But it will be a first visit for Newmarket based trained Charlie Fellowes. The bright lights and general razzmatazz of the all-star international meeting may be a shock for a fifth season trainer, with Fellowes admitting: “This is my first runner in Hong Kong. In fact, I’ve never been to Hong Kong, either on holiday or for business, and I can’t wait to taste the experience.”
Fellowes’ partner in crime on this inaugural expedition is the Hong Kong Vase hope PRINCE OF ARRAN who has been campaigned throughout the season with a tilt at the Melbourne Cup in mind. With a win in a Dubai handicap back in March, Fellowes believed that his stable flag bearer would be well suited by the conditions at Flemington. To ensure a run in the Cup he needed to qualify, and that mission took connections from Chester to New York and finally Newcastle (UK). A third in the Belmont Gold Cup (USA) was a good effort but not enough to rise him up in the ratings. Fellowes said: “We decided he would have to win a Group race or run very well in a top handicap and the Northumberland Plate seemed the best option.”
At Newcastle, consistency showed through again with PRINCE OF ARRAN finishing a good second to the well handicapped Withhold but still had to the frustration of connections, has not qualified for the Melbourne Cup! It was to be Australia next, and a third in the G2 Herbert Power behind Yucatan finally gave him the elusive berth in the race. On the big day on that first Tuesday in November, he made a winning move late on but was pushed out of the top two to finish more than a credible third behind Cross Counter. After that encouraging performance on the international stage, Hong Kong beckoned with conditions looking like they would suit with both Dunaden and Red Cadeaux proving the Melbourne Cup as a worthy lead-up race for the Vase.
Although PRINCE OF ARRAN has been kept busy throughout the season, Charlie Fellowes calls him ‘a dream horse to travel’ and he hasn’t suffered from the same soundness issues which can plague those with full schedules. He’s going to need to step up again to win the Vase on Sunday, but his trainer is hopeful: “It completes a very exciting 2018 for the stable and Prince Of Arran. Trainers often make a plan but very rarely does it come off. In his case, though, it’s been beautiful”. Let’s hope PRINCE OF ARRAN can make this first experience competing in Hong Kong a memorable one.