Hills so sweet on Nafaqa
Last Updated: 18/07/14 5:47pm
A review of the rest of the action from Newbury, where Nafaqa left Barry Hills wondering about bigger targets.
Barry Hills intends to continue training a small band of horses for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and one of the sport's most respected figures could soon be back in the big-race spotlight with his Newbury winner Nafaqa.
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Although the 77-year-old officially retired in 2011 after a career full of Classic and Group One successes, he had been overseeing Sheikh Hamdan's private Kingwood House Stables in Lambourn with his trainer son John, who died in June.
Barry Hills had been granted a temporary licence by the time Nafaqa (8/11 favourite) made an ultra-promising debut at Royal Ascot, missing the break and staying on remarkably well for fourth in the Chesham Stakes.
The Sir Percy colt broke his duck efficiently from the front and held on by half a length from Marshall Jennings in the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing EBF Stallions Maiden Stakes.
After a lifetime in racing, from jockey to head lad to trainer, the man famously known as 'Mr Combustible' was never likely to find another hobby, and he knows a good horse when he sees one.
"It's a learning curve and I think he'll be better when he has something to aim at," said Hills.
"We've had him in the stalls a couple of times since Ascot. We'll talk to Sheikh Hamdan but the Solario Stakes at Sandown is a possibility, or York (Acomb Stakes).
"He's a slow-learner, and won't have more than a couple more runs. He should get a mile and a quarter.
"The last horse I ran first-time in the Chesham was Auction House, who went on to win the Champagne."
Hills said the closing down of his son's own stable would begin next month but that he would continue to train at least a couple of dozen privately for Maktoum at Kingwood House, helped by former jockey Simon Whitworth.
"I do enjoy it," he said. "I can keep going as long as I want, and eventually there'd be room for a replacement.
"I think it will do (other son and trainer) Charlie good, too. I've been making a nuisance of myself with him. I wouldn't be easy to have around.
"At the moment there are 26, and there are two or three nice ones still to run."There was a big shake-up in the market for the Al Basti Equiworld EBF Stallions Maiden Fillies' Stakes when Sulaalaat was withdrawn for banging her head, and it allowed the James Tate-trained Taaqah (7/2), to capitalise.
"It was a big help when the favourite was out," said Bruce Raymond, racing manager for owner Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum.
"She'll do better with another furlong, and could strengthen up a little bit."
Ryan Moore went on to claim a double on Flying Bear (7/4 favourite) in the R & M Electrical Group Handicap while there was one for his rival Richard Hughes with a hands-and-heels ride on Cay Dancer (11/4) in the Al Basti Equiworld TBA Fillies' Handicap.
In what has already been a memorable season for George Baker, he claimed a first winner in the colours of the Queen on the Roger Charlton-trained Border Legend (11/4 favourite) in the TKP Surfacing Handicap.