Five-year-old Protectionist had a quick three-week trip to Melbourne to contest both the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) on February 28 and the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) on March 14.
The winner of the Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) back in November failed to make anything of either race, finishing midfield after he was unable to showcase a swift turn of foot when it mattered, however his new trainer Kris Lees doesn’t believe the trip from his Newcastle stable was a waste of time.
He has now confirmed that Protectionist is a genuine two-mile runner and will be set for those races, few and far between they may be in Australia.
“The negative for us is that it doesn’t appear that he’s going to be that weight-for-age, shorter-course-type horse that you’d like him to be,” Lees told Racing Ahead.
“But we were always told that he wasn’t that type of horse. He’s a genuine two-miler who could run even further, but we don’t have that type of race here in Australia.
“The positive is that he’s a genuine two-miler and we’re going to set him for those type of races. We’ve just got to be a little patient in the early stages of his preparation.”
Protectionist is set to get his next start in the Group 1 BMW (2400m) on April 28. While he may not succeed in the mile and a half weight-for-age race, it’ll be an ideal lead-up to the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) on April 11.
It’ll be the first time Protectionist will get the chance to run over two miles since blowing his rivals away in the $6.2 million Melbourne Cup on November 4, which he won by four lengths.
“At this stage we’re likely to run in the Sydney Cup. They’ve increased the prizemoney for the Sydney Cup, it’s not to the level of course of the Melbourne Cup, but it is still very good money,” Lees said.
“He’ll run in The BMW more than likely in two weeks and, I suppose on his current form, he’s no good thing at a mile-and-a-half, but it still will be a nice lead-up race for a Sydney Cup.”
Protectionist is on the second line of betting at Ladbrokes.com.au for the 2015 Sydney Cup, offering $5 behind new favourite Hartnell at $4.80.
With Lees confident Protectionist could handle more than 3200 metres, it’s only a matter of time before his owners decide to take him out of Australia. Make sure you place a punt on him while you can!