English trainer Charlie Fellowes is not in a rush to decide which jockey will ride dual Melbourne Cup placegetter Prince Of Arran this spring after Michael Walker told him he was unavailable for the ride.
Fellowes, speaking on Melbourne radio station RSN, said he was surprised when Walker informed him earlier this week he would be riding another English stayer, Dashing Willoughby, instead.
Prince Of Arran was ridden by Walker six times over the past two springs for wins in the 2018 Lexus Stakes and 2019 Geelong Cup, a third in the 2018 Melbourne Cup and a second last year, plus placings in the past two Herbert Power Stakes.
Walker explained to Fellowes that he had a long-standing relationship with Dashing Willoughby’s owner Sir Owen Glenn and was committed to riding that horse.
“The one thing I thought I didn’t need to worry about was a jockey,” Fellowes said.
“It’s very sad Michael can’t ride him as he can take a huge amount of credit for our success here.
“When we came here two years I thought it would take a miracle to get him into the Melbourne Cup but it was the confidence between the horse and the jockey which was the reason for their success.”
Fellowes said he had already been contacted by numerous Australian jockeys and he would put them on a list but he wasn’t in a hurry to make a decision.
“There’s not likely to be any European jockeys and there’s question marks whether Sydney jockeys will be available,” Fellowes said.
“I’ll see who is available and then work out who can suit the horse the best.”
Fellowes was pleased with Prince Of Arran’s first-up third in the September Stakes over 2400 metres at Kempton on September 5.
“I was really happy with the run but he should have finished second. I’m blaming myself, he was a week behind in fitness,” he said.
Fellowes said he was looking at starting Prince Of Arran in the Caulfield Cup rather than the Geelong Cup as his lead-in run to Australia’s most famous race.
“I’m leaning towards the Caulfield Cup as it might be a bit weaker this year. Fourth prize money is better than winning the Geelong Cup,” Fellowes said.
Fellowes also reacted to the news Aidan O’Brien was placing six horses into quarantine for the Melbourne spring, headed by Anthony Van Dyck.
He expected the champion trainer to send a strong team to Australia but “not that strong”.
“Aidan has made a clear statement he wants to win a Melbourne Cup,” Fellowes said.
Fellowes suggested O’Brien’s northern hemisphere three-year-olds Santiago and Tiger Moth had a big advantage at the weights and were two serious horses.