Lees Leans Towards Aussie Hoop for Protectionist

Newcastle’s Kris Lees confirmed on Wednesday morning that an Australian hoop was more likely to partner his 2015 Australian Cup-bound import Protectionist over English jockey Ryan Moore this Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival.

Ryan Moore

Englishman Ryan Moore is “unlikely” to ride Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist again this autumn according to the horse’s new trainer Kris Lees. Photo: Sarah Ebbett.

Lees took over the preparation of the former German-trained Monsun stallion at the end of last year following the five-year-old’s ultra-impressive four length win in the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington.

That November 4 classic was Protectionist’s second run down under following his fast finishing fourth to Big Memory on debut in Australia in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) on October 11 when still trained by Germany’s Andreas Wohler.

The Herbert Power followed his smart one and a half-length victory back home in France in the Group 2 Prix Kergorlay (3000m), the form of which once again stood up in the world’s richest handicap during the spring in Melbourne.

Craig Williams rode the horse in the Herbert Power before Englishman Moore travelled over for the Melbourne Cup victory.

While nothing has been made official just yet, Lees strongly hinted this morning that an Australian jockey was more likely to ride Protectionist this time in saying Moore was “unlikely” to continue his association.

“I think it’d be unlikely that Ryan would be going with him,” Lees told Racing Ahead.

“I haven’t really locked in the program we’re going with him, so I just didn’t want to be tied into a rider coming out for that reason and I think we’ve got plenty of good riders in Australia.”

The Australian Bloodstock-owned $4 million earner will most likely kick off his autumn campaign with the $200,000 Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield Racecourse on Blue Diamond Stakes Day, February 28.

On Monday morning Protectionist impressed with a winning barrier trial victory over 1200m at his new home track at Newcastle with Hugh Bowman in the saddle.

Lees also announced after the hit-out they would likely follow the same course Gai Waterhouse took her 2013 Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente down last autumn.

Fiorente went on to complete the Melbourne Cup – Australian Cup double and the $1 million Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m), held this year at Flemington Racecourse on March 14 during Super Saturday, is also on the agenda for Protectionist.

Lees also said they would consider a run in the lucrative $4 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) in Sydney at Randwick on April 11 if the genuine staying type remained sharp enough.

Protectionist easily leads the all-in Australian Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au at a current quote of $5 with the next best in betting being Paul Beshara’s Mackinnon Stakes winning seven-year-old Happy Trails at $10.

Japan’s To The World meanwhile leads Queen Elizabeth Stakes betting at $5 followed by Cox Plate winner Adelaide ($6.50) and then Protectionist on $7.50.

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