The Hills family are synonymous with Chester racecourse. Trainer Barry Hills enjoyed many fine days there, as did jockeys Richard and Michael Hills.
Taking up the baton from them is Charlie Hills, with the trainer looking to target races at the May meeting to carry on his family’s legacy of success. We spoke to Charlie Hills about what it takes to win at Chester, his hopes for his runners and news on some of his stable stars.
The Hills family is closely associated with Chester. What is it about the place that is so special to you all?
It started a long time ago. Robert Sangster and my father when they teamed up they always liked going there. Their good friend Bobby McAlpine was chairman of the course and they used to target the Classic trials there. What Dad loved was trying to get the tactics right around there. I’ve tried to carry that on. It’s a bit trickier now with Aidan O’Brien bringing his horses across so they’re very competitive races to win.
What attributes does a horse need to have to excel around Chester?
You’ve got to be agile and to have a good cruising speed. It’s actually quite a galloping track as they go a good pace from the off. You need to travel and be well balanced as a result. Aidan uses Chester more now as it helps a horse learn a lot for a race like the Derby.
Never Surrender runs in the 1m2f maiden on Wednesday (4.35). How do you rate his chances?
He didn’t handle Epsom at all well last time. He’s got a nice draw this time around and he’s one of a few horses that looks to have a chance. He’s on a good mark and from his draw we’re likely to be positive. I can see him running well.
And will you have any other runners this week?
Rebel De Lope will run. He goes in the 7½f handicap on Thursday (3.00) and should handle the track well. I can see him running a good race.
Moving away from Chester, is Ascot on Saturday the plan for Takatul?
Takatul will go for the Victoria Cup if he gets in. If not, he’ll go to Lingfield on the same day. He only went up 2lb for winning well a couple of weeks ago so he’s on a good mark still. I’d like to get him up enough to run at Royal Ascot if possible.
Magical Memory won the Duke of York Stakes in style last year. Is he likely to go back for the same race at York next week?
All being well that’s where he goes. We took him away for a racecourse gallop a couple of weeks ago and that’s really sharpened him up. I’m really pleased with him coming into this race.
Rock Of Estonia has been among the most impressive two-year-olds this season. What have you made of his performances?
He’s got bags of speed and is very sharp from the gates. He’s got good early toe and we’re likely to go straight to Royal Ascot with him. He’s unbeaten in two starts and with a meeting like Ascot just around the corner you have to be thinking of going there with him.
And, finally, what did you think of Cotai Glory’s run in the Palace House Stakes?
He fell over coming out of the stalls which is never a good thing in a race like that. He found himself behind a wall of horses, which isn’t what he likes. The track isn’t really ideal for him either as he prefers a flat track. The King’s Stand is his main aim and we’ll go for the Temple Stakes before then all be well. They should both be perfect for him and I hope he’ll put up much improved performances in both of those races.