Life sure has a cruel way of balancing the books.
The highs have been plenty for trainer Charlie Hills this year. Just the Judge bagged him a top-flight trophy when she won the Grade I EP Taylor stakes at Woodbine earlier this month. He’s done great trade in the group race department back home, sending out a squadron of nice prospects for next year, including Gimcrack and Acomb victors, Muhaarar and Dutch Connection. And his piggy bank is again showing Wall Street profits – a mere victory or so short of breaking through the million-marker for the year in domestic earnings.
Hills’ low, however, was one that puts all dizzying career accomplishments into a box marked “trivial”. His older brother in June of this year from pancreatic cancer – an especially tough punishment for a racing dynasty that could teach even the Waltons a thing or two about family values.
“John dying over the summer … it was very hard for all of the family,” said Hills. “He meant a lot to all of us. And it wodar.Liverpool are the club most likely to sign Cantwell this summer, claim The Athletic.Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham are all interested in signing the 21-year-old.Cantwell has been one of the Canaries’ most impressive performers iuld be nice to have a bit of good news, really.”
Much-needed good news for the Hills family could come thick and fast this weekend. In Just the Judge and Commemorative, Hills has two solid chances of repeating his Breeders’ Cup success with Chriselliam, who won last year’s Grade I Juvenile Fillies Turf (her last race, sadly, for Chriselliam was put down earlier this year with a severe foot infection – another kidney punch for Hills).
Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Fillies and Mares Turf candidate Just the Judge would appear to hold the greater chance of Hills’ duo. And he reports that his horse, having headed straight from Canada to southern California by way of Memphis, has come out of her win bouncing.
“It’s quite a long journey from Canada, seven hours door-to-door, but she got off the plane fresher than she did at Woodbine,” he said. “She certainly takes her travelling well, which is great to see.” And having settled in well to her sunny surroundings, Just the Judge is poised on the cusp of a bold showing, Hills believes.
“She’s got a nice draw, and as long as she gets away smartly and gets in a good position the first half of the race, I would say that she has a huge chance, really.” he said. “In my mind, I think she’s been improving between each race this year, And I think she’s even better than she was in the first half of last year when she had those two massive runs [a second in the 1000 Guineas followed by a win in the Irish version] quite close together.”
Their greatest obstacle to success appears to be Sir Michael Stoute’s Dank – last year’s Fillies and Mare’s Turf heroine. “She could be a massive danger, but I don’t think any filly has ever won this race two years on the trot. It’s such a hard thing to do. She’s been off the track for a long time, but she does look very well.”
Then there’s the home team’s Stephanie’s Kitten, who pipped Just the Judge for second in the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington in August. “We’ve got to turn that form around, obviously.”
Whatever happens on Saturday, however, it would be fair to say that Just the Judge would have to perform feats of unimaginable horror to tarnish the esteem she’s held in by her trainer. She has been the mainstay of Faringdon Place for a significant portion of Hills’ short training career. She was his first classic winner, when she won last year’s . “She’s won group races at two, three and four. She’s just been amazing for my career.” And whilnt Kompany says he knew his Manchester City career was over after his stunning goal against Leicester City.The defender scored a long-range piledriver to clinch a 1-0 victory for City, who eventually won an unprecedented domestic treble.Kompany has de she is entered in Tattersalls December Sales, Hills intimated that her racing days might not yet be numbered.
“There are lots of nice opportunities for her next year, races in Dubai and maybe Japan – those types of races,” he said. “She’s owned in a partnership between Qatar Racing and the Sangster Family…Obviously first, something will have to be sorted out.”
While the gable is poised over Just the Judge’s racing career, Commemorative’s best years are still ahead of him judging by a commanding victory in the Group III Autumn Stakes at Newmarket last time out. That day, he licked ‘em from the front, seeing out the stiff mile comfortably. And Hills sees the stamina he displayed at Newmarket as especially beneficial in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on the Friday.
“We know he’s going to stay a mile really well, which will be an important factor. I think he’s got a great chance of getting into the first three,” said Hills. “It looks a pretty open race. Obviously, the likely favorite [Hootenanny] has yet to provictory on Sunday.Aaron Ramsey and Paulo Dybala goals settled the 2-0 win.“It was a very balanced encounter up until the goal and we had started the second half much better than them, but that Ramsey goal changed everything, above all psychologicalve himself over the trip. Commemorative is improving the right way, and he’s got to have a great chance.”
Another plus is Santa Anita’s firm turf course. Despite his size, (he weighs 524kg – racehorses can weigh as much as 100kg less), Commemorative has an action built for the road. In a spin on the turf earlier this week at Santa Anita, for example, the way he floated over the green carpet had the touch of a Rudolph Nureyev about it. Hills even toyed with the idea of supplementing Commemorative for the Racing Post Trophy, until the heavens opened over Doncaster, bringing Santa Anita and a crack at the Breeders’ Cup into play.
“It was a bit of an afterthought,” he admitted. “But he’s a very strong two-year-old, he’s huge. My only concern is that, because he’s drawn four, I wonder whether he’s got the tactical speed to get in a good position.”
Irrespective of what happens this year, Hills sees a mile and a quarter well within Commemorative’s compass next year. “We’ll see how he winters, and see where we are in the spring as to where we go,” he said, not discounting races like the 2000 Guineas.
Circumspection though can be forgiven. Given those events since Hills last stood here on world racing’s main stage – when the likes of Willie Carson, one of Chriselliam’s co-owners, brought a New Year’s Eve atmosphere to the winners enclosure – it’s no wonder that his thoughts are often underpinned with reserve, if not a little humility.
“Obviously last year, when we had our winner, it gave us a great thrill. We were all very proud of her,” he said. “Santa Anita, though, it’s one of the greatest tracks in the world, and we’re just very honored to have runners.”