Spartan Eagle has had a disrupted preparation for the 2014 Darwin Cup, but trainer Bob Richard is confident that the tough gelding is close to his best ahead of the $200,000 race on Monday.
Spartan Eagle started his winter preparation with a credible fifth place finish in the Stamford Grand Handicap (1250m) at Morphettville on May 17, but was most disappointing when he beat home just a single runner in the QBE Cup (1200m) at Fannie Bay on June 14.
A veterinary examination after the race showed that Spartan Eagle was suffering from an illness and Richard revealed last week that very little went right for the Niello gelding leading into the Coates Hire Conditions Handicap (1600m) at Fannie Bay on July 5.
“Everything fell into place on our last visit, but unfortunately not all has gone to plan on this occasion,” Richard told The NT News.
“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.”
Spartan Eagle returned to a semblance of his best form with a third place finish in the Coates Hire Conditions Handicap and finished third in the Buntine Handicap (1900m) at Fannie Bay on July 19 before working home strongly to finish second in the Metric Mile (1600m) at the same venue last Saturday.
Richard was particularly happy with the performance of Spartan Eagle in the Coates Hires Conditions Handicap and he believes that the rising seven-year-olds performance in that event indicates that he can run out a strong 2000 metres in the Darwin Cup 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.”
The 2014 Darwin Cup field will be released this afternoon; with a capacity field of 12 runners and three emergencies expected for Darwin’s feature race.