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Hills set to ride off into sunset

The current focus on the racecourse is rightly on the Cheltenham Festival, which starts three weeks tomorrow, and beyond that the Grand National.

But between the two great jumping meetings comes the start of the domestic Flat turf season, and one familiar weighing room name will be absent.

Richard Hills, first jockey to Hamdan Al Maktoum, yesterday confirmed his retirement, intending to end his 33-year career after the Dubai World Cup at the end of next month.

Hills, 49, started his career as an apprentice with the late Tom Jones, the Sheikh's first trainer in Britain, in Newmarket in 1979.

His first Group One win came in the 1990 Ascot Gold Cup on Ashal and those that followed worldwide included successes on such as Nayef, Mutafaweq, Haafhd and Almutawakel, in the 1999 Dubai World Cup, in the blue-and-white colours.

The best horse he rode, though, was Mtoto, on whom he won the 1987 Prince Of Wales's Stakes, then a Group Two contest.

He was an effective judge of pace from the front, notably demonstrated by his trailblazing Queen Elizabeth II victories on Maroof and Summoner.

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Hills notched 1,895 domestic winners, but was never champion.

Numerically his best season was 98 three years ago, his best total since his 85 in 1997, the year he took over from Willie Carson as Hamdan's number one.

The last of his six Classic winners came three years ago in the 1,000 Guineas on his boss's Ghanaati, trained by his now-retired father Barry.

Hills, whose twin Michael remains a jockey, is to stay with the Sheikh's Shadwell operation as an advisor on the bloodstock side.

“No jockey could have ridden for a more loyal or supportive owner,” he said.

Rising star Silvestre De Sousa, with strong Maktoum family connections through the Mark Johnston yard, was easily the best-backed yesterday to replace Hills in the saddle.

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