One of the best-looking horses on the grounds during the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival turned out to be one of the best-performing on the world stage. Saeed Bel Obaida's Charlie Fellowes-trained Prince of Arran commenced 2018 with a 103 rating, a record of 3-for-19 and the look of an above-average stayer—but what he did from there was pretty extraordinary.
In 11 starts in 2018, the 5-year-old bay gelding raced in five different countries on four continents, while winning or placing in seven races. The son of Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) champ Shirocco became a Carnival winner in his second run (after a runner-up in his first attempt) and was a respectable midpack finisher in the Dubai Gold Cup (G2) behind Vazirabad. He then shipped to the United States to finish a solid third in the Belmont Gold Cup (G2) before setting his sights on Australia and fulfilling the dream of his young conditioner to compete in the Spring Carnival.
In three starts Down Under, he proved to be top class; showing marked improvement and tenacity with a third in the Herbert Power Stakes (G3), a resounding victory in the Lexus Handicap (G3) three weeks later on Nov. 3 and a brilliant third just three days after that in the most prestigious race in the southern hemisphere, the Melbourne Cup (G1). He then shipped to Hong Kong to finish a respectable eighth of 14 after a poor trip in the Hong Kong Vase (G1) last week.
“He's done remarkably,” Fellowes said. “To do what he's done; racing on four continents, run as many times as he has and turning up every time… he's just been a great horse for us. I'm sure I'll look back on him in 20 years' time and hopefully he'll be the horse that made my career (take off).
“Put a line through Hong Kong,” he continued. “I feel desperately sorry for the horse. He ran incredibly well and I really felt he was in such good form and a good place mentally. If he had a decent draw, he would have gone very close. Sadly, he got drawn in the car park and he's not the kind of horse who can be out there. He's a bit funny in the gate and he veered off at the start. The plan, which was to go forward and make it into more of a staying race, was completely abandoned at that point. I still feel he's better over a mile and a half than over two miles. It takes him a long time to get his confidence and the reason he's improved is he's become braver and, as a result, we can be braver with him.
“The plan with him is to go to the Sheema Classic. He will probably prep in the Dubai City of Gold on Super Saturday (Mar. 9) before that. He flies back England this week and will have a month or as long as I can give him in a paddock to remember what it feels like to be a horse again. He'll likely head to Dubai at the end of February. He's now rated a 112 and I truly believe he's not finished and can improve past that.”
Fellowes took the time to reflect on the Melbourne Cup, which one would imagine was the most bittersweet moment of his fledgling career. At the top of the lane in the classic, Prince of Arran loomed like a winner, seizing command in mid-stretch and giving his connections an adrenaline rush of epic proportions.
“I had stood in the paddock before the race nice and calm. When he won the Lexus, there was a massive release of relief that we'd done it, we'd won a Group race on Derby Day and we made it into the Melbourne Cup,” Fellowes said. “Before the race, when it rained, I thought our chances were gone, so there was no pressure. But then, at the two-furlong pole, I saw he was moving better than anyone. I just put my hands on mouth. I remember thinking, 'My god, I think I'm about to win the Melbourne Cup,' but this was before (winner and runner-up) Cross Counter and Marmelo began to make their runs. We still came away from the race over the moon. My plan of running him three days prior worked.
“That's what I love as a trainer,” he continued. “I love traveling internationally and seeing the big crowds and competing for the big prize money. I'm already starting to see the results of his performances and it looks we will have more in the yard next season and we are sending two others to the (2019) Carnival. We are sending Escalator, a highly progressive 3-year-old turning four, who is rated 106. Being owned by the same Emirati owner as Prince of Arran, we are hoping he can do well. He can run as far as a mile and a quarter on the turf and should run two or three times there. We are also sending a nice filly for the (Group 2, $250,000) Cape Verdi (on Jan. 17) and (Group 2, $250,000) Balanchine (on Feb. 14) named Mia Tesoro, who should love the Meydan track and will retire after the Carnival.”
Escalator, a patiently handled son of Cape Cross, has four wins from nine starts and exits a win in Leicester handicap company on Oct. 29. Mia Tesoro, a Danehill Dancer mare who races for American Deron Pearson, has five wins from 25 tries, won in Listed company this season and was unplaced last out in Newmarket's Nayef Stakes (G3) on Sept. 28.
Assistant and traveling lass Natasha Eaton (above, atop Prince of Arran), whose adoration and relationship with the yard star was described by Fellowes as “an incredible, brilliant bond” will be accompanying Escalator and Mia Tesoro when they arrive in the next few weeks. She will then wait for her favourite gallop-mate to arrive a month later to see if they can, indeed, top what was a tremendous 2018.
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