x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Lure of the turf tempts veteran trainer Barry Hills back into horse racing

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid has coaxed veteran horse trainer Barry Hills out of retirement to manage his new English operation and their first runners will be in action Thursday in England, writes Geoffrey Riddle.

Veteran horse trainer Barry Hills, left, shown here with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, will manage 14 horses in Lambourn. John Giles / PA
Veteran horse trainer Barry Hills, left, shown here with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, will manage 14 horses in Lambourn. John Giles / PA
NEWMARKET, ENGLAND // Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid has coaxed veteran English trainer Barry Hills out of retirement and the 76-year-old handler will manage his new racing operation in Lambourn alongside his son, John.

The Hills pair will have their first runner at Newmarket on Wednesday, when Mujarrad turns out in the famous blue and white silks under John Hills's name in a ten-furlong maiden on the first day of the Craven Stakes meeting.

Maraweh will also run in Thursday's Wood Ditton Stakes as one of four for Sheikh Hamdan.

Sheikh Hamdan has sent 14 horses to Lambourn, where they will be managed by Barry at Kingwood House Stables, where they will have access to Sheikh Hamdan's Farncombe Down gallops.

John Hills last worked with Barry when starting out 25 years ago and was delighted to be reunited professionally with his father.

"It will be the first time I will have worked with dad since I was his assistant," Hills said. "It's marvellous to have him about the place.

"I'm delighted to have made the move to Kingwood because it is a first-class place in every respect and we're all looking forward to a good season."

Hill senior retired in August 2011 after Na Zdorovie provided him with his final winner at Chester but despite a career that saw him become one of only five English trainers to saddle over 3000 winners, the lure of the turf was simply too much.

Barry Hills famously provided Sheikh Hamdan with his last British Classic success when sending out Ghanaati under his son, Richard, to win the 2009 English 1,000 Guineas.

Last season Shiekh Hamdan used 11 trainers in Britain and Ireland with Mike De Kock set to add to that list in the summer if Soft Falling Rain takes his chance at Royal Ascot following his impressive win in the Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup night.

John Hills had a terrible season last year when he saddled only nine winners from 199 runners on the Flat in Britain, which was a marked drop in comparison to previous campaigns with numbers regularly totalling over 300 runners.

Hills has run 17 horses already this season and produced six winners and is in a confident frame of mind following Sheikh Hamdan's patronage.

"I feel privileged to help Sheikh Hamdan and his team and I hope it will be a very successful venture," John Hills added, in an interview with the Racing Post.

Wednesday's feature race at Newmarket is the Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes in which Paul Hanagan rides Sheikh Hamdan's Reyaadah, trained by Charles Hills, John Hills's brother.

The filly will face 13 others including Nargys, owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Obaid, who will be ridden by Keiren Fallon on his first day back after the Irish rider suffered a bout of food poisoning over the weekend.

Elsewhere on the card Luhaif, owned by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, takes his chance in the Listed Feilden Stakes over nine furlongs.

Luhaif was third for Martin Harley and Mick Channon in the Meydan Classic Trial behind Elleval at Meydan Racecourse in February before struggling in the real thing behind Now Spun a few weeks later.

Harley is once again aboard, having partnered the colt to second in a Listed race at Lingfield 11 days ago.

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