Noble Protector is set to return to the races in the 2015 Let’s Elope Stakes and trainer Robert Smerdon is happy with the imported mare ahead of the Group 2 event at Flemington on Saturday.
Noble Protector performed fairly in two race starts during the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival, but she stamped herself as one of the most talented mares in Australia with three impressive performances in the autumn.
She opened her autumn campaign with a dominant four and a half lengths win in the Group 3 Schweppervescence Trophy (1600m) at Flemington on March 14 and she led from start to finish in the Group 2 Sunline Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on March 27 before she was sent to the spelling paddock after she finished a luckless third in the Group 1 Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick on April 11.
Smerdon deliberately gave Noble Protector a light autumn so that she would be at her peak in the spring and he is confident that the Haafhd mare is ready to perform well in the 2015 Let’s Elope Stakes this weekend.
“She has come up well,” Smerdon told RSN.
“She only had the light autumn with the three runs and we have been happy with her coming into this.
“We didn’t want to go too deep into the autumn with the prospect of giving her a good spring.
“1400 is probably the shortest she wants, but she has enough tactical speed to be effective over slightly further.”
Noble Protector has been included in the nominations for both the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) and the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m), but Smerdon is yet to decide what race he will target with the five-year-old.
The imported galloper will head towards the Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) at Caulfield on October 10 and Smerdon will then decide whether she presses on to one of the major races during the 2015 Spring Racing Carnival or returns to mares company for a race like the Group 1 Myer Classic (1600m) at Flemington on Victoria Derby Day.
“It is yet to be determined,” Smerdon said.
“We will be guided by her couple of runs.
“We will hopefully go through the Toorak and to get her out in a open handicap will give us a better clue as to which way we go.
“We haven’t really locked into any particular path and we are keeping open minded about it subject to her form.
“There is no point going to those races unless you think she is a legitimate contender, so she will have to give her that confidence.”
Noble Protector is currently available at 2015 Let’s Elope Stakes odds of 26 with Ladbrokes, while Highland Reel ($11) is now a narrow favourite from Arod ($13).