A Prince Of Arran (R) earned a Melbourne Cup start by winning the Hotham Handicap. (AAP: Hamish Blair)
A Prince of Arran has earned the right to run in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup with a solid win in the Hotham Handicap on Derby Day at Flemington.
The horse, trained by Charlie Fellowes in England and ridden by Michael Walker, proved too strong for his rivals, holding off Brimham Rocks and Jaameh to win the Group One race over 2,500 metres.
There was drama before the start, when the race was delayed for several minutes because of a power failure to the photo finish equipment. All the horses were backed out of the barriers.
The delay was extended because a leading chance for the race, Brimham Rocks, cast a plate and had to get a shoe replaced.
7 Horse Racing tweet: A Prince of Arran wins the [Hotham Handicap] and will now gain a start in the #MelbourneCup!
The race finally started 13 minutes late, with Rising Red, Japanese horse Sole Impact and the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Northwest Passage in third.
There was little major change through the first half of the race, with Sole Impact edging in front of Northwest Passage and Rising Red at the 1,200m. By the 800m when the speed started to turn on, the positions were the same, but there were plenty of chances in the straight.
A Prince of Arran hit the front at the 300m, and the Chris Waller-trained Brimham Rocks broke out of the pack to challenge. But the English horse was too strong, holding on by half a length, with the David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig-trained Jaameh getting out too late, finishing nearly another two lengths behind.
The Hotham was, as always, the last chance for several horses to make it into the Cup field — with only two of the nine runners not among final acceptances for Tuesday’s big race. A Prince of Arran had come third behind the Cup hot favourite Yucatan in the Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield last month.
“He has done well, I hit the front too early,” jockey Michael Walker told Channel Seven after the race.
“Nothing was taking me into the race — with the staying races, these European horse they keep going, I was pretty strong at the finish.
“I’m looking too, forward to Tuesday, I have a run, hopefully this [form] continues.”
For trainer Fellowes, the result gave him his first-ever ticket into the Melbourne Cup field.
“Plans don’t often come off like that. He’s in great form, the girl leading him, Natasha, has done an unbelievable job for him, all year even in Dubai. I can’t believe we’re in the Cup,” he told Seven.
“This was our derby. This was the race that we needed to win [to get in]. Anything from now on is a bonus. We will freshen him up.
“Hopefully he comes out of [the race] good. We’ll give it our best shot on Tuesday.”
When the Melbourne Cup came to Newmarket in England earlier this year, Fellowes got to hold the trophy.
“I hope that’s not the closest I will get [to the Cup],” he said.
There was disappointment for Waller and Brimham Rocks, but the high-profile Sydney trainer has three chances on Tuesday, in Youngstar, British import Finche and veteran stayer Who Shot Thebarman.
The field will be finalised later today ahead of this evening’s Melbourne Cup draw.