Prince of Arran, ridden by Jamie Kah, before the 2020 Melbourne Cup (Image: Racing Photos)
A fourth Australian visit remains a high priority for three-time Melbourne Cup placegetter Prince Of Arran but his next start on home soil could force a rethink.
Prince Of Arran wasn't among the intended runners for his third appearance in next weekend's US$750,000 (A$960,000) Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup (3200m) at Meydan when provisional fields were released on Wednesday.
There were suggestions Prince Of Arran may have run his last race after a disappointing effort in Saudi Arabia last month but trainer Charlie Fellowes told Racing.com that Prince Of Arran remains in training with this year's $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) at the forefront of all plans.
"The Lexus Melbourne Cup in 2021 is very much our number one target and I felt like travelling to Dubai would be the wrong thing to do with that in mind," Fellowes said.
Prince Of Arran ended another excellent Melbourne Spring Carnival campaign, arguably his best after finishing fourth in the $5m Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m) and an unlucky third in the Melbourne Cup (3200m).
The Northern Hemisphere eight-year-old Shirocco gelding resumed from a short break in the £19,000 (A$34,000) All-Weather Championships Marathon Fast-Track Qualifier (3217m) at Kempton on February 6. He was slow into stride under Tom Marquand but finished third in the four-horse field, finishing three-quarters of a length behind all-the-way winner Rainbow Dreamer.
Prince Of Arran then returned to the Middle East, finishing a battling ninth of 13 runners, beaten seven lengths by Gifts Of Gold when he didn't show his usual closing speed in the US$2.5m (A$3.2m) Red Sea Turf Handicap (3000m) at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh on February 20.
"I wasn't happy with Prince Of Arran's past two runs, his head hasn't been in the game at the races and he looked reluctant and uninterested," Fellowes said.
"I feel like he had two very, very hard races in Australia last year, didn't win either of them, and that has left its mark."
Fellowes intends Prince Of Arran to make his next racetrack reappearance on Royal Ascot Trials Day, the first day of Ascot's flat season on April 28 in the £70,000 (A$125,000) G3 Longines Sagaro Stakes (3209m).
Prince Of Arran ran third to Nayef Road when resuming in last year's Sagaro Stakes after UK racing's COVID-19-enforced break, with the race rescheduled to the first weekend of June on Newcastle's all-weather track.
"I have changed his training routine and we are going to do some (barrier) stalls work to get him back enjoying himself," Fellowes said.
"He is training great at home and looks fantastic, so I am not overly concerned at the moment (about his future) but a lot will depend on how he runs at Ascot."
WATCH: 2020 Lexus Melbourne Cup