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She may have been defeated in her final autumn run in Group 1 company last time out but there are big spring plans for the Robert Smerdon-trained mare Noble Protector who will be set on the Cox Plate 2015 path later in the year.
The imported five-year-old, owned by Qatar Bloodstock, has had just the five runs down under for a duo of wins and a Group 1 place.
She debuted in Australia last October with a second behind subsequent Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes – Ranvet Stakes double winner Contributer in the Group 3 David Jones Cup (2000m) before a fourth in the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) over more distance at Flemington to see out her opening prep with Smerdon.
This autumn she returned for back-to-back wins against her own kind before jumping one of the top hopes in the Group 1 Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick on Day 2 of The Championships.
It was a rain-affected track and she let down on it better than many expected running a luckless and very brave third to Amanpour in the mile showdown, which was her first go the Sydney way of racing.
Now Smerdon and co. are planning her spring return with a big assault on the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival on the horizon.
Her main aim this time will be in the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m), Australasia’s weight-for-age championship held at Moonee Valley in October.
Futures Cox Plate betting markets are already live online at Ladbrokes.com.au with the Godolphin-raced Contributer ($8) and last start Queen Elizabeth Stakes champion four-year-old Criterion ($9), set to appear at Royal Ascot in England this season, battling for favouritism.
Noble Protector meanwhile is yet to be added to the all-in, pre-nomination markets but Smerdon is hopeful she’ll go all the way to Cox Plate Day.
“The dream is obviously a Cox Plate so you put her on a path to head towards that then you make a judgement on whether she’ll make it,” Smerdon told Racenet this week.
It was a tough assignment to break your Group 1 duck as a mare in a Cox Plate but one a previous top line mare Pinker Pinker was able to overcome for her 2011 Cox Plate win under the preparation of Greg Eurell, form Smerdon is looking at in line with his mare four years on.
“It’s still a great race the Cox Plate and at the end of the day, she’s a Group II winner and Group I-placed – is that good enough to win a Cox Plate?,” he said.
“Most Cox Plate horses have won three Group 1s.
“Then you get a Pinker Pinker and you probably think she’s at that level.”
Currently out for a spell, Noble Protector was in top condition post-Queen Of The Turf run and Smerdon said that everything was going to plan so far.
“We have got to work out what we want to aim for in the spring,” he said.
“It was always going to be a light autumn because that’s the formula for a successful spring. She looked really good when she went to the paddock.”
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