Hills has Sussex Stakes in mind for Cicero's Gift after Sandown victory

Charlie Hills' Cicero's Gift began to make up for lost time when returning from 382 days off the track to land the Coral Challenge Handicap at Sandown.

Trainer : Charlie Hills Charlie Hills poses in York, United Kingdom.
Trainer : Charlie Hills Charlie Hills poses in York, United Kingdom. Picture: (Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

The unexposed four-year-old was making his first start in handicap company and first outing on the track since finishing an unlucky seventh in the Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot thirteen months ago.

After a troubled time with injury, the well-backed 11/2 chance Cicero's Gift was finessed into the race mile handicap by young weighing room star Billy Loughnane and although he looked vulnerable to challengers in the closing stages, the son of Muhaarar's class shone through as he went on to score by half a length from the former Chesham Stakes winner Holloway Boy.

Charlie Hills was eyeing a trip to Goodwood for a conditions race, but admits sights may have to be raised following the performance and a supplementary entry to the Sussex Stakes could be on the cards should the ground have some ease in it.

"He's a very special horse and on his second start he beat Docklands giving him 9lbs, he has tremendous ability," said the winning trainer.

He added: "It wasn't really my plan to come here and there was a perfect race for him at Glorious Goodwood over one-mile-one, a conditions race for horses who have never won a Group or Listed race. My dad (former trainer Barry) rang me up and said it might be very hard to win that race first time, so why not give him a spin at Sandown?

"The fact he has gone and won is full testament to this horse. He's not fully wound up and to win a race like this off top-weight is a tremendous achievement We've some money in the pot now so we might have to supplement him for something. The main thing is to keep him on something with a bit of cut in the ground. If the ground came up soft, we could supplement him in the Sussex.

"I just can't believe he has been able to win today with the work he has done, it astonishes me really."

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