2014 Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist is a likely Melbourne Autumn Carnival contestant with the Group 1 $1m Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 14 his main target.
German stayer Protectionist won the Group 1 $6m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington during last year‘s Melbourne Spring Carnival under the care of top German trainer Andreas Wohler.
But following that historic win, the winning syndicate, headed by Australian Bloodstock, transferred the five year old stallion to prominent Newcastle trainer Kris Lees who has mapped out a tentative Autumn Carnival program that will include Melbourne and Sydney.
“We haven’t really settled on the exact plan, but there are a couple of options,” Lees told RSN’s Racing Ahead.
“It’s very, very congested the programming this season, especially in Sydney, so we haven’t really sat down and said which way we’re going to go, but possibly he comes to Melbourne and runs in the Peter Young and the Australian Cup and then back for The BMW.
“That’s the likely scenario, but we’ll just see as we get a bit closer.”
If Lees goes ahead with a Melbourne campaign Protectionist will step out in the Group 2 $200,000 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on February 28 as his lead up to the weight for age Australian Cup.
That was the same path Gai Waterhouse took with 2013 Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente who went on to win both the weight for age races before heading back to the Sydney Autumn Carnival.
After running in the Australia Cup, Lees will return to Sydney with Protectionist with a few options including the Group 1 $1.5m The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill on March 28 and the Group 1 $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on April 11.
Champion English jockey Ryan Moore steered Protectionist to his Melbourne Cup victory but Lees said that no jockey has been engaged for the German import for his upcoming Autumn Carnival campaign.
“We’ve tossed up a few names but we’re not in any great hurry to decide on that yet,” Lees said.
In early Queen Elizabeth Stakes betting Protectionist is marked on the second line at $7 behind 2014 Cox Plate winner Adelaide and Japanese galloper To The World who have been posted equal favourites at $6.