kahayla Classic winners."

The win was Versac PY's biggest prize from 11 career starts and Erwan Charpy, his handler, said he was the best Arabian in training.

Hills had the five-year-old bay son of Njewman settled in midfield and when kicked for home on the final 400-metre pole, he quickened to win comfortably from Periander, last year's winner.

"He has proved he can handle the step up in class and he will now be aimed at some big prizes for next season," Charpy said. "He has had a remarkable season, winning six races this season and has seven wins to his name.

"He is a distance horse and has won every race run over the 2,000-metre distance. The only time he failed to win was when tried over the shorter trip."

apassela@thenational.ae