Protectionist failed to fire in two race starts during the 2015 Melbourne Festival Of Racing, but trainer Kris Lees has confirmed that the Melbourne Cup winner will likely contest the 2015 The BMW and Sydney Cup before heading to the spelling paddock.
Protectionist started his autumn campaign with a sixth place finish in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on February 28 and he was well-backed in the lead-up to the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 14, but was never able to get into the race and finished eighth.
Lees admits that Protectionist has been slightly disappointing in his two race starts to date this preparation and he told Racing Ahead that the Monsun entire has shown that he is a genuine stayer and not a weight-for-age horse.
“He has come through quite well,” Lees said.
“Sunday morning he was nice and bright and he ate up.
“He floated back Sunday night, arrived early on Monday morning and he was in good order.
“It was ok.
“It is all foreign to him these shorter races, so we were always a little guarded at the early stages of this preparation how he would react to this new style of races for him.
“He never really looked like a winning chance and the race was run at a good solid tempo, which was probably quicker than he has ever gone in the early stages of a race.
“The negative for us is that he doesn’t appear to be going to be that weight-for-age shorter course type horse that we would like him to be, but we were always told that he wasn’t that type of horse.
“He is a genuine two miler and he could run even further.
“The positives is that he is a genuine two miler and we are going to set him for them type of races.
“We just have to be a little patient.”
The Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) was originally on the agenda for Protectionist, but the five-year-old will not contest the $4 million event and will instead step-up in trip for the Group 1 The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill Gardens next weekend and the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) at Royal Randwick on April 11.
Lees hopes that the step-up in distance will help Protectionist return to his best form, but he said that the imported stayer is still getting use to Australian racing conditions this preparation and will likely be a better horse for it in the spring.
“At this stage we are likely to run in the Sydney Cup,” Lees said.
“They have increased the prizemoney for the Sydney Cup, not to the level of the Melbourne Cup, but it is still very good money.
“He will run in The BMW more than likely in two weeks and I suppose on his current form he is no good thing at a mile and a half, but it will be a nice lead-up run for a Sydney Cup.
“This is all foreign for him racing every two weeks and that is the issue with our programming here, but he has to adapt and conform to our style.”
Protectionist is currently available at 2015 Sydney Cup odds of $5 with Ladbrokes and is on the second line of betting behind Godolphin import Hartnell ($4.80).