UNUSUALLY, Charlie Appleby hasn’t sent over one of his two-year-old colts for the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at the Curragh tomorrow. The Godolphin trainer has won the seven-furlong Group 1 three times in the last four years, and two of those winners used the race as a springboard to winning the champion two-year-old title.
That means the coast is somewhat clear for Aidan O’Brien, whose Aesop’s Fables has been made clear favourite to graduate to the top level after his impressive display in the Futurity Stakes last month. But while Appleby isn’t involved, his Newmarket neighbour Charlie Fellowes is, through Group 2 Vintage Stakes winner Marbaan.
Fellowes is a Royal Ascot-winning trainer and is on course for another good season, having gradually progressed his numbers in recent seasons. He is possibly best known for his handling of Prince Of Arran, who won a Geelong Cup in Australia and remarkably placed in three Melbourne Cups.
Marbaan is his first potential Group 1 horse. He was third on his debut but has won all three of his starts since.
“He ran a really nice race on debut,” Fellowes told The Irish Field. “Mine are never too wound up first time out. He then won a novice at Nottingham and then he had to carry a penalty in Salisbury. I think that race was a bit underplayed which is why he went off 14/1 in the Vintage.
“At Salisbury, the form was very good and he won despite the penalty racing on ground that would have been plenty quick for him. He was impressive then at Goodwood. He beat the Chesham winner (Holloway Boy) and the third horse has won since in France.
“Look, he’s got to take another big step forward, we think he’s a pretty nice horse, we think the Curragh will really suit him and any rain is a positive in our book. We’re looking forward to it.”
Marbaan is a son of Oasis Dream and is a half-brother to Convergence, who was smart enough horse in this country for Ger Lyons, notably finishing fourth in the Beresford Stakes and winning the Ballycorus. He is the first horse Fellowes has had to train for owner Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum, whose yellow and black silks are familiar worldwide, most recently through the likes of Addeybb.
Needless to say, should he win tomorrow, it would be a massive moment for the up-and-coming trainer.
“We’ve got a chance to make him a stallion and for a new owner for me that’s incredible,” Fellowes said. “Look, at the end of the day, he’s rated 111, he’s done everything we could have possibly done so far.
“We’re taking on the O’Brien battalions and I was most impressed with Aesop’s Fables in the Futurity, but we’re not coming over to have a spin round the Curragh, that’s for sure. We’re coming over because we think we can compete. We’re coming over with the intention of ruffling a few feathers.”