If there is one trainer who knows how to get the best out of sprinters, it is Charlie Hills, and the British handler is hoping his two contenders in this year’s Group 3 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc at The Saudi Cup meeting on Feb. 25 can show why he has become such an expert with horses over shorter distances.
Hills saddles Pogo and Garrus in the contest, both of whom enjoyed arguably the best seasons of their careers in 2022, and Hills reports the pair are in great form ahead of their seasonal debuts in Saudi Arabia.
“Both horses are in great form and I couldn’t be much happier with them,” he said. “The plan has always been to start both in the race in Saudi and I’m really looking forward to running them as they seem in really rude health.
“The facilities for the horses out there are fantastic and it’s one of those events that you want to be having runners at, so it’s great we’ve got two heading over with live chances.”
Pogo was one of the most improved horses in training on British shores last season having won three times at Group level, including the Group 2 Challenge Stakes at Newmarket, and his trainer is very happy with his charge.
Hills said: “He was absolutely brilliant last year and kept a really solid level of form the whole way through the campaign.
“I’ve always believed he was a really good horse as he’s always shown that at home and it’s great that he’s translated his work on the gallops to the track. He’s got a great constitution, takes his racing really well, and just didn’t stop improving.”
The 7-year-old took his form to a new level in 2022 and while Hills admits he did not do anything different with him, he feels a combination of increased maturity and confidence might have been the key.
“Some horses just take a bit longer to develop and he might be one of those,” Hills said. “He’s a real trier and there’s no doubt that last season showed he’s improved as he’s got older.”
Pogo finished fifth in this race 12 months ago and the 11-time Group 1-winning trainer hopes that with the horse in better shape this time around, he might be able to go a few places better.
He said: “The track and trip should really play to his strengths out there. He loves fast ground and hopefully this year’s race will be run a bit more to suit. We’ll probably ride him a touch more patiently this time and with any luck he’ll be bang there.”
Hills is also responsible for Garrus in this year’s 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc, another horse who improved hand over fist in 2022, and like his stablemate, he is in great form ahead of his seasonal reappearance.
“The trip and track should really suit him,” Hills added. “We’ve been really pleased with his run-up to the race, and it looks a really good place to start him off this year.
“The prize money is so good out there and given it’s a race we think should play to his strengths, we’ve had it lined up for a while for him.”