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Dal Cielo made the first step back to the Group One heights

Dal Cielo has made the first step on the long road back to the Group One heights he scaled as a two-year-old.

Now four and a gelding, Dal Cielo broke through for his first win for trainer Kris Lees in Saturday’s Summer Sprint (1000m) at Warwick Farm, his second start since being transferred from the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman stable in New Zealand.

Dal Cielo won the Group One Diamond Stakes in his home country as a juvenile and was runner-up in the Group Two Sandown Guineas at three, but failed to fire during the Sydney autumn.

The Summer Sprint ended a 22-month drought for Dal Cielo whose Diamond Stakes win was the last time he tasted victory.

Part-owner Lib Petagna, who also races Group One winner Lucia Valentia with Lees, retained his share in Dal Cielo and was joined by some of the trainer’s former teammates from the South Newcastle Rugby League Club.

Stable representative Cameren Swan said he was impressed with Dal Cielo’s improved barrier manners.

“We’ve only had him for two starts but he used to get himself really wound up in the enclosure,” Swan said.

“Today he was really good all day at the races.”

Jockey Glyn Schofield stalked leader Oxford Poet who was backed from $6.50 to $4.40 before the race but weakened late and finished third.

Hurrara ($26) finished off well to run second but was still two lengths behind Dal Cielo ($4.40) who was eased down late.

“It was pretty effortless in the end,” Schofield said.

“He jumped very cleanly today and put himself right on the speed.”

The Joe Pride-trained Mr Manhattan finished fourth after being sent out the $3.60 favourite and jockey Tim Clark suggested the horse was more effective in the earlier part of his preparations.

While an open handicap is a long way from an elite-level return for Dal Cielo, Swan is hopeful he can match it in stakes company.

“He won a Group One as a two-year-old so hopefully he gets up to those good sprinters but only time will tell,” he said.

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