The improving Spartan Army tries to end February with a bang for Barbury

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February 29

We woke up to plenty of rain on Newbury racecourse, and more is forecast both this morning and tomorrow, so stamina will be at a premium for the horses at our two-day meeting this week-end.

That won’t worry Alan for day one as both the Barbury runners tomorrow are in the same race on the polytrack at Lingfield, veteran Rainbow Dreamer being more than twice the age of stablemate Spartan Army, the pair being targeted at the All Weather Marathon Trial.

Spartan Army ran three times for Joseph O’Brien in 2022, winning his final start at Down Royal in June. However a month later he changed hands for 170,000gns at Tattersalls, joining Alan’s dual-purpose team.

Having made a winning start at Wetherby, Spartan Army maybe then dipped his toes into too deep waters, but dropping back in grade at Taunton a year ago he won another hurdle race, albeit narrowly.

Alan was always impressed how well Spartan Army had worked in the mornings, but he wasn’t reproducing that sparkle on the racecourse, so Alan started increasing his workload on the gallops, and since reverting to the old system of “three times up the hill instead of two, ‘ he has seen a definite improvement, not only just from Spartan Army but all the equine team.

Looking ahead to Lingfield, Alan said:”Spartan Army has won twice on the all-weather since the turn of the year, the most recent being at Southwell last Saturday, and it is very much against my style to turn a horse out again so quickly.

“But with Spartan Army I have no option as he needs three runs on the all-weather to have the chance for a big prize on Good Friday, either a £150,000 handicap at Newcastle or a £65,000 race at Lingfield, and this is the last two-miler left for him.

“Those races are on March 29, so Spartan Army will have four weeks to recover, and I’ve been delighted with the way that he has been progressing. It took us time to work him out, but he beat a horse who was going for a hat-trick last time and he won with a bit in hand, so, despite going up another grade, here’s hoping he’ll be competitive again.”

Rainbow Dreamer is in total contrast to Spartan Army, in that this is the 11-year-old’s 28th run on the all-weather, nine of which he has won.

Alan added:”Rainbow Dreamer has been a star for us but is getting towards the end of his career. He hasn’t been firing on the track this season and maybe age is catching up with him.

“But Rainbow Dreamer has been in very good form at home and his owners are keen that he goes back to Newcastle to defend his All-Weather Marathon crown, so this is his prep race. Win, lose or draw at Gosforth Park, that will be the old horse’s farewell.”