Prince Of Arran left trainer Charlie Fellowes “emotionally drained” but delighted after his Geelong Cup win almost certainly booked a place in the Lexus Melbourne Cup for a second successive year.
Fellowes, who watched the race before dawn on TV at his Newmarket yard more than 10,000 miles away from the action in Melbourne, paid tribute to the huge team effort behind Prince Of Arran’s head victory from Willie Mullins’ True Self.
It is a result which means the six-year-old, a gallant third at Flemington 12 months ago when he had to qualify even later by winning the Lexus Stakes just three days before the big race, should earn the penalty to push himself up the weights and ensure he is back again on November 5.
Fellowes can therefore look forward to two weeks of relative calm before his stable star lines up.
Reflecting on Prince Of Arran’s win, he said: “Emotionally drained is probably how I’d put it.
“I didn’t think, after we finished third last year, we’d have to go through all that again this year.
“But we found ourselves quite a long way outside the race, and as a result we’ve had to try to win our way into it again.
“We took a gamble, decided to go a different route this year, have a crack at the Geelong Cup. It was a big risk, but also high rewards – because it now means we can freshen him up and have two weeks now till the Melbourne Cup, which is perfect.
“I’m just delighted to be in the race.”
Fellowes was concerned, going into Wednesday’s must-win at Geelong, by Prince Of Arran’s draw in stall 11 – the widest in the field.
He need not have worried, however, because the 16-5 favourite broke well under Michael Walker to give himself every chance before holding off True Self’s determined late challenge.
“It couldn’t have gone any better,” he said.
“He broke brilliantly, which was my main concern, stayed absolutely dead straight – which was an even bigger concern – and managed to get a lovely position behind the leader.
“It was a brilliant ride from Michael Walker, who gets on with him very well, so all my concerns were eased somewhat after just a furlong.
“I said to my wife ‘We’re either good enough or we’re not from here – if he doesn’t win, then there’s no excuses’.”
It appears a done deal that Prince Of Arran has earned another shot at next month’s global event – but Fellowes will still be pleased to hear confirmation from Racing Victoria chief handicapper Greg Carpenter of the penalty which will take him from a current 38th in the field safely into the maximum 24 who can take part.
“Look, we need a penalty first,” he said.
“We need Mr Carpenter to give us a penalty, which I think is almost certain – but there are no certainties in life.
“A half a kilo penalty we’d almost certainly be in, and a kilo we’d definitely be in.
“So I think we can put our feet up, watch everyone else scrap around – doing what we did last year.”
Fellowes was full of praise for the team efforts behind Prince Of Arran’s preparation and performance – naming the stable’s Tash Eaton and the winning jockey among several others.
“It’s been the most amazing job by a huge number of people.
“I’m the other side of the world, so the influence I can have is very minimal.
“Tash Eaton, who looks after him and has travelled all round the world with him, has done the most incredible job, and Michael Walker has struck up a beautiful relationship with the horse.”
Behind Prince Of Arran, another British hope – Saeed bin Suroor’s Red Galileo -could finish only a near three-length fifth, staying on well but too late.