Caulfield trainer Robert Smerdon is confident that Noble Protector will handle the wet track when she lines up on Saturday in the Group 1 $1m Cellarbrations Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) at Randwick.
Randwick is still rated a soft 6 on Friday morning for Day Two of ‘The Championships’ after last Saturday’s Day One of ‘The Championships’ had to be transferred to Monday after the track was rated unracable following a week of rain.
The imported mare has won twice for Smerdon from four starts all on good surfaces, but he will take heed of jockey Craig Williams who reported that the mare handle the soft going when she won a 1190m barrier trial at Cranbourne at the beginning of her current campaign.
“She did trial at Cranbourne before she won first up and Craig said it was slow and she didn’t put a foot out of place,” Smerdon told the Sportsman.
Williams has ridden her at all of her four Australian starts and will be aboard again in the Queen Of The Turf Stakes.
Noble Protector arrived from England at the beginning of the 2014 Melbourne Spring Carnival and ran second for her new stable to Contributer in the Group 3 $150,000 David Jones Cup (2000m) at Caulfield.
Smerdon gave the mare one more Spring run for a fourth to Le Roi in the Group 3 $300,000 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) at Flemington on November 8 before sending her out for a break.
The five year old mare then resumed in the Autumn for an easy four and a half length win in the Group 3 $150,000 Schweppervescence Trophy (1600m) at Flemington on March 14 and followed that up with another effortless win in the Group 2 $200,000 Sunline Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on March 27.
The English mare had been purchased as a middle distance prospect following a win over 2400m at Newmarket but Smerdon now thinks that her best distances will be around 1600m to 2000m.
“She has been a lot sharper than we anticipated. She’s won a 2400m Listed race at Newmarket but we are getting the feeling that 1600m to 2000m might be her range here,” Smerdon said.
“She failed at 2600m but that was off a long preparation, a plane trip and a relocation so that may not be true reflection.”
Noble Protector continues to firm in the betting for the Queen Of The Turf Stakes and has taken over favouritism at $3.10 from First Seal who is now the second pick at $3.50 with Ladbrokes.com.au.
It looks like a race in three with Chris Waller’s Catkins the only other runner under double figures at $4.60.
Queen Of The Turf Stakes market order at Ladbrokes.com.au: $3.10 Noble Protector , $3.50 First Seal, $4.60 Catkins, $16 Diamond Drille, $19 Telepathic, $21 Amicus, $26 Intimate Moment, Gypsy Diamond, Cosmic Endeavour, Diademe, $31 Amanpour, $34 Sports Illustrated, $41 Bonaria, $101 Hera, $151 Just A Blur.