Versac offers jockey Hills a fitting farewell ride with win

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Abu Dhabi: Richard Hills bid adieu to the capital’s racing fans with a superb ride to win the night’s only Group 1 race at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club.

At a venue which is better known for its Purebred Arabian races, Hills was making his last appearance here before he retires at the end of the season, and the veteran steered the Erwan Charpy-trained Versac PY to a popular win in the Emirates Championship (Group 1) for Purebred Arabians.

It was a fourth successive win for the five-year-old son of Newjman but it was a huge step-up in class for Versac PY and Hills made it a classy win even as the capital fans cheered him home.

Hills kept Versac within striking distance for most of the 11-furlong race and once they turned for home, he hit the front and despite a late run from last year’s winner Periander, stayed ahead to win by over two lengths.

“It’s obviously nice to finish off with a good win on an Arabian. Obviously, I am chuffed a bit,” Hills said after receiving the jockey’s award following his win.

Hills’ next chapter

“It has really been a good journey and I have enjoyed it. Now look forward to the next chapter,” Hills, who will sign off as the first choice jockey for Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, on Dubai World Cup night, said.

Commenting on Versac, Hills said, “He has improved with every race and took every chance he got. He has natural speed.”

Hills missed a memorable double when in the very next race, the Group 3 Abu Dhabi Championship for thoroughbreds, he was denied on the line.

Hills was on the Erwan Charpy-trained Yaseer and looked to be headed home when Al Shemali, the Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained winner of the Dubai Duty Free (Group 1) in 2010 under Silvestre De Sousa, caught and pipped him at the post.

It was another Group win for Al Raihe, who unfortunately is still in hospital after he fell sick during Saturday’s Meydan meeting where he saddled five winners.

While the spotlight was on Hills, three others also did extremely well on the final night of racing here. Trainer Dr Jaber Bittar saddled the first two winners while jockeys Silvester De Sousa and Jesus Rosales also recorded a double each.