Trainer Kris Lees has revealed that Protectionist is set to contest the 2015 George Main Stakes rather than the Hill Stakes at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Protectionist was included in the nominations for both races that were released by Racing New South Wales yesterday, but Lees told Racing Ahead that the Melbourne Cup winner would run in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) this weekend before he heads to Melbourne for the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 4 and the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 17.
The Monsun entire returned to the races with a 13th place finish behind Hooked in the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on September 5, but Lees was still happy with the performance of the imported stayer and he is confident that the six-year-old has plenty of improvement left in him ahead of the 2015 George Main Stakes.
“We were very happy with him over an unsuitable trip,” Lees said.
“I did like the way that he finished the race off, albeit he only beat one home but he had good closing sectionals, which is all we really wanted to see.
“He has come through the race in really good order.
“He still has a bit of improvement in him, he looks really well and he looks really healthy.
“He is still about 10 to 12 kilos above his preferred race weight, but we still have a bit to go, so I am really happy with where he is at.”
Protectionist made his Australian racing debut with a fast-finishing fourth in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield on October 11 and he stamped himself as one of the most promising stayers in the world when he took out the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 4 in dominant fashion.
He returned to racing with a fair effort in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on February 28, but he failed to improve when he stepped up in trip for both the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) and Group 1 The BMW (2400m) and he suffered an injury during his seventh place finish in the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m).
The Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) is the major target for Protectionist and he is currently available at 2015 Melbourne Cup odds of $21 with Ladbrokes.