Back in Germany, back with trainer Andreas Wohler and back in form, former Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist is ticking plenty of boxes ahead of a possible return to Australia for a shot at another victory in the ‘race that stops a nation.’
It was only the second run in Australia from the son of Monsun who had a warm-up to the world’s richest handicap finishing an eye-catching fourth behind Big Memory in the 2014 Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield.
Protectionist stayed on in Oz transferring to the Newcastle stables of Kris Lees after his Melbourne Cup win, but failed to hit the same heights over his following campaigns.
He had a subsequent eight runs in Australia, but didn’t get the chance to defend his Melbourne Cup title after his failed 15th last Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) behind the since-retired Mongolian Khan.
This year Protectionist returned to his native Germany and has since been thriving according to Australian Bloodstock director Luke Murrell.
Last month the smart stallion enjoyed a ratings race success at Dusseldorf, which he backed-up from on Sunday in the Group 2 Hansa Preis (2400m).
Protectionist won the 2014 Hansa Preis in Germany and the Group 2 Prix Kergorlay (3000m) in France before making his way down under for the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
He successfully defended his title in the first over the weekend, the rising seven-year-old catching the eye with a three and a quarter-length success at Hamburg.
Pre-win Murrell told Racing Victoria Protectionist was a “75 per cent” chance of returning to Australia for another shot at the Melbourne Cup over the two miles at Flemington Racecourse on Tuesday November 1.
That percentage surely increased on the weekend, but Wohler said nothing had been set in stone just yet.
“We have plenty of time and aren’t making any decisions for the moment. The horse comes first and we shall do whatever we feel is in his best interests,” Wohler told the Racing Post on Sunday.
“I was really impressed with the way he won today, but we know he’s had his problems so we’re going to take it race by race, and his Australian owners are in full agreement.”
Another Australian Bloodstock representative Jamie Lovett told Racing Ahead Protectionist’s Group 2 win was “a relief” and that the team were thrilled to have the champion back to his best.
“It was such a relief, just to see him back to where he was when he won the Cup,” he said on Monday.
“Watching him last night, how he got through the Heavy conditions, and powered through the line.
“He’s certainly back to somewhere where we think he’s a world-class horse.”
Lovett added that while Wohler was being guarded when confirming or denying a 2016 Melbourne Cup bid, the trainer’s emotions were harder to keep in check immediately after the Hansa Pries.
“Let me tell you, he wasn’t restrained when the horse was a furlong from coming into the straight. He got a real thrill out of it,” he said.
“They love that horse over there – he’s been a good horse for the stable.
“Afterwards, I think he was just taking a deep breath because to have him was probably unimaginable six months ago, to get him back to somewhere near the level he was.
“I think we’re all just a bit taken aback as to where we go next.
“I know he wants to give the horse a good break after that run, because it was a trying surface being a Heavy 10 over there.
“The last thing he said to me was before we make any decisions, we’ll just enjoy the horse.”
The likely next-up option for Protectionist, who has firmed into a $21 chance in futures Melbourne Cup betting at Ladbrokes.com.au, is the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berline (2400m) on August 14.