German satellite gives Hills new dimension

Richard Edmondson on a trainer whose expanding ambition will take him abroad
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The Independent Online
The dictionary on Barry Hills's bookshelf does not contain the word "burnout". As he goes into his 26th year with a training licence, he is working as hard as he ever has in his quest for winners. This season he starts operating from Faringdon Place, the new £1.1m stable he has gouged out of the chalk of the Berkshire downlands above Lambourn, and he also embarks on an innovative operation abroad. From next month, Hills will have a permanent satellite station at Krefeld in Germany, a base from which to launch assaults across the Continent.

Barrington, as he is known to his friends, may have just turned 58, but he has none of the slow, cautious movements associated with men of that age. Everything he does is sharp and pointed, rather like a wren on a branch. If this is the twilight of his career, the protection of a welder's mask is needed to view it.

Success and the pursuit of the baubles that go with it have guided Hills since he set up as a trainer on the back of a bet on Frankincense in the 1968 Lincoln. ("I could do with another like that," the trainer says as he considers his development bills).

Hills was a stable lad then, but his politics have never been from the shop floor, and any of his staff who have voted anything other than Conservative have kept their thoughts to themselves.

The self-improvement drive now manifests itself in Faringdon Place, his new 3.5-acre yarddominated by two American-style barns. These each accommodate 41 horses (other, older boxes take the equine population up to 110), and are modelled on a building at Hills's idea of Eden, Robert Sangster's Manton complex. The trainer failed to raise the capital to stay at the Wiltshire yard, but at least he has taken a piece of it with him, the blueprint of the establishment's yearling barn.

The Hills string, as usual, has some well-known paymasters. There are horses owned by Barrington's old mate Sangster, 17 from Khalid Abdullah and representation from Maktoum Al Maktoum, in his first year with horses outside Newmarket.

None of their beasts, though, will get more affection than that reserved for Further Flight, the grey who returns for competition, yet again, at the age of nine. There are hopes that he will improve his position as fourth in the all-time list of pattern-race winners behind Brigadier Gerard, Kris and Ardross.

Among the younger generations, Hills entertains Classic hopes for a daughter of Caerleon, Alessia. "If I do have a good filly, then this is the one," he said yesterday. She will be aimed at either the Musidora, Pretty Polly or Cheshire Oaks. The leader of the gang among the colts is Taklif, a son of Sadler's Wells whom the trainer hopes will end his string of seconds in the Derby. First of all, he will be asked to win a Newmarket maiden.

Despite their qualifications, the most significant animals under Hills's tutelage this year may be the likes of Warning Star and Sue's Artiste, early candidates for the German experiment.

Having seen the continental successes of John Dunlop and Paul Cole, plus the stone-in- water plummet of British prize-money, Hills is adamant that foreign fields must be cultivated. His 10-box base will be 30km north-west of Dsseldorf. "The market is very good over there and you can take these horses all around Europe," he said. "I'm not taking horses over just with the idea of pot-hunting. It's more serious than that. They'll be fit before they go over there and the facilities are good to keep them ticking over for Listed and Group races.

"From door to door takes three hours. So if I want to supervise a bit of work, I can go over and work the horses and be back here for 2.30. It's have bike will travel."

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