The Australian Cup 2015 has been confirmed as the preferred first-up option for reigning Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist in the autumn.
The German import who won the world’s richest handicap, the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m), by four lengths in the spring was previously prepared by Andreas Wohler.
But the Australian Bloodstock-owned Monsun stallion stayed on in Australia after his Melbourne Cup triumph at the start of November and is now prepared at the Broadmeadow stables of Newcastle trainer Kris Lees.
Connections of the $4 million earner are now plotting autumn – winter targets for Protectionist ahead of his Melbourne Cup title defense at the end of the year.
While the richest on offer during the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival are the main targets after a first-up run in Melbourne, Australian Bloodstock co-founder and managing owner Luke Murrell said scheduling changes in New South Wales could see the champion make a surprise appearance in Brisbane during the winter.
The major aim Murrell and co. are hoping to run the stayer in this season is the $1.5 million Group 1 The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 28.
However changes to the lead-up races into The BMW could make it too difficult for Protectionist to run in the weight-for-age classic.
“The BMW was always our preference but it’s very hard to get a horse like him there,” Murrell told Racenet this week.
“It’s something they (Racing NSW and the ATC) should be looking at because they want the best horses there.”
At this stage the team are tentatively locking in the $1 million Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 14 for the resuming run of their new stable ace before running in Sydney’s richest race, the $4 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on April 11.
“A race like the Australian Cup is the favourite for his first-up run,” Murrell said.
“He’s won at the track and it’s a big open surface and a Group I at 2000(m) won’t hurt his pedigree.
However Murrell also hadn’t ruled out a trip further north for the Group 2 PJ O’Shea Stakes in Brisbane on May 30.
“The horse will come first and if he doesn’t make the Queen Elizabeth, we might even look at a race like the PJ O’Shea Stakes up here in Queensland before a break and try to do it (win a Melbourne Cup) again,” he said.
As for which hoop would get the coveted mount on Protectionist this campaign, Murrell said his Melbourne Cup winning jockey Ryan Moore who also rode Cox Plate winner Adelaide in October was only a “50-50 chance”, with a local rider also being considered along with the Englishman.
“That’s to be decided. He’s the number one gun over there and gets all of the peak rides but if he came here he might miss out on one or two races,” Murrell said.
“At this stage, we’ll probably go with a local bloke. The phone’s been very busy; I’ve never been more popular.”
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