While finding competitive form over his three most recent starts, trainer Bob Richard has conceded talented gelding Spartan Eagle has not completed the ideal lead-in to Monday’s featured Darwin Cup (2000m) at Fannie Bay Racecourse.
Running on to finish a fighting fifth in the Stamford Grand Handicap (1250m) at his local Morphettville course in South Australia first-up, the Niello gelding was unable to match the late pace in the QBE Cup (1200m) in the Territory on June 14th, finishing a disappointing eighth in a field of just nine competitors.
Having been found to be suffering from an illness when vetted following the lacklustre performance, Richard told The NT News not a lot was going right for Spartan Eagle in the lead-up to the Coates Hire Handicap (1600m) on July 5th, but is optimistic he will find the Darwin Cup in close-to peak condition.
“Everything fell into place on our last visit, but unfortunately not all has gone to plan on this occasion,” Richard said.
“He then developed a cough that wouldn’t go away and by my estimation it put the horse back eight days.
“He also injured his nose in an accident at the Fannie Bay stables and we couldn’t stop the bleeding as he kept rubbing his nose up against the brick wall.
“In the end, we had to put him in a paddock in order to stop the bleeding and allow the injury to heel.
“It has been a disruptive preparation and we were clearly behind the eight-ball, but I’m more than happy now with his progress as he has finished off his last two races well.”
Particularly thrilled with how he took to the step-up in distance to 1900m for the Coates Hire Handicap h
aving not prepared well, Richard said he is confident the 2000m distance of the Darwin Cup will play into the strengths of Spartan Eagle on Monday.
“It was his first time over 1900m and based on that run he should have no trouble getting the 2000m in the Darwin Cup,” Richard said.
“I was a little apprehensive that he would get the 2000m last year as a five-year-old and I was under a lot of pressure to start him in the Cup, but I’m a lot more confident this year now that he is a six-year-old.”
Securing an impressive total of eight wins and 11 minor places from 40 competitive starts, Spartan Eagle will be a particularly large threat to the 2014 Darwin Cup should he be allocated a favourable alley at Friday morning’s barrier draw.
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