Lambourn legend Hills hands reins to son

 

Pedigrees count in this sport, and not just for the four-legged participants.

Next week the baton is to be passed in one of the most famous and successful of racing dynasties as Charlie Hills takes over the training licence at Faringdon Place in Lambourn from his father, Barry. Hills Snr, 74, is not so much retiring as stepping to one side but an era is nonetheless about to end.

Hills' way into the business is now part of folklore, as much a legend as the man himself has become. While serving as travelling head lad to John Oxley in Newmarket, he netted £60,000 – around £1.5m today – with a well-planned punt on his stable's Frankincense in the 1968 Lincoln. He started backing the horse at 66-1, it won at 100-8 and Hills set up his own yard on the proceeds the following year.

In the 42 years since, he has become one of the greats of the game, and one of its most respected practitioners. He has sent out nearly 3,200 winners (only the fifth in Britain, after Sir Henry Cecil, Sir Michael Stoute, Richard Hannon and John Dunlop, so to do) and allied with quantity has been quality, headed by 10 British and Irish Classics and a Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. The Derby was the one great race that eluded him; he had Rheingold and Hawaiian Sound beaten in photos and two other runners-up in Glacial Storm and Blue Stag.

His first winner, La Dolce Vita at Thirsk in April 1969, was appropriately enough named, but though his chosen career has brought him a sweet and enjoyable life, there has been nothing soft about it. Hills is a self-made man who rose from humble beginnings through hard work, skill and the shrewdest of judgement and the standards he set himself have never slipped.

But, having come through several bouts of serious illness in recent years, he is to let go the reins, even though he will still be there riding shotgun as managing director of the family company. Working with animals is, after all, more a way of life than a job. "He just has a fantastic instinct and feeling for horses," said his eldest son, John. "It's a kind of sixth sense. He can see things in horses that other people can't see."

Charlie Hills, 32, has learnt his trade working not only alongside his father but with leaders of the profession in Australia and in Newmarket, and is perfectly sensible of the responsibility of the task he is to take on. "It's going to be a lot of hard work and graft," he said yesterday. "We've got a good team here and we want to keep things going. It's a fantastic opportunity, something I've been looking to do for years, and I'm very much looking forward to it."

Racing has long been a family affair – Hills himself was the son of a stable lad – and, though he will hand over to the "& son" that has been over the Faringdon Place door for six years now, in his case his legacy is "& sons". John has his own training business and twins Michael and Richard are top-rank jockeys.

Hills has given top-level success to some of the sport's most successful owners, including with Hawaiian Sound and Ascot Gold Cup hero Gildoran in the colours of his late, close friend Robert Sangster. His most recent Classic winners, Haafhd and Ghanaati, raced for Hamdan al-Maktoum and his most recent at the top level, Redwood, for Khalid Abdullah.

The last elite runners with B W Hills next to their names will include the smart filly Angels Will Fall in the Lowther Stakes at York and, before that, Red Jazz in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

Career Peaks: Six of the trainer's finest

The Best: Rheingold

Beaten a whisker in the 1972 Derby, but produced a stunning performance to beat Allez France in the Arc a year later.

The Favourite: Further Flight

Earned his place in his trainer's heart in the 1995 Jockey Club Cup, as the only horse to win the same European Group race five times.

The First: Enstone Spark

Her shock 35-1 victory in the 1978 1,000 Guineas gave her trainer the first of five British Classics. The most recent was Ghanaati, in the same race two years ago.

The Unluckiest: Dibidale

Robbed of victory in the 1974 Oaks by a slipped saddle, which forced Willie Carson to ride bareback up the straight to finish third. Made amends in the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks.

The Fastest: Royal Applause

A champion in 1997, when he took the Royal Ascot race now known as the Golden Jubilee Stakes and the Haydock Sprint Cup.

The Toughest: Nagwa

Cheaply bought filly who notched 13 victories (from 20 runs between May and November) in 1975 as a juvenile, a modern-day record.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Arctic Cat (3.30 Ayr)

Though he has yet to win, maybe his third trainer in a short career can do the trick. Stayed on well upped in distance last time and remains on a fair mark.

Next Best

Hearts And Minds (6.30 Ffos Las)

His second run, where he broke smartly and matched strides with the eventual winner until tiring, was a considerable improvement on his first and there should be more progress to come.

One To Watch

Defy The Odds (Sir H Cecil) is well-bred, well-entered, well-trained and will have been educated by her debut sixth in a good Newmarket maiden last month.

Where The Money's Going

Deacon Blues has halved in price for the Haydock Sprint Cup, challenging Dream Ahead at the head of most lists at 4-1.

News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there