Hills in a home victory

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The Independent Online
The United Arab Emirates celebrated success in the International Jockeys' Challenge at Nad al Sheba racecourse yesterday. It seemed almost churlish to suggest they had little right to do so.

The home side's jockeys - Richard Hills, the overall winner, and Johnny Murtagh - are hardly sons of the desert, while the four races of the challenge went to trainers from England (Paddy Rudkin, formerly Henry Cecil's head lad, scored twice), France and the United States.

The message that the Emirates will be a force in world racing did get across, however. Sheikh Mohammed, the nation's Crown Prince and a reclusive figure when he visits Britain, spoke on Japanese television and has been offering himself to questioners at every available opportunity.

"I think the East and the Middle East are the future of racing because the people love it so much," the Sheikh said.

The people show their pleasure in understated passion at Nad al Sheba. Not a single "Go on, my cocker" disturbes the night air as the field goes inside the final furlong; instead there is gentle, slow applause. Perhaps this may change if betting ever comes to the Emirates.

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