Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sins, Wins and Pimm's; Scum and Harlots Have Been Replaced by Football's Jet Set

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sins, Wins and Pimm's; Scum and Harlots Have Been Replaced by Football's Jet Set

Article excerpt

Byline: GRAHAM CUNNINGHAM

THOSE hardy crusaders with banners bearing slogans like "Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out" will be out in force at Chester this week.

More than 60,000 racegoers will hear them preaching the gospel as they wind their way down Watergate Street for one of the most fashionable Pimm'sguzzling meetings in the racing calendar, but fashion hasn't always been top of the agenda since the three-day May fixture got under way in 1854.

Back in 1894 the local writer James Clark described scenes of "scum, drunkenness and harlotry as the races change our city into the very sink of iniquity".

There are still enough dodgy characters to keep the coppers busy, but nowadays you are more likely to bump into celebrities like Sir Alex Ferguson or Michael Owen on a trip to The Roodee.

Owen fulfilled a lifelong ambition when Treble Heights carried his colours to victory on his home track last summer, while Ferguson was present 12 months ago the day after a goal from Sylvain Wiltord at Old Trafford secured the Premiership title for Arsenal.

Yet, for all the glamour attached to stars of the footballing world, the man who attracts most attention at Chester is Barry Hills.

The veteran Lambourn trainer is known as Mr Combustible by friends and could even teach Fergie a thing or two about dishing out a rollocking when things haven't gone to plan.

However, punters can forgive the odd wobbler if the man responsible delivers the goods.

And since he first took out a licence back in 1969, Hills has built up a formidable record around a track which asks greater questions of the thoroughbred than almost any other.

Hills has sent out more than twice as many Chester winners than any other trainer in the last six years and has assembled a typically strong team for the meeting, which starts today.

He said: "It's never easy to assess how the week will go for you, but we've made a solid start this season and will run about 10 horses all told.

"I'm hoping Risk Taker can get us off to a good start in the Chester Vase today, while Private Charter is a horse I've always liked and should go well in the Dee Stakes on Thursday. …

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