Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist is nearing a return to work for his new Newcastle-based trainer Kris Lees with The BMW 2015 still the most likely autumn option for the former German stayer.
Previously prepared by Andreas Wohler, who prepared the son of Monsun for his barnstorming four length win in the ‘race that stops a nation’, the stallion is looking in top condition after a well-earned break down under.
Lightly raced with just 10 starts on his record to date, five-year-old Protectionist boasted back-to-back Group 2 wins back in Europe including the famous Prix Kergorlay over 3000m before his trip to Australia in the spring.
His debut down under instantly put him in the frame for the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on the first Tuesday of November as he worked from mid-field to storm home and finish only a length away fourth in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield.
The step up to the two miles for the Cup then suited to a tee and he controlled the final stages after switching courses to the inside and pulling clear in a fantastic win by a massive margin over historic three-time runner-up Red Cadeaux.
The Australian Bloodstock-owned galloper now continues his illustrious career as an Australian-trained racehorse with Lees who welcomed his new draw card into his stables late Monday.
In a surprise to Lees Protectionist kept excellent condition during his time off putting on a healthy 12 or so kilos and looking the picture of health ahead of his much awaited return.
“I think the few weeks out at the farm have done him the world of good,” Lees told The Daily Telegraph yesterday.
“He spent a bit of time on the water walker.”
Lees said they would build up to three-quarter work after next week before mapping out his official autumn plans.
All options remain open with the most probable target being the $2.25 million Group 1 The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 28.
“He’ll be ready to start going three-quarter pace after Christmas, and then we’ll build him up,” Lees said.
“Everything is still in the mix and we’ll probably decide early in the New Year which way we’ll go.”
What path Protectionist travels into the classic weight-for-age The BMW is the question, but Lees and connections are set to give him a light autumn campaign ahead of another Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival bid targeting back-to-back wins in the world’s richest handicap.
Lees will also welcome back into work next week his Vinery Stud Stakes – Turnbull Stakes winning mare Lucia Valentina.
She ran a brave third under a length off the ill-fated Admire Rakti in the Caulfield Cup in October before failing to run out the trip when 13th and beaten 15.5 lengths in the Melbourne Cup.
Stay tuned to Races.com.au for all the latest on Lees’ autumn contingent.
Then to back them at the right price next year head to Ladbrokes.com.au and open an account with the country’s fastest growing online betting agency!