Despite the former Melbourne Cup winner beating home just one other rival in his first-up return over the weekend, German import Protectionist pleased his trainer Kris Lees with the run and is on track for a 2015 Caulfield Cup bid next month.
The six-year-old Monsun stallion is best known for his four length romp in the ‘race that stops a nation’, Protectionist winning last year’s Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) when still prepared in Germany by Andreas Wohler.
He stayed on in Australia but hasn’t won again since, his autumn full of unplaced runs and his first-up Spring Racing Carnival effort on Saturday being a 13th to Hooked in the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Randwick in Sydney.
It was Protectionist’s first run since his seventh at the same track behind the Chris Waller-trained Grand Marshall in the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) back in April, after which he pulled up sore with injuries to all four bumpers, and left a lot of improving for the galloper to do between now and his next run.
The Newcastle-based Lees though wasn’t disheartened by the run over the unsuitably short distance and was in fact pleased with the work his horse did to finish only four and three-quarters of a length off the winner.
“If you said to me before the race he’d finish less than five lengths off them I would have been ecstatic,” he told Racing Victoria.
“So he’s run up to expectations and he came through the run well.
“The 1400 (metres) was foreign ground for him but that’s the path we’re taking with him this preparation.
“He’ll take a couple of those runs to find his peak form.”
Currently the $4.16 million earner is tracking towards a run in the $1 million Group 1 BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) over the mile and a half on October 17, a race he pays $41 to win in the futures markets at Ladbrokes.com.au.
The long range plan is to have him cherry ripe for a title defence in the world’s richest handicap, the $6.2 million Melbourne Cup contested over the two miles at Flemington on Tuesday November 3.
All-in Melbourne Cup odds have Japan’s Fame Game installed as the $9 favourite while Protectionist is rated a $21 shot at going back-to-back in the classic for the first time since the mighty mare Makybe Diva (2003-2005).
His next-up run is currently scheduled as the $200,000 Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) still in Sydney at Randwick on George Main Stakes Day, September 19.
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