Racing: Moonax tugs Hills' tide of emotion: The trainer of the St Leger winner kept his head, but found his feelings harder to control when those closest to him were losing

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The Independent Online
TRAINERS, on the whole, are not an emotional lot. The very nature of their trade inures them against extravagant reaction as in no other sport is the vanguard so unsuccessful.

The best trainers send out, on average, three losers for every winner, a ratio that leads to a stoicism that maketh the man in Kipling's If.

The surprise from Saturday's St Leger then may not be that Moonax triumphed at 40-1, but that his handler was such a poignant figure in the winners' circle.

Barry Hills has seen the spectrum of racing. He has won Classics and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and has been so close to winning the Derby on several occasions that he could be excused screaming fits in his sleep.

In addition, he is not known for his sentimentality, and the odds are that he does not wake his stable staff with a nudge and a tray of tea and muffins each morning.

Yet the same Barry Hills was close to tears on Saturday, and the words came painfully as he issued commiserations to the trainer and jockey of Broadway Flyer in the runner- up's enclosure, the two men he used to bounce on his knee, sons John and Michael.

'I was very upset to have beaten them,' Hills snr said yesterday. 'Normally I only rollick them, I only talk to them when they do something wrong. But I've always kept a close eye on them and I expect the best of them. I suppose it could be a case of my bark being worse than my bite.'

Even after a night's sleep, Hills was ambivalent about his victory. 'When I came down the stairs this morning, Charles (another of his sons) asked me if it had been one of my best days,' he said. 'I told him I'd had a lot better days than that.'

The emotion of the win diverted from what had been a masterful tactical ploy. Hills and Pat Eddery, the winning jockey, had reasoned correctly that the battle up front would be intense and they should aim to run past some of the retreating soldiers. They did not expect to pass all the troops.

The parade ring-instructions, in fact, resembled those for a Grand National. 'I told Pat to go out and have a hunt,' Hills said. 'To let them have a belt at one another and then have a go at them.'

Hills's pre-race thoughts about the quality of the race were also proved correct. The three Newmarket-trained horses which dominated the market were all the same strain of improving three-year-olds who were expected to produce at least one startling performer. As it was, Sacrament, Red Route and Midnight Legend finished fourth, seventh, and eighth and last respectively. 'You'd have to say it wasn't the most strongly contested St Leger,' Hills said. 'They've all come out of maidens.'

Moonax himself was a Weightwatchers' delight yesterday after exertions which stripped much poundage from his frame. He may run next in a race which must have pleased the trophy engravers, the Group One Gran Premio Del Jockey Club E Coppa d'Oro at San Siro in Milan.

Following a rather plain season, the chestnut had been pencilled in for some winter sun in Dubai with his owner, Sheikh Mohammed, but now, rather harshly considering his efforts, he may be required for duty in frosty Berkshire. 'We hope he'll stay here now,' Hills said. 'I think he'll make up into a good Cup horse for next year.'

Hills, though, is looking much further ahead. He is constructing a 106-box yard at Lambourn to replace his ageing South Bank stable. 'I'm looking towards the next century,' he said.

Hills talks of the new base as being almost a legacy for his five sons, and it may be that the eldest, John, will be head of the ranch in time. The eldest sibling travelled to the Keeneland Sales in Kentucky yesterday, pondering whether Broadway Flyer should run next in the Arc. If he does so he will face formidable home opposition if yesterday's trials in Paris are anything to go by.

Andre Fabre was the man wearing out the winners' podium carpet at Longchamp as he provided the first three in the Prix Niel via Carnegie, Northern Spur and Sunshack, and also in the Prix Foy with Richard Of York, Intrepidity and Apple Tree. He also took the day's top two-year-old race, the Prix de la Salamandre, with Pennekamp, who beat the British horses Montjoy and Bin Nashwan.

In the Prix Vermeille, the travellers Yenda and State Crystal filled the frame behind Sierra Madre.

PRIX DE L'ARC DE TRIOMPHE (Longchamp, 2 October): Coral: 4-1 White Muzzle, 6-1 Only Royale, 10-1 King's Theatre & Sierra Madre, 12-1 Carnegie, 16-1 Apple Tree, Intrepidity, Millkom & Richard Of York; Ladbrokes: 4-1 White Muzzle, 5-1 Only Royale, 10-1 Carnegie, 12-1 Intrepidity, King's Theatre & Richard Of York, 16-1 Celtic Arms, Ezzoud & Hernando; William Hill: 3-1 White Muzzle, 5-1 Only Royale, 10-1 Intrepidity, King's Theatre & Richard Of York, 12-1 Apple Tree & Hernando, 14-1 Carnegie, Ezzoud & Millkom.