x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Hills pulls up trees at Meydan

Richard Hills claims the inaugural Meydan Masters jockeys' championship, riding one winner, one second, one third and one seventh.

Richard Hills rides Godolphin's Sirocco Breeze to victory in Leg II of the Meydan Masters last night.
Richard Hills rides Godolphin's Sirocco Breeze to victory in Leg II of the Meydan Masters last night.

DUBAI // Richard Hills claimed the inaugural Meydan Masters jockeys' championship last night, riding one winner, one second, one third and one seventh. A double on Super Thursday followed by his victory yesterday polished off a successful end to the Dubai International Racing Carnival for Hills. Racing will not resume at Meydan Racecourse until Dubai World Cup day on March 27.

The 12-jockey line-up consisted of familiar faces, Frankie Dettori, Ted Durcan and Ryan Moore as well as Dubai first-timers, including US star Kent Desormeaux and Corey Brown, the Melbourne Cup hero. Points were allocated for the finishing positions each jockey achieved, with the more points the better. Hills sealed his win with a third in the colours of Monte Alto in the final Meydan Masters race, a horse owned by his regular patron, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid. With 116 points, Hills was a clear winner ahead of second-placed Christophe Lemaire who had 99, Desormeaux who finished on 97, Aaron Gryder's 93 and Olivier Peslier's 50.

"It's very special to win because thanks to that last race I have won it in the colours of the boss," said Hills referring to his ride on Sheikh Hamdan's Monte Alto. "It's a great competition and a great credit to Dubai that so many jockeys of such a high calibre have come here to compete." Hills will go home with a Rolex watch as his prize. He also took seventh in Leg I on Lui Rei, trained by Herman Brown and second in Leg III on Anthony Martin's Salute Him.

The familiar flash of Godolphin's royal blue sped past the finish line twice but it was not the usual face of Dettori in the winners' enclosure, but Hills and Desormeaux. Hills put together a fine display on Godolphin's Sirocco Breeze, claiming the Meydan Masters Leg II by two-and-a-half lengths and earning maximum points. The evening rightly belonged to Hills, but the show was very nearly stolen by Desormeaux, who after winning the Meydan Masters Leg III on Godolphin's Once More Dubai put in a cheeky flying dismount in the style of Dettori.

"All the guys in the dressing room can do it," said a smiling Desormeaux, whose dismount was a perfect copy of Dettori's trademark. "We just don't like to steal Frankie's thunder. "The horse did that very well, I just had to follow instructions, keep him covered up at the back and time the run so he could catch them but not too early as he's not a happy camper if he hits the front too soon." Gryder proved the UAE is a lucky place for him too after claiming the first race on Sheikh Hamdan's Alazeyab.

The American jockey's victory in the 2009 World Cup will go down in history for the 14-length winning margin his ride Well Armed enjoyed over his rivals. stregoning@thenational.ae