DUBAI: The esteem in which British trainer Charlie Fellowes holds Prince of Arran is clear in every word he utters about his popular eight-year-old horse.
“My fella, he’s old, he’s clever, he looks after himself,” said Fellowes. “The reason he’s probably as good as he has ever been, aged eight, is because he has always looked after himself. And it’s also why he finished second and third so many times, because he only ever does as much as he has to.”
The champion racehorse is back in Riyadh for the second running of the Saudi Cup, competing in the $2.5 million Red Sea Turf Handicap over 3000m on Saturday, Feb. 20.
Fellowes looks to have given Prince of Arran every chance of what would be a popular victory for the representative of Team British Racing, an initiative led by Great British Racing International to promote Britain’s trainers on the world stage.
"We’ve trained him a little bit differently for the race this year,” the owner of Charlie Fellowes Racing told Arab News from his home in the UK. “I found that as he got older, it probably takes more work to get him fit and I felt about a month ago that he is possibly not as fast as I hoped he was going to be. So, I decided to take him to the races in England, and to run him at Kempton about a week ago.”
Last year, Prince of Arran finished third behind Call the Wind and Mekong in the $2.5 million Longines Turf Handicap. This year, his trainer is making sure he peaks at just the right time.
“I felt that was going to be more beneficial to him than galloping three more times in Newmarket,” said Fellowes. “Just to get him out of the yard, get his blood up and actually run a proper race somewhere. He ran a really, really good race. (The tempo) was very steady, and that was the best case scenario for me. I didn’t want him to go there and have a really hard race. I wanted him to have a race but to come back with the tank still with petrol left in it. So we can then prepare him for the race at the weekend perfectly.”
The plan seemed to have worked perfectly, and Prince of Arran headed to Riyadh with a third place finish behind him.
“To be honest, things couldn’t have gone any better, he’s come through the race really well,” the trainer said. “He’s travelled over to Saudi perfectly, as you’d expect from a horse with his experience. And he had a little blow on the race track this morning (Wednesday) and his rider was over the moon.”
“At the moment it seems like everything has gone pretty smoothly and now it’s just a case of freshening him up and getting him absolutely popping for Saturday,” he added.
Prince of Arran was bred by Rabbah Bloodstock at their base in Oxfordshire, UK, and is owned by Dubai-based Saeed Bel Obaida.
Fellowes is disappointed that due to COVID-19 restrictions, he will be unable to be in Riyadh to see his horse, but is confident the conditions will be ideal again.
“I know the track well because I was there last year,” he said. “It’s a beautiful track, they’ve done a fantastic job and the conditions will be, I presume, pretty similar to last year. Lovely ground, quick ground, that’s what you want. We’re really happy and incredibly honored to be part of the meeting.”
Fellowes says Prince of Arran’s versatility means he can handle different conditions and race circumstances, but ultimately prefers a fast-paced run.
“The quicker they go the more honest the gallop is,” he added. “Let him find his feet, let him get into a nice rhythm, exactly like what happened in the Melbourne Cup. If you could tailor a race to suit my horse, it’s as the Melbourne Cup last year. They went at a really nice, honest gallop the whole way round and that’s what he likes.”
Like at the 2020 Saudi Cup, Prince of Arran finished third in Melbourne, and beyond Riyadh this weekend, Fellowes is looking for another appearance in Dubai for Prince of Arran, even if he himself cannot be there, again.
“The horse will be there for World Cup night and for the Gold Cup. His owner, the Obaida family — Saeed, his father Mohammed and his brother Salem — they have been very, very good supporters of mine,” he said. “They’ve sent me horses since the first day I set up training. Obviously they live in Dubai, so they would love for him to run in the Gold Cup. And I think it’s a race that would really suit him, so that’s very much the target after Saudi.
“It’ll be very special for him to run a big race in Dubai, I owe a lot to the owners for sending the horse and supporting me so well. To see him win a big race like the Dubai Gold Cup would be very special indeed”