Dubai World Cup Card to Bring Down Curtain on Richard Hills’ Career

A significant chapter in Dubai’s nascent racing history comes to a close on Saturday when Richard Hills dons his breaches for the last time.
The man who has ridden in the United Arab Emirates since the sport gained a proper foothold in 1993 will have his swansong ride aboard Entifaadha in the Group 2 US$2 million UAE Derby, sponsored by The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group.
It will be an emotional evening for Hills, who has been retained to ride for His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum for the last 15 years. Each of his four mounts on Saturday will sport the distinctive blue-and-white silks of Dubai’s Minister of Finance.
“I spoke to His Highness Sheikh Hamdan in July last year and we both felt that for me to retire on Dubai World Cup night would be a great way to go,” the jockey said. “I won the 1999 Dubai World Cup on Almutawakel, so there will be many happy memories as well as some sadness.”
Hills, 49, has spent 19 consecutive winters living in Dubai. In that time he has seen the sport morph from the germ of an idea into the international Dubai World Cup Carnival that culminates with the world’s richest race on Saturday.
“The whole experience has been fantastic from start to finish,” he said. “I have enjoyed plenty of success over the years and I got a great reception when I rode at Jebel Ali for the last time on Saturday.”
A feature of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan’s patronage of racing in his home territory is the way he supports many local trainers. They, in turn, have repaid him by bringing horses through the recent Carnival to stake their claim on the big night.
Barbecue Eddie (trained by Doug Watson), Snaafy (Musabah Al Muhairi) and Derbaas and Haatheq (Ali Rashid Al Raihe) have all earned berths in the Group 2 US$1 million Godolphin Mile, sponsored by Etisalat.
Hills, who has ridden each of them to numerous triumphs in Dubai, has opted for Derbaas.
“It was a difficult decision,” he said. “There probably isn’t five lengths between them all but Derbaas is tough and has run consistently in Group races. I rode him in a piece of work recently and he went really well. I only hope I have chosen the right one.”
Also engaged in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free, sponsored by Dubai Duty free is Red Jazz, who is trained in Britain by Richard’s brother, Charlie, and ridden by his twin, Michael. The extent of the Hills family’s involvement reflects the dynasty forged by their father Barry, a leading trainer in Britain until his retirement last year.
Hills will open proceedings on Saturday in the Group 1 US$250,000 Dubai Kahayla Classic, the race for Purebred Arabians sponsored by Emaar. Having won this race on four previous occasions (Bopp Moonn 2003, Kaolino 2004 and Madjani in 2006 and 2007), Hills will be aboard Versac Py, trained by UAE-based Frenchman Erwan Charpy.
The five-year-old has won his last four starts and represents Hills’ best chance of a winner on his last day in the saddle.
“It would be nice to go into that winner’s circle one more time, but either way, I have had a wonderful career,” Hills said. “Sheikh Hamdan has been fantastic to me. I have ridden horses owned by him since 1982 and my five British classic victories have all been in his colours.
“I hope to be involved with Shadwell (Sheikh Hamdan’s bloodstock operation) in the future,” Hills continued, “but now is the right time to be stepping down. I will have to get used to a totally new way of life. Equally, I am looking forward to doing all the things I haven’t been able to do – like having eggs for breakfast.”