Mark Wallace has started the new Flat season with a spring in his step as he bids to erase memories of a disastrous 2005 for his Newmarket team.
The trainer managed just a total of seven winners in the whole of last year but is already on to five now with all but the entire season still to go.
And Espartano looked an above-average newcomer when sprinting away with the opening event at Windsor’s first Flat meeting of the year, the Goldring Security Maiden Stakes.
Ridden by Jamie Spencer, the 4-1 chance tacked across towards the stands rail from his draw in stall one and pounced at the furlong-pole to quicken clear from Oi Vay Joe and score by two and a half lengths, with fast-finishing Camissa narrowly getting up for second.
“I was walking my box before this one, because I think he’s very good,” said Wallace of the son of Vettori. “He wants fast ground and had a bad draw and I was getting a bit concerned but I think he’s all right.
“Jamie reckons he’s a proper horse and he’s not a bad judge and we might just go for a Listed race at the Curragh now on May 1, unless Aidan O’Brien is going to run something brilliant in it.
“He’s only done three bits of work in his life and he can only improve. I bought him myself. He’s not by the most fashionable sire in the world but he’s got a very good attitude and he takes everything well.”
Reflecting upon last season, Wallace said: “It can only be better this year - I’ve got about 25 two-year-olds including five from Sheikh Rashid who will be out later but look like nice sorts.
“We moved yards last year and got a bit of sickness and never recovered but all but one of the owners has stayed with me and that is a real vote of confidence for a small trainer like me.
“Benbaun kept us going last year when times were tough and I hope this can really be his year now that he is five. He will hopefully start off in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket but he does need fast ground.
“Jamie is going to be riding him all year. He has been a big help, coming down to ride work and it is a big plus to be able to use him when he is available.”
The Last Drop put his stamina to good use when landing the Arena Leisure Maiden Stakes under Michael Hills.
The Barry Hills-trained son of Derby hero Galileo may be attempting to follow the route of his father as he holds entries in the Dante Stakes and in the Vodafone-sponsored showpiece at Epsom in June.
Charlie Hills, assistant to his father, said of the 100-30 winner: “This will have done him a lot of good and he would really appreciate even further than this mile and a quarter.
“We’ve some nice three-year-olds this season, including some who will be out either at Newbury at the weekend or next week at Newmarket, but this horse would be among the best.
“His owner, Jack Hanson, would love to have another runner in the Derby and he might well end up there.”
Having failed to reach her reserve price at the sales, Rod Millman was delighted to welcome Auwitesweetheart back to his Devon yard.
And the trainer was even more pleased to see the 12-1 chance score first time out in the five-furlong Feltons Chartered Accountants Tax No Handicap.
“I thought she was a few pounds too high in the weights to be honest because she kept running well last season and every time she came second or third she would go up another couple of pounds,” said Millman.
“She went to the Horses in Training sale at Newmarket but didn’t make her reserve and she is going to make a nice broodmare in time but for now hopefully she can keep winning races.
“She likes a bit of cut over five furlongs and Alan (Munro) gave her a great ride again. He really is a valuable member of the team.”
Johnny Portman found a good opportunity for the hitherto-disappointing Bob’s Your Uncle to break his duck in the At The Races Claiming Stakes.
And although the gelding had been unplaced in all nine previous starts, the way the 8-1 chance did the job under Ryan Moore suggested further victories might not be out of the question.
Chased up to join the leaders two furlongs out, the Zilzal gelding quickened ahead inside the final furlong to beat Night Groove by two and a half lengths.
Nick Littmoden’s team have been running well on the all-weather and struck for the first time on turf this year when having finished second in the claimer, the yard quickly followed up with a 14-1 winner when Wavertree Warrior took the Crimestoppers Handicap.
The four-year-old’s chance in his previous race at Redcar had all but disappeared when a false start saw him recalled having burst out of the stalls.
“Once he had to go back he couldn’t get back into the right frame of mind and that was that,” said Littmoden’s travelling head groom Chris Nash.
“We’ve been doing well on the all-weather but I hope this helps to remember that we will be having plenty of winners on the turf as well as we’ve some nice runners to look forward to.”
His rider James Doyle completed a double in the concluding Come Racing Every Monday This Summer Handicap when scoring aboard 20-1 chance Nautical.