Protectionist was a surprise inclusion in the 2015 Tramway Stakes nominations that were released yesterday and trainer Kris Lees has confirmed that the Melbourne Cup winner could start his 2015 Spring Racing Carnival campaign in the Group 2 event at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Lees revealed after Protectionist won a barrier trial at Newcastle on August 24 that the imported would return to the races in the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) at the same venue, but he told Sky Racing HQ this morning that he is unsure whether the stayer is ready to run a strong 1600 metres at this stage of his preparation.
“We are very happy with him,” Lees said.
“We have put him in two races on Saturday and we will make up our mind later in the day whether he goes to the Chelmsford or the Tramway.
“Just with the fact that he had an enforced lay-off, he had six weeks in the paddock, and we just don’t want to be running him if we are not sure that he is 100 percent ready to go to a strong mile.
“He only had the softish trial and he may resume in the Tramway, but we will make that decision later in the day.
“He has one target race and we just want him there 100 percent on the day.
“I don’t want him blowing out at the furlong if he is no 100 percent fitness wise.”
Protectionist failed to fire in four race starts during the autumn and he suffered an injury when he finished a disappointing seventh in the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) at Royal Randwick on April 11 and he was sent for a six week stint in the spelling paddock.
Lees was never particularly happy with the trackwork of Protectionist during his autumn preparation, but he said that the Monsun entire has given him more positive signs on the track ahead of his return to racing.
“I am a lot more comfortable with his work this preparation than we were in the autumn,” Lees said.
“He has looked a lot better to our eye, but the proof will be in the pudding when he goes to the races.”
Protectionist will be included in the 2015 Melbourne Cup nominations that will be released this afternoon and he is priced at $21 with Ladbrokes to become the first horse since Makybe Diva to win the Melbourne Cup in back-to-back years.