Robert Sangster 1936-2004: Hills: we celebrated when we won - and when we lost.
Few were closer to Robert Sangster than
Barry Hills, who trained 30 Group-race winners for him, shared the frustration of their three near-misses in the Derby and has countless memories of their fun together around the world, from Los Angeles to Melbourne and Paris.
Hills yesterday described Sangster's contribution to racing as nothing short of phenomenal, and queried as to why his name had not appeared in the Honour's List, believing the omission to be a serious error of judgement.
"Robert won everything in the book around the globe, and he was a legend because of the way he promoted racing," said Hills. "Certainly, in my lifetime, he was one of the sport's most influential characters. He introduced a fresh
dimension and was such a major player at the sales for many years. Without him, we would not have seen Steve Cauthen, Brent Thomson and Bill Shoemaker in Britain."
Hills, who had three Derby runners-up for Sangster with Hawaiian Sound, Glacial Storm and Blue Stag, added: "He was the ultimate sportsman. We celebrated when we won, and usually celebrated when we lost. There was never an inquest into what went wrong. He'd never take a horse away from a trainer. And he loved a bet. The only time he'd become upset was when his horse won and the trainer hadn't told him it had a chance."
Even when Hills failed to raise the finance to purchase the Manton training establishment from Sangster, there was no blip in their friendship.
Earlier this year, they had lunch together in Ramsbury, near Marlborough, and Hills had seen him for the last time at his flat in London shortly afterwards.
"Sadly, Robert was too ill to see visitors after then," said Hills. "His death is a terrible loss, not only personally, but to racing in general.
"He enjoyed life so much. I imagine that right now he's ringing Charles Benson to arrange to meet for lunch at the pearly gates. I'm not sure who'll pay, though!"
Glacial Storm, owned by Robert Sangster and trained by Barry Hills, finishes second to Kahyasi in the 1988 Derby