The 2015 Sydney Cup field has been released and the $2 million race is set to be the most star-studded edition of the Group 1 in recent memory.
Makybe Diva and Galilee are the only horses in the past 50 years to win the Sydney Cup after winning the Melbourne Cup the previous November and Protectionist will have the chance to join that illustrious duo when he contests the $2 million event on Saturday.
Protectionist stamped himself as one of the best stayers in the world when he recorded a dominant four lengths victory in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) last year, but he has been slightly disappointing during his autumn preparation.
The Monsun entire started his campaign with a credible sixth in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on February 28, but he never looked like a winning chance when he was stepped up in distance for the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 14 and the Group 1 The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 28.
Godolphin import Hartnell finished two and a half lengths in front of Protectionist in The BMW and the talented stayer is set to start the Sydney Cup as a clear favourite.
Hartnell made his Australian racing debut with a fast-finishing second behind stablemate Contributer in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm on February 28 and he cruised to a comfortable victory in the Group 3 Sky High Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 14 before he recorded a maiden win at the highest level of racing in The BMW.
One of the most interesting runners in the 2015 Sydney Cup field is veteran stayer Red Cadeaux, who will be having his first race start over 3200 metres in Australia in a race outside the Melbourne Cup.
Red Cadeaux has become one of the most popular horses with Australian racing fans after finishing second in the Melbourne Cup on three occasions; narrowly being beaten by Dunaden in 2011 before chasing home Fiorente in 2013 and Protectionist in 2014.
The Cadeaux Genereux gelding returned to Australian racing with a more than credible fifth in the Australian Cup and like the majority of the horses in the Sydney Cup field will relish the step-up to 3200 metres.
Another international galloper that is set to contest the Sydney Cup this weekend is Hong Kong-based Group 1 winner Dominant.
Dominant made his Australian racing debut with a credible performance behind Contributer in the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) and connections are confident that the 2013 Hong Kong Vase winner will relish the step-up to 3200 metres for the first time in his racing career this weekend.
Who Shot Thebarman rounded out the 2014 Melbourne Cup trifecta behind Protectionist and Red Cadeaux and he has had an ideal preparation heading into the Sydney Cup this weekend.
The Yamanin Vital gelding returned to racing with a fast-finishing fifth in the Chipping Norton Stakes and he worked through the line strongly when fourth in both the Sky High Stakes and The BMW.
Imported galloper Au Revoir, Darren Weir-trained Akzar, Mornington Cup placegetter Big Memory, tough stayer Like A Carousel, Sandown Cup winner Renew, Chris Waller-trained Grand Marshal and the progressive Don Doremo round out the 2015 Sydney Cup Field.