Hills Pair Wins 2,000 Guineas with Haafhd

Jockey Richard Hills gave his father Barry his first training win in the 2,000 Guineas (Eng-I) since 1979 with a mild upset aboard Haafhd in the first Classic of the European season at Newmarket Saturday.

Haafhd, a chestnut son of Alhaarth sent off at odds of 11-2, reached the front with two furlongs to go in the $560,340 straight one-mile event for 3-year-olds and galloped out strongly to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Snow Ridge. Azamour was a length farther behind in third.

One Cool Cat, the Aidan O'Brien-trained 15-8 favorite in a field of 14, tailed off late under strong handling from Jamie Spencer, finishing 13th. He was reported by vet post race to be suffering from an irregular heartbeat.

Haafhd, who won the Craven Stakes for owner Hamdan al Maktoum, one of two major preps for the 2,000 Guineas, was close to the leaders much of the way, moved up in the center of the course three furlongs out and responded gamely when asked by Hills.

"He's a very good horse," Richard Hills, who won his first 2,000, told Channel 4 Racing. "They went so quick, and he wanted to go after them. I didn't really want him to do too much early, but it's his style. Once he lengthened they would have had to be good to come and get him."

Tumblebrutus ensured a lively pace throughout while tracked by Golden Sahara and Barbajuan. Godolphin's Snow Ridge, relaxed early, came to challenge Haafhd in the final eighth, but could not match the winner. Azamour was far back but put in a good run to get up for third over Grey Swallow. Whipper, attempting to become the first French-bred since Pennekamp in 1995 to win the 2,000 Guineas, was fifth. Salford City, winner of the Greenham Stakes (Eng-III) in his last start, finished sixth.

It was the second win in the 2,000 for Barry Hills, who saddled Tap On Wood to win 25 years ago under Steve Cauthen.

"He is a genuine good horse," he said. "Riding him like that was always the plan. I couldn't understand why they spread out like that, all over the place, but it didn't affect us.

Hills Sr. said he isn't sure if Haafhd will go on to Epsom for the Derby or stick to the one-mile distance.

Frankie Dettori, rider of Snow Ridge, was happy with the runner-up effort, as was trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who is expected to try the Derby.

"He was beaten by a better horse over a mile" bin Suroor said. "I said before that he needed a mile and a quarter or a mile and a half."

Time for the mile on a good track was 1:36.64.