There’s an old name returning to the training scene in Barry Hills, who has come out of retirement at the age of 76. His name won’t actually appear in the racecards, as he won’t hold a licence. He will, though, manage 14 horses owned by Sheikh Hamdan, which will run under son John’s name.
The new partnership came about following the move of Marcus Tregoning from Lambourn to Whitsbury earlier this year. Angus Gold, racing manager for Sheikh Hamdan, explained the reasoning behind it. “When Marcus moved to Whitsbury Sheikh Hamdan was keen to keep some horses at Kingwood House Stables rather than reallocate them to other trainers. With John Hills now based in the adjacent (Kingwood Stud) property it seemed the most sensible idea was for him to train them. Accordingly, he is licensed for both yards. Sheikh Hamdan asked Barry Hills to oversee his horses, which he kindly agreed to do.”
Actually, that wasn’t the plan at all, because in February this year, Kingwood House went up for sale. Whilst any buyer may have been offered the chance to train the 14 horses Sheikh Hamdan is now keeping on there, Hills did not show any interest in buying a second stable, and nobody else came along either.
The result is that the yard, bought by Sheikh Hamdan in 1988 for Dick Hern, will have most of its 100 boxes empty. In recent weeks, nine of them have been under the care and supervision of John Lake who was head groom for Tregoning during his tenure at Kingwood. He did not want to move for family reasons, and will now work directly for John Hills.
The first outing for the new partnership is scheduled for Mujarrad in a Newmarket maiden on Wednesday. He ran twice for Tregoning last year in two-year-old maiden events at Salisbury and Nottingham. A second horse, the unraced Nasrah, is entered in the Wood Ditton Stakes the following day.
Those nine left overs from the Tregoning era have been boosted by five two-year-old brought over from Dubai. Together, the 14 horses make up around one third of the horses John Hills will train this season.
Last time he worked with his dad, John was assistant to his dad in the early 1990s, where they looked after Robert Sangster’s horses at South Bank in Lambourn. Now he’s hoping that working with him again will be the catalyst to further success. He said, “I feel privileged to help Sheikh Hamdan and his team and I hope it will become a very successful venture. It’ll be the first time I’ve worked with dad since I was his assistant 25 years ago and it’s marvellous to have him about the place.”